As you wind down from a long day complete with an evening meeting, you wonder as you sip on a beverage with your feet propped up, “Why did I ever think that going into the ministry was a good idea?” Then you are gently reminded by the Spirit of God that you went into the ministry because you were passionate about making an impact on the world. That’s why most of us went into the ministry. We want the lives of the people to whom we minister to be changed. We know so much about the seamy side of people’s lives that we wonder at times if we have ever had any real and lasting success in accomplishing that task. How can we be sure that we are having the life-changing kind of impact that we have been so passionate about?
We have a simple promise that is familiar to most of us in God’s word that is truly powerful. In fact, God promises dynamic life impacting effects each time His Word goes out. Isaiah records, “So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
Intuitively we know that God’s Word changes lives. That’s why we preach it. But, we also know that it is not so much what we say to people in a given week through preaching or counseling that has this kind of guarantee. Accomplishing the life change that we so earnestly pray will occur is directly tied to getting people to involve themselves personally and regularly in the richly satisfying word of God. It stands to reason that the more we can involve our people in the Word of God, the greater impact we can expect to have.
Furthermore, the impact of the Word of God will be far greater if the people to whom we minister will personally get into the Word seven days a week rather than just one. Getting people to simply read the Scriptures would be a powerful tool in helping us to accomplish our passion of impacting the world for Christ.
Amazingly, reading God’s Word can also make a difference in the way that we feel during the day. Research by Tyndale House Publishers found evidence that reading the Bible promotes a positive outlook on life. According to a study they commissioned with the Barna Research Group, eighty-two percent of regular Bible readers described themselves as ‘at peace’ compared to 58 percent of those who said they never read the Bible. Seventy-eight percent of regular Bible readers said they felt ‘happy’ all or most of the time compared to 67 percent of nonreaders. Sixty-eight percent of regular Bible readers said they were ‘full of joy’ compared to 44 percent who said they never read the Bible.
Reading the Bible not only impacts the way we feel about life, it also impacts our ability to digest the teaching we hear about the Scriptures. In our culture there are a growing number of people that are functionally illiterate biblically. They may know a verse of Scripture here or there, but they do not comprehend the larger picture. It is not because they lack intelligence but rather because they lack exposure to the Word.
Biblical myopia is the bane of accurate understanding. We long for our listeners to see as birds see as they soar above the treetops rather than as worms see while crawling along the ground. We do not want them to become satisfied with the granules of dirt around them as worms do. We want them instead to experience the joy of understanding how all the parts fit into the larger whole. As they listen to the Sunday sermon, we want them to have the frame of reference that someone will have that has read through the Scriptures and sees the whole. With lack of understanding, boredom can set in. The strong desire for further understanding only comes with a general grasp of the story of the Bible that comes through reading it broadly.
If reading the Bible can be change lives, how do you motivate a person to read and interact with God’s Word? Most Bible reading programs assume people know the benefits of reading the Bible and go straight to the plan, but many people are unaware or unconvinced of the benefits of reading God’s Word. As shepherds it is up to us to impart to them a vision of how reading the Bible can better their lives and how the Bible is relevant to them. In order for people to be motivated, they need to be convinced that the journey they are getting ready to undertake is exciting, meaningful, and achievable.
Helping people read the Bible in creative and fun ways can help them enjoy the exciting biblical stories. Exposing them to the benefits helps them to see that the Word of God is meaningful. They will discover what God has promised them (2 Peter 1:4), find direction for their lives (Psalm 119:105), clarify what’s going on inside when they are confused (Hebrews 4:12), find comfort when they are hurting (Psalm 119:50), find hope when they are in dire situations in life (Romans 15:4), and get to know Jesus more intimately (John 5:39). Giving them a 10-minute a day reading plan helps them to see it is achievable.
It is tough to get people to buy into a plan that you as the minister have not bought into yourself. That is why my wife and I are going to start this new year by reading through the New Testament even though we have read it many times before. We have a copy of The One Year NIV Devotional New Testament. The book has a gospel reading and an epistle reading each day along with a verse from the book of Proverbs. We plan to read the gospel reading and the verse in Proverbs in the morning by ourselves. Then throughout the day we will look for someone who most resembles the character described in the proverb we read. At the end of the day we will share who most resembles the person depicted in the proverb and why. We will conclude our day by reading the epistle together.
We will share this reading plan with our church family and invite them to join us in reading the Scriptures together. We will provide copies of the devotional NT at church for them to purchase so that they will have a solid reading plan to follow. We also plan to ask people to share what they are getting out of their time in the Word in a Sunday service and post some of their testimonies on our church’s website. People in the church family get excited when they are learning, and it is contagious. It builds unity in the church family when they are united in a common goal.
As people work out with the Word seven days a week rather than once on Sunday mornings, their chance of life change increases seven fold. The very thing that caused us to passionately pursue our own involvement in the ministry has a greater chance of coming about if the people we are ministering to get involved in God’s Word. Turn your people loose in the Scriptures and watch God work!
Greg Buckles is Senior Pastor of Mansfield Bible Church in Mansfield, TX.