How to Form a Lifelong Habit

Seven tips for introducing new Christians to the Bible.
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We must plan for our Bible reading in a similar way. As I guide new Christians in reading Scripture, I suggest this practical advice:

  • Create an appointment on your calendar. If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not a priority.
  • Find a space void of distractions. A quiet patio, a coffee shop, or even just a nice pair of noise-cancelling headphones will go a long way.
  • Turn off your cell phone. We can go off the grid for 30 minutes to be in fellowship with God.
  • Use inspiring tools. Get a nice study Bible, journal, highlighter, and pen that inspire you to engage.
5. Lead with the Gospels.

While all of Scripture is helpful, point new believers to the life and teachings of Jesus found in the Gospels. We believe that this Jewish carpenter-turned-rabbi is God in the flesh, the clearest revelation of God. The very essence of being Christian is knowing and imitating Jesus Christ, so begin here.

It will also be helpful to offer some overview of each Gospel. Two engaging resources I recommend are Eugene Peterson’s thought-provoking and inspiring introductions to each book of the Bible in The Message, as well as The Bible Project’s short animated summaries of each book on YouTube. These will offer a good primer and enough contextual background to help new believers in reading the Gospels.

6. Encourage Reflective Reading.

I have come to use the following five-step method to help new believers approach the Bible less like a textbook and more like an on-ramp to engaging the Spirit. With the focus on reflecting on Scripture rather than getting the “right answer,” I’ve found new believers are better set up for success.

1. Start in silence.

Begin with a moment of mental detox and an awareness of God’s presence. Ponder God’s affections toward you as you open up the Word.

2. Mark up what you read.

As you read, mark any verse, phrase, word, or theme that strikes your heart or raises a question. Highlight, underline, and jot down your thoughts in the margins. The Spirit may be speaking to you. Your notes and highlights will be a visual sign of your conversation with God.

3. Summarize the passage.

It’s easy to read and forget. In order to slow down and really digest what’s going on in the text, take time to write a brief summary of what you’ve read. If this proves difficult, try paraphrasing each verse. Rewrite the Scripture in your own words. This will force you to pay attention to what you’re reading.

4. Reflect and listen.

After looking over your highlights and summary, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and begin to contemplate their implications. Then boldly ask, “What is the Spirit of God speaking to me in this present moment?” You may hear a word of comfort, direction, or wisdom. You may find a connection between the text and your own life. Or you may not. That’s okay. The key is to listen, believing in faith that God is speaking through his Word. If you need some direction, start with these questions:

What does this reveal about God?
What does this reveal about humanity?
What does this reveal about the Christian life?
How does this contrast with the world I live in?
How does this call me to live differently?

5. Pray the text.

Finally, close your time by praying through what you have reflected on. For instance, if Jesus’ words on giving to the poor in secret stand out to you after you read the Sermon on the Mount, pray, “Father, teach me to give with a pure heart. May I seek a greater reward than the praise of people.”

7. Welcome Controversial Questions.

Any honest Bible reader is going to have questions. The Gospels, for instance, should raise some interesting questions about divorce, money, and how to interact with coworkers we despise. Furthermore, many new Christians will have questions about what Scripture has to say regarding controversial social issues. It's also likely that new Christians may disagree with a particular reading of the Bible. Don't demonize or judge; instead, engage in conversation, seeking to understand their point of view. The more we welcome difficult questions, the more we'll model the reality that God is big enough to handle whatever questions we may have.

Mike Whang is a United Methodist church planter in the Houston, Texas, area.

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