Alex Goodwin believes that the Bible contains the true story of the world, centered on the person of Jesus Christ. He wants to help people find their stories inside the grand narrative of the Bible, but also knows from personal experience that it’s often easier said than done. If you have had a hard time connecting with the Bible or you’re simply hungry for a fresh experience with Scripture, take a moment to read his suggestions below. It’s a grace to welcome Alex to the farm’s front porch today…
When I was twenty-two, I threw my Bible across the room.
Earlier that year I had uprooted from my hometown and moved across the country in search of new beginnings, only to be met with nearly eight months of unemployment.
Thousands of miles from my family and friends, struggling to get settled in this new place, I felt adrift. Where was God in all of this?
“If the Bible is so important, why is it such a struggle to read? Why do I so often end up confused, frustrated, and bored?”
I needed to hear from God – a word of reassurance, encouragement, truth, guidance, something.
So I did the only thing I could think to do. Sitting quietly on the edge of my bed, the golden mid-afternoon sunlight streaming through the blinds, I placed my brown leather-bound Bible on my lap and took a deep breath.
With one hand gripping the spine, I closed my eyes and bent the cover back, pressing my thumb into the edge of the pages and feeling them zip out from underneath. I stopped about three-fourths of the way through.
With my eyes still closed, I extended my index finger and placed it on a random spot on the page.
I opened my eyes and read the verse under my finger. “On the following day Paul went in with us to see James, and all the elders were present.” I read it again, in case I’d somehow missed the spiritual epiphany. I read the rest of the chapter in case I’d been off by a few verses. Nothing.
So I slammed it shut and tossed it, not unlike how you’d toss a frisbee in the park. “This thing is useless.”
Eventually I picked up my Bible again, and although I had to acknowledge the flimsiness of my point-and-pray technique, my larger questions about the Bible remained. If the Bible is so important, why is it such a struggle to read? Why do I so often end up confused, frustrated, and bored?
Despite how I treated His book, God gently guided me into the presence and friendship of people who had been chewing on those same questions for years. Over the course of many conversations, I learned that my discontentment with Scripture wasn’t unusual.
Multitudes of people who love Jesus have a hard time with the Bible. They want it to speak to them, but when they open up its pages they can’t help feeling…disconnected.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, try these two things:
#1 Try using a distraction-free Reader’s Bible
When’s the last time you curled up on the couch and tried to read the dictionary?
The truth is, the typical Bible today looks more like a reference book than a library of literature. Each page is chock full of chapter and verse numbers, footnotes, cross-references, section headings – all added to the Bible within the last 500 years. And while all of these features are helpful for some things, they can also make the simple act of reading much more difficult.
“What if we took away all of the extra stuff and simply gave the sacred words room to breathe?”
So what if we took away all of the extra stuff and simply gave the sacred words room to breathe?
What if stories flowed like stories, poetry looked like poetry, and letters read like letters? By getting rid of the additives, we can more easily receive the Bible’s literature the way it was first handed down to God’s people.
With only the Bible text left on the page, we are suddenly free to focus on what really counts. We can relax a bit. Settle in. Get lost in the story.
Our organization created a Reader’s Bible called Immerse, and there are others available in different translations. Try picking one up and simply reading. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.
#2 Read and discuss Scripture in community
I love my quiet time in the morning. With a cup of coffee steaming on the side table, I settle into the couch to read my Bible, pray, and watch the steller’s jays flit about in our yard.
And while I believe these mornings with Scripture on the couch provide a special time and place for communion with Jesus, I also can’t help but remember how novel the whole experience is. For thousands of years before the printing press gave everyone the luxury of their own personal Bible, the only way to hear Scripture was in a community gathering. In many parts of the world it’s still that way.
“If you’ve struggled to maintain a Scripture reading habit on your own, maybe it’s because you’ve been trying to do it all on your own.“
“Scripture is the Spirit-inspired story of Jesus as communicated through, to, and for the church,” says Scot McKnight. Its words are certainly vital for our individual spiritual journeys with Christ, but throughout history the Bible has always been a community-formation book.
So if you’ve struggled to maintain a Scripture reading habit on your own, maybe it’s because you’ve been trying to do it all on your own. Maybe it’s time to invite others in and journey through the Bible together.
Many groups have started community experiences with the Bible that look remarkably like book clubs. Everybody reads a large section of Scripture during the week (like an entire Gospel book) and then the group gathers for an open-ended discussion about what they read. Here are four conversation starters we suggest for Immerse groups:
- What stood out to you this week?
- Was there anything confusing or troubling?
- Did anything make you think differently about God?
- How might this change the way we live?
No right answers and no wrong answers – simply diving into the Bible and sharing what the Spirit showed you along the way. Gathered in community, the Spirit can move among your group as you rummage through the Word, laughing, crying, wrestling, and celebrating ‘aha!’ moments together.
“The Bible tells us the long and winding story of God’s plan for His world.”
The Bible tells us the long and winding story of God’s plan for His world.
It’s a love story.
A rescue story.
A creation and new creation story.
And God wants to invite us into it.
If you’ve struggled to connect with this story, you’re not alone. There’s nothing wrong with you. Maybe it’s just time to try something new.
Alex Goodwin is the Executive Director of the Institute for Bible Reading, a nonprofit ministry working to change the way the world reads the Bible. They are the creators of Immerse: The Reading Bible and Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience, two groundbreaking resources that are helping individuals, churches, schools, prisons, and families become immersed in the grand narrative of Scripture.
Does Bible reading ever feel like a chore? Spending time in Scripture is vital for spiritual growth, yet many people struggle with confusion and boredom when they open the Bible. Take the struggle out of Bible reading! Immerse removes many of the barriers which make Bible reading difficult, paving the way for deep connection with God and others through the Scriptures.
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership with today’s devotion ]