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The Value of Repeated Bible Reading
How repeated Bible reading can help you grow in your understanding of God's word.
There is no perfect Bible reading plan. Many Christians try to read through the whole Bible every year, a laudable goal, but sometimes only reading a passage once a year keeps us from really grappling with its message.
My Introduction to Repeated Bible Reading
The summer after I graduated college, I was listening to John MacArthur talk about Bible reading and he said he did not want to be “concordance crippled.” In other words, he wanted to know the Bible, specifically the New Testament, so well that he did not need a concordance to remember where a passage is located.
MacArthur set out to grasp the message of each New Testament book through repeated reading. He read one book of the Bible every day for an entire month. For the longer books like the Gospels and Revelation, he divided them into sections and read each section for an entire month. (If memory serves me correctly, he talks about this approach in How to Get the Most from God’s Word.)
When I was a full-time pastor, I would employ this method when I was preparing to preach through a book of the Bible and found that it gave me a grasp of the book’s message as a whole as well as an appreciation for its details. Using this method, I memorized the book of 1 John without doing a lot of extra memory work on the side. The repeated reading gave me a firm grasp of the book’s flow so that I knew what was coming next as I read.
I abandoned this approach for a while when I took a full-time job and became a bi-vocational pastor. The weekly rhythm of forty hours of work plus sermon preparation was a struggle for me initially, so I stuck with a simple plan for reading the Bible in a year.
This approach started becoming stale, so I developed a new plan for this year–I would finish reading the whole Bible by the end of July so I could devote the last few months of the year to studying smaller chunks of the Bible more closely. (I developed my plan for reading the Bible in seven months using the Bible reading plan generator.)
Darryl Dash’s Plan for Repeated Bible Reading
I was at a bit of a loss for what to start studying, but then I ran across this helpful post from Darryl Dash. In the post, he talks about taking a section of the Bible and reading it every day for 2-3 weeks. The idea is that by reading the same section of Scripture for several weeks, you become familiar with it and see truths or patterns in each reading that you did not catch previously.
Dash got this idea from Nate Pickowicz’s book How to Eat Your Bible. In it, Pickowicz lays out a multi-year plan for reading your Bible this way and getting to know the whole landscape of Scripture. While I don’t think I will employ this method all the time, Pickowicz is on to something here. By reading each section of Scripture for 2-3 weeks and systematically working through the Bible, we will know the Bible better than if we read it sporadically.
To me, the most important aspect of Dash’s post was what you do on the last day you read a section. He advises that you go through a write a one-sentence summary of each division in the section you are reading. You might do this by paragraph or by section, but it is a necessity that you do this. There is something about writing that helps us gain a grasp of what we have read. In addition, when you go back and look over what you have written, it refreshes your mind about what is in a passage.
Why Repeated Bible Reading is Valuable
As a bi-vocational pastor, I have found that this method has helped me prepare for sermons in advance. As I was getting ready to preach through a new book of the Bible, I would set aside time to read through the book. As I prepared to preach through Luke 1-6, I took three weeks and read all six chapters each day. (If I had it to do over again, I would have done it over six weeks and only read three chapters a day.) This helped me think through the major themes of Luke as I got ready to preach through it.
This is just one method for reading the Bible, and I think that it is one you would find beneficial. However, the best method for reading the Bible is the one that you will actually use. If you find repeated reading or reading the Bible through in a year to be too laborious, take some time off from these methods and simply read what you want to in the Bible. Alan Jacobs calls this reading according to “whim.” This is not a great way to read the Bible consistently, but it can help to keep your Bible reading fresh.
For Further Reading:
How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth by Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee
Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul
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