Reading the Bible in a Year is Overrated

"If being a 'good' Christian means reading through the Bible in a year, I'm a total failure," says author Beth Demme.

This blogpost is shared with permission.

Have you ever decided to read the Bible in a year? How did it go? Did you start at Genesis 1:1 and work your way through to Revelation 22:21? Maybe you’ve intended to read through the Bible in a year but never quite made it. How long was it before you fell behind in your plan?

I have some theories about why your reading might have stalled.

Actually, these are the reasons my reading has stalled in the past. This is my list of shame. These are the reasons I’ve found it impossible to stick to any reading plan that promises to get me through the Bible in a set period of time.

I’m curious, do any of these resonate with you?

Reason #1: There was no good reason.

When I go into a Bible reading plan without a good reason, I fail. For example, I once wanted to read the Bible in a year because my husband was doing it. This could have been a positive motivator, but I turned it into a competition. When my husband stuck with the plan, and I didn’t, I felt like a failure. Not surprisingly, that didn’t make me want to re-commit to the plan.

Today, I use reading plans centered on specific learning goals instead of plans requiring me to consume specific amounts of scripture.

Reason #2: There’s always tomorrow.

Life gets hectic. When I’m reading for the wrong reasons (like an allegedly friendly competition with my husband), Bible reading gets shoved to the bottom of the priority list. In fact, it falls right off. Why? Because the Bible will be there tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. If my goal is just to consume a specific amount of scripture, I can do that anytime. I tell myself a lie: “I’ll get caught up eventually.” What actually happens is that instead of eventually recommitting to the plan, I eventually abandon the plan.

Reason #3: I’m not good at chores.

I’ve wasted time thinking, “if I were a good Christian, reading the Bible wouldn’t be such a chore!” There are two problems with that kind of thinking.

First of all, reading the Bible doesn’t make me a “good” Christian. Even thinking I’m a “good” Christian is an indication I’m doing it (Christianity) wrong. The idea of being a “good Christian” lacks humility, but even worse, it puts the focus on what I’m doing instead of on what God is doing.

Second, Bible reading is not a chore, it’s an opportunity. When a Bible reading plan is something I “should do” instead of something I “want to do,” I fail every time. (For more on why “should” is a bad word, check out this episode of my podcast.) “Should” is one of the major reasons consuming specific amounts of scripture over a set period of time has never worked for me. I’m not motivated by the idea of consuming scripture; I want to learn it, and that can’t always be done on a schedule.

Reason #4: I don’t like to be bored.

Learning the Bible takes me on tangents and provokes questions. Reading the Bible simply numbs my mind.

When I’m attempting to consume a specific amount of scripture, I don’t allow my mind to wander. I don’t take time to think about what I’m reading because my goal is to read, not to think.  I end up reading the words without processing them. I might be able to check off something on my to-do list, but I haven’t actually absorbed the biblical story and I certainly haven’t connected with God.

In other words, sometimes reading specific quantities of scripture for the sake of a reading plan can be boring.

I know that many people successfully read the entire Bible every year. I think that’s great! I’m so happy they found something that works for them. I’m thrilled they are reading the Bible for themselves instead of relying on church, friends, or culture to tell them what the Bible says.

However, the “Bible in a Year” plans don’t work for everyone. Maybe, like me, you’re an Other. Maybe, like me, those types of reading plans leave you feeling defeated, frustrated, or bored.

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