It’s that time of year when Bible reading plans begin surfacing on Facebook and other places. It is great that there are so many different plans that challenge and encourage people to read through the Bible in a year. And it’s axiomatic that a solid grounding in God’s Word is essential if our missiology is to be sound. So this is good. I am filled with admiration for those who follow through on these plans.
But I must confess that in over six decades of life on earth I have never read through the Bible in a year (gasp!). I have at times started such ambitious plans but never completed one. I think I now understand why those kinds of plans don’t work for me.
As we approach a New Year, going DEEPER in God’s Word is on my mind, not going BROADER. So this post is devoted to my passion: challenging friends and budding missiologists to make 2014 a year of going deeper in God’s Word.
Perhaps you may feel like those water spiders who flit across the surface of a stream. You may have been skating on the surface of the Bible without digging in and gaining depth.
Wouldn’t you rather be like a gopher in 2014? Do you have a hunger for to spend 12 months in the subterranean chambers of God’s Word? If so, I want to offer an alternative approach.
What follows is a modest proposal for a different kind of Bible reading plan for 2014. It is aimed at the adventure of going deeper. And because most Christians gravitate towards the New Testament, all of my proposals will focus on digging deeper into the Old Testament (though you may apply the same general suggestions I am making to the New Testament). I will offer some hypothetical strategies to illustrate how my model might work.
A key is to figure out a plan of attack that is manageable for 12 months or 52 weeks.
The idea behind my plan is to master a section of the Bible in a year. Animals are often territorial. With this plan, you can mark out your own territory by claiming a portion of the Bible for mastery in 2014.
For instance, you could seek to “master” the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) in 2014. This plan could involved spending 10 weeks on each book, allowing the last two weeks of the year to focus on Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, the birth narratives of Jesus.
Or you could focus on the mastery of one book of the Bible in a year. For example, Genesis has 50 chapters and there are 52 weeks in the year. What if you spent one week in each chapter of Genesis? That would leave the last two weeks of the year to focus on Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, the birth narratives of Jesus. Or you could take a mid-year 2-week break from Genesis to study Philippians.
Or Jeremiah has 52 chapters, a perfect book for a one-year study!
If you’re interested, my plan for 2014 is to master the book of Deuteronomy. I have already spent the month of December getting traction in this amazing book. I have assembled a veritable plethora of tools and am getting incredible insights on God’s mission through mastery of this incredible book.
Or you could focus on mastering a small portion of the Bible in a year. Of course, the portion would have to be rich enough that a year of study would yield great benefit. A great illustration of such a portion would be Ezra and Nehemiah. These two books contain a total of 23 chapters, allowing one to study two chapters a month. By this plan, one could spend January studying the background of these two books as well as getting into Ezra 1. The remaining eleven months could be devoted to studying two chapters a month.
One last idea would be to strive for mastery over a combination of sections of the Bible in a year. A good illustration of this method would be to select the Psalms of Ascents (Psalm 120-134). That is 15 psalms containing a total of 101 verses (which doesn’t even work out to an average of two verses a week!). The shortest each have three verses (Psalm 131, 133, 134) and the longest has 18 (Psalm 134).
Some parting ideas…
Having one or more good “tools” to help you through the year can provide a vital supplement that will enrich your work. This often may be a good commentary. But remember, not all commentaries are created equal. There are “good” commentaries that may not enable you to go deeper. If you have picked a portion to study and would like a recommendation on good supplemental tools, feel free to contact me for suggestions.
Regardless of how you approach study in 2014, one tool I can wholeheartedly recommend is Christopher Wright’s “The Mission of God.” This volume is the most incredible tool I have encountered for discovering missiological insight and depth in Scripture. It is especially strong in the Old Testament. Using Wright’s book as a companion to your studies would be invaluable.
Be sure to set a schedule for the year and stick it when possible, but do not be a slave to it.
Remember to follow your interests. If a verse or topic you are studying piques your curiosity and you want to probe it more deeply, by all means do it. Rabbit trails are perfectly acceptable if they facilitate your going deeper in the Bible.
My passion and mission is to excite people about the Bible so that they can have an encounter with the missionary God whose story is found there. If you want to dialogue on any aspect of this by e-mail, don’t hesitate to contact me.
I hope to follow up this post with further thoughts and idea on going deeper in God’s Word in 2014.