Put the cookies on the bottom shelf
Varied resources encourage daily Bible reading
One of the challenges facing churches today is a decline in daily Bible reading.
To make God’s Word part of daily life, Waterloo Mennonite Brethren Church has developed a daily reading plan and posts Scripture verses on Facebook. People are encouraged to leave comments and questions about the readings.
“The Bible is God’s manual for life,” says Chris Stevens, pastor of the church. “Everyone wants to know the personal will of God for their lives. If you don’t know what’s in the Bible, you can’t discover God’s will for your life.”
A Canadian Bible Engagement Study commissioned by the Canadian Bible Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada shows that only 14 percent of Canadians who identify as Christian read the Bible at least once a week. Weekly Bible reading in Canada has fallen by half since 1996.
The survey reveals the frequency of Bible reading is much the same for older and younger people, a change since 1996 when older people read the Bible more frequently.
A Bible verse that inspires Stevens toward daily Bible reading, reflection and prayer is Joshua 1:8: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
“When people read God’s Word, they are pursuing him and who he is,” says Stevens. “It allows you to focus on what is good, holy and right.”
Lack of time, Stevens says, is often given as an excuse for not reading the Bible. When he was pastor of The Gathering in Ottawa, the church addressed this issue by recording a devotional CD with five-minute readings and reflections on the four Gospel books.
Most people listened to the CD during their commute to work. “It was a huge success – about 80 percent of the church heard all four Gospels this way.”
Stevens has also compiled some of his research for sermons into a booklet of trivia questions to help people gain a deeper understanding of God and God’s will for their lives.
Reading the Bible with understanding, he says, helps people recognize that the Bible is as relevant today as it was when it was written.
To “unlock what is applicable for their lives” he suggests readers reflect on three questions. What was the message to the original audience? Given the context, what’s the transferable truth for today? How can you personally apply this truth to your life?
Stevens also encourages people to use online resources and study Bibles to learn more about the context, jot down notes while reading the Bible and keep prayer journals.
Other suggestions that have proven helpful for daily Bible reading, reflection and prayer include placing Bibles or photocopies of Bible passages throughout the house and integrating praying with daily activities. For example, place the Bible in a bathroom and make a habit to pray for others while washing your hair.
“Finding simple ways to engage everyone in reading the Bible is crucial,” he says. “It‘s like putting the cookies on the bottom shelf.”
—Gladys Terichow is a writer for the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.