I Stopped Reading the Bible

By: Corey Willoughby

Ok…first things first: I haven’t stopped reading the Bible. Just wanted to clear that up right now. It would be pretty disheartening if a pastor, your pastor or any pastor, stopped spending time in the very thing that should be the greatest influence in their life. So maybe now is a good time to complete that sentence…

I stopped reading the Bible in a year, every year.

Now that we’ve settled that, let me ask you a question: What are some things you know you need to do, it’s just hard to actually do it? Exercising…dieting…organizing that room…

Go ahead…take a few moments to write out a short list.

Any surprises? If you were to make this list in a month…or if you had made this list three months ago…would there be any repeat offenders?

The thing with lists like these is they have the tendency to make us feel guilty or unaccomplished or lazy. These feelings especially come to life when we start comparing ourselves to what we see others doing (or at least posting about on social media…I mean, if they posted it, it has to be true, right??). We’ve all experienced it and we’ve all fallen prey to the “Comparison Game.” It even happens to us in our spiritual lives, doesn’t it?

Ok…one more list…last one, I promise. Write down a few things that answer this question: What things do you do out of a feeling of obligation rather than genuine desire?

If you were to think of this from strictly a spiritual perspective, I think for some of us, reading the Bible might fall into this category. As Christians, one of the things we know we need to do but often have a difficult time carrying out is consistently getting into the Bible…spending time in God’s Word. The research shows us that this continues to be an ongoing dilemma for believers. Surveys have been done by Pew Research Center, Lifeway Research, Barna, and more showing that when it comes to spending consistent time in Scripture, we leave a lot to be desired. Reminder—these surveys are targeted to professed believers…people who say they are Christ-followers.

Now, I say that reading the Bible may fall into the obligatory-actions category for some of us because, as the research shows, many proclaimed Christ-followers admit to rarely, if ever, consistently reading the Bible for personal spiritual growth. Enter my ceasing to read the Bible…

If we’ve spent any amount of time in church, we have most likely heard it preached the importance of daily spending time with God. Call it personal study time, Jesus-, devotional-, quiet time, or any of the myriad of other names…whatever you call it, most of us don’t do it. But for that person who says, “I want to read the Bible more, I just don’t know where to start…” it will inevitably come to someone suggesting that person follow a reading plan. Through the ever-increasing resources available to us today, the number of reading plans out there is constantly growing. A reading plan is a scheduled approach to reading Scripture. They can take you through a book of the Bible or help you make your way through the Psalms or learn more about what Scripture says about a certain topic. These plans span from a single week, to 30 days, to a year.

Let me be clear: There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a reading plan to get into Scripture! I am not against reading plans at all. In fact, there will be several plans linked at the end of this article to help you get started, if that’s what you need. I, a pastor of 15 years, have used countless reading plans throughout my life to keep working my way through Scripture. I’ve read the entire Bible starting in Genesis 1 and going through Revelation 22. I’ve gone through the Bible chronologically, both in the order that things happened and the order in which it was written. Some plans paired up Old Testament passages with New Testament ones. Other plans included the Psalms and Proverbs every day. All this to say, I have nothing against Bible reading plans.

Where the rub came in was the moment when I realized that my participation in the reading of God’s Word had become more about checking off the day’s scheduled reading and not personally engaging in relationship with the Creator God who wrote it. You ever had a moment like that? A moment when you just stopped and asked, “Why am I doing this?” In his letter to the church in Colossae, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” and “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:17, 23-24 [ESV])

We have these reality check moments more often than we think, or at least we should. Those moments when we stop, reflect, and really think about our motives behind doing something. Am I working out because I want to be in better shape or because I want to impress someone else? Do you work hard at your job because you want to perform well or because you want to be noticed and acknowledged and maybe rewarded? The same can be applied to our walk with the Lord. Do we post all the verses, memorize and quote the Scriptures, say all the right things because we want to honor God and point others to Him or do we want people to think highly of us?

For me, I had turned what should be a soul-nourishing experience into a checklist object; something to mark off like when I get an item in the grocery store off my list. I found a sinful pride in saying that I had read through the whole Bible so many times. Doesn’t mean I loved God any less. Doesn’t mean I didn’t care about God’s Word. But I was absolutely not fully internalizing what I was reading. A change was needed. I needed a fresh approach, a rejuvenation of the investment I was making into my soul. Not because I deserve more from the time I “sacrificed” in reading and prayer, but because God deserves my very best…and that’s not what He was getting from me.

Billy Graham, the world renown evangelist, said the following:

“The Bible is not an option; it is a necessity. You cannot grow
spiritually strong without it.”

The theologian, priest, and Augustinian monk Martin Luther said of the Bible:

“The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.”

And, lastly, Augustine of Hippo:

“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”
Scripture is important! For us believers, it is necessary in knowing who God is and who God desires us to be. There is no better way for us to invest in our spiritual bank than to continue making deposit after deposit through spending time with God and in His Word. So how do you do it? How does one make this happen? Well, I can’t answer that for you and I can’t make you do it. What I can do is encourage you to fully dive in to what God has to offer; to trust in the promise of James 4:8 that says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (ESV). And I can share with you my approach to this sacred time with God.

Like many of you (I assume…and yes, I know what they say about assuming), I find that once I get into the rhythm of my day, it’s hard to slow down. That’s why, for me, spending time in Word and prayer has to happen at the very beginning of my day. I have been in this habit for over 15 years now that my Bible reading time happens in the morning before anything else. My normal is to wake up at 5:30am so that I have the time to spend uninterrupted. Do not read this as, “Oooo…so spiritual” or “Well, he’s a pastor, so…”

I hate mornings…don’t like ‘em…never have. Even when I wake up early to get on the boat to go fishing…still don’t like mornings. I’m a big supporter of Proverbs 27:14 that says, “A loud and cheerful greeting early in the morning will be taken as a curse!”

But God deserves my mornings. Why? I know that my boys will be up soon and then it’s game on! If I am not intentional in getting up early, slowing down to spend time with God will not happen. I have to make it a priority. And if you claim to be a follower of Christ, it needs to be a priority for you, too. I don’t say that to incite guilt or sound like I know what’s best for everybody. I say that because God says it. He gives us this directive in Matthew 6:33, Psalm 119:105, Mark 14:51-52, and John 15:1-5. (Actually only 3 of those passages are on topic…you can figure out which isn’t…look at that…we’re already getting into Scripture.)

So if I stopped following a reading plan, what do I do? How do I approach the Bible now? Right now, I am working my way through a book or two at a time. Each day is different. One day may go through three chapters while the next, maybe just one. There is no rush…only a hope for increased attentiveness and contemplation.

I recently came across an approach to reading Scripture that I’m loving (but need to get better at implementing each day). This method is from Leroy Eims and it looks like this:

Every time you read Scripture, ask yourself the following…

  1. What does this passage say to me?
  2. Where am I falling short?
  3. Give specific examples.
  4. What am I going to do about it?

(The Lost Art of Disciple Making, Leroy Eims, p78)

So here’s my challenge to you:

  • Schedule your time with God…a time when you can give Him full attention and focus. We schedule almost every part and aspect of our lives…why not schedule our time with God? Now we’re not talking about 3 hours of silence and solitude and meditating. If you can give God 10 fully-focused, uninterrupted minutes…that’s awesome!!!
  • Examine what you currently prioritize, especially first thing in the morning. Is your phone, email, etc. more important to get to than the God who is eagerly awaiting your company?
  • Just start reading…anything from any book in the Bible.
As I said, below is a link to several reading plans to get you started, if you need that. These plans come from a church in New York and provide several different approaches. My hope and prayer is that these plans will kickstart your hunger to know God more and will help set a pattern and routine of consistently getting to Scripture. But beware the pitfall that commonly comes with following a reading plan. A lot of times life just happens and we miss a day. Then we miss another. Then it’s been a week…a month…we feel behind…

Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Jump back in. You can do this. You should do this. God is there and is ready to spend time with you!


One Response to “I Stopped Reading the Bible”

  1. Bill LANDRUM says:

    Man I’ve been reading but that’s just what I was doing. Thanks for the reminder to interact with it, not just read the bible.

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