We know it’s important to read the Bible, but we have to admit it could be a daunting challenge to those who are just starting out or are having a hard time understanding it. How do I encourage a person I’m leading to regularly devote time to read, study, and apply God’s word?
A lot has been said about the importance of reading, studying, and applying the word of God in our daily lives, but if we’re going to be completely honest, it’s not exactly the easiest book to read, especially for those who are just starting out in the discipline of reading it.
Personally, it took some time for me to reach the point where reading the Bible is both a discipline and a delight, and not just something I did because I was told to. This is why it doesn’t come as a surprise that many will choose to settle for reading a devotional booklet or waiting for the next weekend preaching.
I started out this way as well. I used to think, “Why bother reading and studying something when someone else can do the explaining for you?”
While reading devotional books and listening to preachings can be good starting points to develop a love for God’s word, to completely forego the personal reading and study of Scripture means to miss out on the primary way God speaks to us personally. Being able to hear Him through our own personal time with the word is necessary for our growth.
The challenge in encouraging people you lead to build the discipline and delight of reading the Bible is that people prefer to just read a book or listen to someone preach—for many different reasons. However, we have to recognize that it’s our responsibility to teach and impart the value of reading the Scriptures. In the end, we are leading them to follow Jesus, not to simply parrot us, charismatic preachers, or well-written books.
Here are some important questions we can personally reflect on as leaders as we help them grow in this discipline.
1. Have I considered whether it might be a heart or skill issue?
A student once came up to me and admitted that he stopped reading his Bible because it was in English. After pouring out his struggles in reading it, I discovered that the desire and the devotion were there, but a certain skill needed to be upgraded. After prescribing an acceptable Bible translation, he grew all the more in his love for the word and the discipline in reading it.
As leaders, we simply cannot assume that they’re just being lazy or that they don’t value it as much as they’re supposed to. Sometimes there’s:
It’s important that we dig down and discover what it is exactly that’s hindering them from reading and enjoying the Bible. How do you do this? By asking questions like:
Their answers can reveal where the true issue lies, and then we can help them better.
2. Have I demonstrated how to read and enjoy the Bible?
A mentor once told me, “You teach people how to study the Bible by how you preach it.”
My former Victory group leader preached with passion, joy, zeal, and excitement. Every single time. He always shared the word as if he had just discovered the cure for cancer. His love for the word was evident every time he was with us, and little by little I found myself saying, “I want that, too.”
Our walk with God is both personal and communal. Yes, we teach them how to do their devotions, but loving the word isn’t just something we can teach as leaders. It’s something we impart to them by spending time in the word together.
When we look at the early church, we see that the early believers made time to study the word of God together, and as they did, awe came upon every soul (Acts 2:43).
Personally, reaching that point of being able to enjoy the Bible wasn’t all my own effort. It took a community for me to get there. As a community, we sought God together, tested the word of God together, and discovered God together.
3. Have I taught them to rely on the Holy Spirit?
Paul teaches that it is the Holy Spirit that reveals and helps us understand the thoughts of God. The Holy Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10,11). And he goes on to say that we have received the Holy Spirit.
Understanding what the Bible is saying can be a daunting task. This may be why some would rather listen to a dynamic preacher, because the explanation can be more easily absorbed. However, this verse reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit that helps us understand what God is saying through Scripture.
Certainly, we should take note of important principles and practices in interpreting the Bible correctly, but the best guide we have in hearing God through Scripture is the Holy Spirit, whom God has freely given us through Jesus Christ.
As leaders, teaching others to wait and rely on the Holy Spirit is the starting point in helping them grow in their discipline and delight in reading and studying the Scriptures.
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