There is such a thing as an intense reading of the Word of God.
To complete the task, within three months, you need to read about 12 pages a day in a standard print bible — or you’ll need to read about 15 chapters a day. Fifteen chapters.
Obviously, if you fall behind in the reading, even just one day, then the next day, in order to reclaim the pace, you must read about 30 chapters.
So, yes, there is a bit of intensity when you read the Word.
I anticipated the challenge, when I laid it before our students and our church about five months ago. Perhaps it’s naivete, but I thought everyone else that I knew would be as eager for the challenge as I was. I really believed that I would see the masses engage the Word of God for a straight 90 days.
And, to be honest, very many were. But somewhere along the way, in the hot days of the summer, the excitement ebbed, and those who began with big dreams didn’t, or couldn’t, keep the pace, while some finished the reading in half the time.
So what to make of all of this?
Here are a few observations:
- I really believe that the Word of God is an intimidating book to most of us. While it makes for a nice Christmas present, it’s complete story isn’t always read. It’s value is never fully realized because it has never been taught correctly. Our seminar culture means that one must have an advanced education to really grasp the story within its pages. We’ve been led to believe that need intelligent men and women to explain it to us, and to teach it to us — and that we need charismatic teachers and personalities to make it come alive in our hands. And, by default, we’ve been led to believe that without those ingredients, the Word of God doesn’t have quite the same power in our lives. It is complex, and difficult to read, and therefore, too overwhelming. The very fact that many did not complete the entire challenge is a testament to this. I don’t believe anyone simply walked away from it, but rather, I think that we have never been taught that we can, on our own, discover its real value.
- We misunderstand its place in our life. I only write this point after discovering, for myself, its true place in my life. It’s residence, in life, was a great anonymity for me. It was an engulfing black hole, until I finally decided to read it in its entirety. I knew the basic story, all the basic plot lines, and knew that there was some eventual good things, and even some horribly disturbing moments. But until I read it, I failed to understand it. For the most part, we have inherited a church culture that applauds and lauds the New Testament, while rarely opening the Old Testament. We look to Paul’s letters for means of order and propriety in worship, while ignoring the historical moments of their writing. We love the Gospels, but rarely understand the need for a Messiah mentioned so often in the Old Testament. There is a total theological story that is rarely understood. It is a book of God’s interaction with people … with good people, and with bad people. Our lives are build around complex relationships, as were the lives of those within the Word. God came to those people in different ways, and interfered with their lives in different ways. I see the Word of God as a powerful book of people’s relationships with God. I wish others could see it the same.
- Time was difficult to find. With an intense reading, finding the required hour or so to read, every day, in an already overbooked schedule, was very tough. Even in my summer of ministry events, finding the required hour was not always easy. But why did most find it hard to find that extra hour? That is the essential question.
Here’s the sense I make of these observations:
We reside in a church culture that promotes access to God and church through visual means and great teaching. We desire people to be attracted to the product we present on Sundays, so much so that we rarely hold people accountable to the need to daily become involved in God’s written story.
Wouldn’t it be cool if people, together, discovered the truth in God’s Word? Wouldn’t it be life-changing if people actually read the story of God daily? Wouldn’t it be cool if that’s all anyone could ever really talk about? I imagine that world, and I see it.
And because of that vision, this challenge was born. In spite of the above observations, though, there were some really awesome things that came from this challenge.
- One, people’s intimidation factor diminished a little. Once you find that you can read the Word, and even read the “hard stuff,” you are no longer as scared of it. I think that is a good thing.
- Two, people are familiar with the story in ways they had never been before. Even the historical information of the Torah, though, at times repetitive, became a topic of conversation early. Through those books, one gets the idea that God was in every detail of the lives of people. I think that is a good thing.
- Three, there emerged the truth that to read the Word, you need time. People tried really hard to find the time. And even if they couldn’t complete this challenge, it became apparent really quick that to involve yourself in God’s story is a total process of immersion. I think that is a good thing.
Relationships with the Word of God improved. I’m so thankful to all who began this journey, who took a step, in faith, to read something so big and so massive. Any attempt is time in the Word, and that, to me, makes the summer incredibly successful.