During my four decades of ministry, my motivation for reading the Bible has progressed through four stages. Not that these stages are distinct with no overlap, but looking in the rearview mirror and assessing my Bible reading today, I see growth.
I was in Bible college and serving as a part-time youth minister when I first got serious about reading the Bible. And I got serious because I had to. Many of my classes required me to read the Bible; and teaching the Bible in my youth ministry forced me to read. As a minister, teaching and preaching the Bible brings special privileges, as well as dangers. One danger is that you read and study only to teach. One privilege is that you get to read and study as a part of your weekly work responsibility.
I eventually completed my formal education and was fully engaged in pastoral ministry. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but as a result of attending various seminars and conferences, I was convicted that reading the Bible only for teaching and preaching wasn’t ideal, and so I began to read the Bible because I should read it. This reading, of course, had to be in addition to what I was reading for my preaching and teaching. Being busy in ministry did not make this easy, but regular reading of the Bible was included in my “things-to-do list” and I did it.
Several years ago I began leading some Bible studies in which I announced I was not going to be a tour guide so much as a trail guide and fellow traveler. A tour guide, of course, has already seen all the sights, and so he points out various things. A trail guide is experienced, but hasn’t necessarily been on this trail before, and so he travels along with the party, seeing new things along the way. I began reading articles and books about spiritual growth, and soon found myself reading my Bible because I wanted to. I recall how surprised I was when I realized I looked forward to my regular Bible reading. There were many days I read more than my reading plan prescribed.
My current status of Bible reading has been an obvious next step. Now I’m meeting God and spending time with him in and through my Bible reading. Some of these meetings obviously are richer than others, but I’m doing more than just reading my Bible. I’m pretty sure in days gone by I was in the same boat as the Jewish leaders Jesus spoke to in John 5:39: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” Their focus was on the WORD of God and I want my focus to be on the Word of GOD.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of Christians’ reading and studying the Bible. Reading the Word of God is not the only practice we need to engage in, but it is foundational to cultivating our relationship with the Lord. We need to read our Bibles; we should read our Bibles; and hopefully we want to read our Bibles. It’s an extremely important avenue of meeting with and hearing from God.
I certainly haven’t reached the pinnacle in terms of reading my Bible, meeting with the Lord, and nurturing my soul, but I am making progress. Nor am I blind to the blessings God brought to me at every step of this process. For me it was out of knowing I should read the Bible—and doing so—that I got to the place where I wanted to read it. Today I am hearing God through my Bible reading and growing in my relationship with him. Based upon the past, I am excited about the future and look forward to it!
Reading the Bible because I had to has brought wonderful results.
Bob Mink is founding pastor of Discovery Christian Church in Moreno Valley, California, where he continues to serve as pastor and regularly reads his Bible.