Read the Bible in bigger chunks too
What is the best practical advice we can offer a person who is growing in their faith or who wants to understand what Christians believe? Read the Bible. A consistent habit of engaging the Bible is key to spiritual growth. It’s why we have so many reading plans, devotionals, engagement techniques, apps, and Bible editions.
I am grateful for all of these. I’ve used them, developed them, and promoted them as part of my job. But there can be a flaw with these, depending on how we use them.
“Small” is the main focus
Most approaches encourage reading and studying in a very short period of time. Like, 10-15 minutes a day short. And if you’re someone who struggles to read at all, even 15 minutes can feel like an eternity.
There’s nothing wrong with this, per se. Reading any amount is good for you, especially if it doesn’t come naturally. But do we miss something if we exclusively read in bite-size chunks?
A Bible reading challenge from my first pastor
Early on as a new Christian, my pastor challenged me to put down any other books and only focus on the Bible until I read the whole thing cover-to-cover. No in-depth study required. Just read, pray, and make notes as I went.
I set to work. I finished 8 or 9 weeks later, reading about 30-45 minutes a day. And I had a great big stack of notes to show for it. Actually, that’s not entirely true: I had a lot more than a stack of notes. I had a greater appreciation for the Bible as a whole.
Most importantly, I didn’t take his challenge, do it once, and never do it again. It’s something I’ve come back to a few times over the years. When my reading maybe feels formulaic, or when I’ve been struggling to read consistently. At the time of this writing, I’m nearing the end of one of these “big chunk” reads—or, actually, listens since I’m using an audio app for it this time.
The problem of focusing on trees and branches
Now, I don’t like clichés. (They’re cliché for a reason.) But sometimes they can still be helpful. Think about the one about not missing the forest for the trees. What’s the point? If you’re so focused on all the details, you might miss the bigger picture. Or as Ferris Bueller said on his all-important day off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”
Reading the Bible exclusively, or primarily, in small chunks is like that. When we do this, we’re spending our time focusing on the trees. And not only the trees, but the branches, and individual leaves of the trees.
And we’re right to do this, of course. Those “small” details matter. But when that’s all we focus on, if we don’t zoom out once in a while, we can miss the forest.
What do we gain when we focus on the forest?
And that’s what we get when we read the Bible in big chunks. When we focus on the forest, as it were. It’s an opportunity to rediscover, refresh, or reset your perspective. To help you:
- Get familiar with the whole Bible. One of the biggest problems we have as Christians, especially when we’re new in the faith, is not knowing where everything is—literally. A high level read of Scripture lets us learn the landscape of the Bible, and our own Bibles. To know where everything is, and start to see why.
- Pick up on repeating themes. Even though you’re not going to dig deep into one passage, this approach will still lead to helpful discoveries. You’ll pick up patterns and themes throughout Scripture that you might otherwise miss.
- See the one story of Scripture. If we’re primarily focused on small passages, we can start to think about them entirely in isolation. But the books of the Bible, despite being written across 1500 years or so, are not isolated works. They all work together to tell one continuous story across the history of God’s relationship with his people—the story of redemption through Jesus Christ.
How do you consume a large portion of the Bible?
There are a few different approaches you can take for this, but here’s how I like to approach these high-level overviews:
Choose how long you want to spend.
If you’re not a strong reader, choose to dedicate 20 minutes a day to this. If you’re a stronger reader, maybe push yourself to 45 minutes or an hour.1
Pick a Bible that works for you.
If you don’t already have a good Bible that you read regularly, this might be a good reason to get a new one. If you do need one, I recommend keeping the factors in mind:
Pick a translation you will read. There are a lot of great translations available, all of which are faithful to the message of Scripture, but have different approaches. The NIV, ESV, and NKJV are three of the most popular modern translations. I also really like the NET as an option if you want something a bit fresher.
Choose something that is going to be easy on your eyes. Both the point size of the type and the typeface play a part in your reading experience. Pay careful attention to these.
But you’ll also want to consider the edition type. Maybe you want to go for a readers Bible, or a single column edition vs a two-column one. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s one you like the feel of, because it really matters. Two that I like the reading experience of are the NKJV Large Print Personal Reference Bible and the NET Large Print Thinline Bible.2
Try listening to the Bible.
My most recent high-level Bible engagement experience has been with an audio Bible. I drive a fair bit because I live in the middle of nowhere, which means I have plenty of time in the car. There are a lot of great audio options, including apps, available. Of the ones I’ve tried, the Dwell app is my favorite—they’ve built a listening plan specifically for this called “The Bible in 90 Days”!
Choose your good
Reading the Bible is good for you, period. Whether reading a little or a lot, it is good for your soul. It changes you.
And when you read the Bible in bigger chunks, it means you’re intentionally choosing to focus on what is good for you. It means you’re going to have to choose what you are not doing as much as what are. For a season, it means setting aside something you might even enjoy. Maybe it’s a show you dig. Maybe it’s pausing a podcast or two. Hopefully it’s a little less doom-scrolling on Twitter.
Whatever it is, you’re making a choice to focus on something that is for your good. Setting aside the bad and sometimes good for the “better” of Scripture. While you might not see a massive change in your life right away, the experience really will change you for the better in the long run.
- Crossway put together a really helpful infographic a few years ago on how long it takes to read the Bible. Check it out to see how [↩]
- Full disclosure: I work for the publisher of these editions, but my recommendation of them is based on my experience with them.[↩]
One Reply to “Read the Bible in bigger chunks too”
[…] Read the Bible in bigger chunks too: Everything has its seasons. That includes how we read Scripture. Reading in small chunks is helpful, but there are times we need to read it in large chunks as well. I appreciate the ESV Reader’s Bible for this and keep a set on our living room table just for that purpose. […]
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