How I read the Bible

It took me a long time to figure out a Bible reading methodology that fit me. I’ve failed at a lot of them.

  • A chapter a day keeps Adam’s Bible away
  • Read it in a year means Adam won’t read it for a year
  • Study it topical means Adam treats it like a tropical disease
  • Skip around means Adam just skips it
  • Read it in a group means Adam skips his group

You get the idea.

But I have found something that works for me. Something that I enjoy and gives me life.

It doesn’t have a name and it’s not really a technique. It’s kind of a half lectio divina on slow pills. Here’s how it works.

  1. I allow myself to dwell in a passage for a while, sometimes weeks. And by passage I don’t mean a chapter… it’s usually a paragraph or a thought from the author. (1-3 paragraphs at most) I’ll fester in this passage until it sticks in my ribs and I do something about it that I actually move on. It might be a few days and it might be a month.
  2. Read it fast. Read it slow. Stare at it. Write it out. Pretty much, I keep this passage on my mind. Maybe I’ll open my Bible and read it or maybe I’ll read it in 15 different versions on Biblegateway. Sometimes I’ll print it out and stick somewhere where I’ll see it all the time. And sometimes I copy it by hand in my journal.
  3. What 1 word pops out as the most important? As I get to know the passage, typically a phrase or even a word will pop out. God illuminates this to me. When I studied Bible study methods in college I hated that they tried to make this a science. Sometimes the most important part of a passage is not the main idea of the paragraph. Sometimes it the tense of a verb. Or the personal pronouns. I find that when I do this its like putting a roast in the slow cooker. It takes time to really become important.
  4. Ask God to reveal this to me in my life. Mantra-ize it. It FREAKS evangelicals out to see that word, mantra. All I mean by that is that I make that one word/phrase important. When it pops into my head it calls me to action or helps me see the world through the lens of that passage. I’ve found it so amazing how many times God reveals that phrase to me in my day. It’s like illumination on steroids.
God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.

This is what works for me. Have you found a way of reading the Bible that works for you? I’d love to hear about it.

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By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

8 comments

  1. Yes! You know, it’s funny . . . I have spent my vocational life writing, crafting, teaching, and helping others teach the Bible. But I remember maybe a year or so ago really struggling with why it was so hard for me to just engage with the Bible. I came to a similar conclusion as you. I broke from a lot of the formal, structured approaches (many of them, like you, that I had taught to others as good ways to go about studying the Bible) and just let it be . . . I find that between teaching an adult and a youth small group, and in leading my own kids, I get plenty of structured encounters with the BIble. I’ve released this in my own life and instead try hard to focus on really finding God in my times of Bible Study. I realize that may sound nebulous, but it makes sense to me! haha. Anyways . . . I resonated with this post, for sure. Well said.

  2. Thanks Adam. Your words encourage me, affirming the habits I have formed in my own Bible reading without realizing what I was doing.

    So … speaking of Lectio Divina and your own approach you’ve outlined here, how do you see this transfer to a community approach to reading / listening to / understanding God’s Word? Have you tried practicing this with a group of students, gathering once a week to share what God revealed to them as they mulled over the same passage for a week?

    1. @5d35557f36e6d288b35322ecf688a6fb:disqus I’ve not tried to take my personal method and apply it to a group setting. Though, it’s amazing how often those themes come up in small groups and even in casual conversation.
      We are doing the Community Bible Experience right now as a church. It’s kind of cool to sit down and wrestle through stuff “in community.” I find the pacing part really, really hard to do as a “bible study.” Because I don’t move on until I’m ready. I pretty much lived in Acts for like 2 years! (And Genesis before that.) But I do like sitting around with friends and hearing how the Holy Spirit might illuminate the same passage to various different people in the group. 

      I suppose the small group stuff is a completely different topic. But I’d say MOST small group leader training is far too controlling of the group to ever actually get anywhere. Too much agenda, too fast a pace, not a enough doing life together. 

      1. I just want to affirm what you wrote there at the end. For the last month our young adults group has scrapped the agenda and it’s been awesome. I greatly appreciate curriculum, but it was holding us back from deeper community.

        We meet for a meal, share prayer requests, and then discuss whatever is on our hearts / minds, anchoring it in the Scriptures. Incredibly meaningful discussions with a high rate of participation, vulnerability, and trust. I’m speaking very little (more of a discussion facilitator who asks the odd question, ties thoughts together, and reads Scripture) and the community has grown in depth and breadth. Amazing times in our home together.

        1. Yup, amazing what happens when you get out of “in this series” mode. We had a community group we were a part of for 2+ years. It was like that the whole time. Totally loved it, grew a lot from it, and really am missing that. I’ve found structured modes to just kill the mojo. It’s like Kraft when you’ve tried the real thing. You just can’t go back. 

  3. Great stuff!  The Christian community must study Scripture!  I like to work systematically through Scripture (a book at a time).  I read the book once a day and then pick a section of Scripture and read it 5 times.  After that I write it in my own words and then write an application.  It helps the Word dwell richly in me.  Thanks for sharing your technique!

    Jason
    http://www.jasoncrandall.org

  4. Great post. Once while I was on a pilgrimage with young people for 30 days I read Epehsians 2 every day. At the moment I am stewing over Hebrews 4:9-11. Sometimes I think God wants you to soak in His word rather than do the duty of a Chapter a day.

  5. About to throw this one up on Flashback Friday. One of the few posts I read each week that actually stuck with me a few days after I read it. Thanks for making me think.

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