Thanks to everyone who made it to our introductory meeting in the freezing church. We had 20 of the 60 people there, which was great!
Here are some practical ideas for helping us to keep going with the bible reading plan.
1. Invest money… (if you can afford to).
I thought I’d start with a controversial one! You don’t need to, obviously. You could do it all via the internet if you like, but I recommend having a hard copy of the Carson book for ease of use: you don’t need to boot up a book! Also, consider getting a study bible, or a wide margin or journalling bible for taking notes. Equally, if your best chance to read the passage is on the bus or train, you might get a pocket bible or (and this one appeals to me!) an iphone or e-reader. It’s not about spending money for the sake of it. The value is in the meaning of the scriptures themselves, not the medium. But sometimes a little financial investment reminds you to take it seriously.
2. Plan accountability at a personal level
Ideally commit to the plan with someone else who you see on a regular basis, and who you don’t mind talking to about how you are getting on with it. This could be someone in your housegroup, a spouse, flatmate etc…If you don’t have someone else doing the plan with you, have someone willing to check up on you every couple of weeks to ask how it’s going, and what you’ve been reading about. Consider adding a monthly reminder in your diary to contact that person specifically about the bible reading.
3. Take advantage of the group accountability.
If you’d like me to put you in touch with someone else in the group, email me at email@example.com. You are welcome to email me too, if you want to let someone know how you are getting on. The idea is not to have a big emotional support group, simply a practical way to say “I’m falling behind” or “I’m confused about passage x” or “here are my thoughts about passage y”. We encourage offering, and asking for, support in this way.
4. Ask questions.
If you have questions, you can email me personally, I might be able to put you in touch with someone who can answer them. The point of the blog is to start discussions amongst the group, too. Comments are moderated. If you’ve never posted a comment, give it a try. You don’t have to use your full name, no personal details get published (though moderators can see your email address). Also start discussions with other people in the group who you know. The point is to keep us interested, and to keep God’s word as a main feature of our lifestyle in the next two years.
5. Meet up.
We decided to try arranging a (non-compulsory!) meeting every 2 months. Hopefully we can make this social in focus, with a couple of hot-topic questions to frame discussions based on what we’ve been reading. Suggestions for how and where to meet would be appreciated. Bear in mind, St Silas is in Glasgow West End, and that it should be relatively inexpensive and simple to arrange.
6. Pray before you begin reading.
I can’t emphasize this enough. God wants to be invited in to your devotional time. He does not want to be examined from a distance: his desire is that you “taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8) Let’s not be like the people who honour God with our lips, but with hearts that are far from him.
7. Catch up.
If you fall behind, but can’t read more than 2 chapters in the day, don’t worry. When we start the next book (OT or NT), you rejoin the group. So let’s say it’s January 29th and you’re on Genesis 20 (should be genesis 30) and Matthew 20. The group is starting Mark today. Rejoin the group, and read Genesis 30 and Mark 1. Take note on a piece of paper of the chapters you didn’t manage and try to set a date in your diary for reading those within the next few weeks.
You might find it useful to briefly summarize where you were when you skipped forward. (e.g. “Genesis 20…Abraham is lying about his wife’s identity. Matthew 20…Jesus teaching about the kingdom of heaven.)
It’s not ideal for continuity, but I think it’s better that people don’t get left too far behind. As we move on to some of the shorter books, you’ll find that there are more catch-up points which might interfere too much with continuity, but I’ll leave that at your discretion. The main point is that you are supposed to fall back in step with the group, because nothing is more discouraging than thinking that everyone else is miles ahead of you.
8. Use bookmarks.
I’m going to get bookmarks with the daily readings printed on them, for easy reference. You may have noticed that some days involve reading more or less than 2 chapters. The Carson book has the readings at the top of the page too. You’ll have noticed that there are 4 readings at the top. This is for those doing the whole plan in ONE year. Remember it is only the first two readings, not all four. Next year we’ll be covering the last two readings, if that makes sense!
9. Plan a regular time and space.
Many people are protective of others trying to impose things on their personal schedule. Ours is a culture of busy-ness and stress, and we don’t want to be insensitive to that. But for success in the reading plan, you will do much better if you can work out a regular time (at least during the week) when you can do it. Suggestions are:
- set your alarm half an hour early
- over breakfast
- take a shorter shower/bath
- Get the bible on audio-book for the car/headphones
- During your lunch or tea break (only if this is regular)
- As soon as you get home/before dinner
- 9.00 after kids are in bed (and when TV gets less edifying!)
- Before going to bed
Place can be anywhere that you won’t be disturbed or distracted. Park, bed, car, garage, loft, basement, walk-in cupboard, cafe.
I’m sure there’s a 10th one as well, but I can’t think of it just now, and I’ve waffled enough. I’m also sure I could have re-ordered those thoughts in order of importance… But just so you know I’m not trying to sell these techniques as the One True Path to spiritual enlightenment, I’ll emphasize that these are just ideas to help.* Come up with your own, and by all means add them here. This is intended to get you thinking about it and ensure you’re taking it seriously enough.
Any thoughts? Add them in the comments section.
* apart from the one about prayer. If you don’t invite God in, it will quickly become a futile exercise.