As another year draws to a close, our thoughts naturally trend toward the celebration of the gift of God’s Son at Christmas. It’s a special time of the year that I pray will be blessed in your family and church. It is also a time of the year when we start to consider the New Year and what it has in store.
In the life of the church, that often means new committees and budgets with new emphasis and initiatives. I want to challenge you to consider what I have become convinced is a needed emphasis in the life of our churches.
Over the past few years, in the churches I have been privileged to serve in as interim and transitional pastor, I have challenged the church to join me in a Bible reading plan. There is something about the people of God reading the Word of God together that provides unity and focus for the body. This has proven to be especially helpful for churches who are searching for a pastor to shepherd them, but the value is much more than simply direction in a season of transition. When the people of God are consistently in the Word of God together, it creates a culture of readiness to follow the Lord.
Here are some practical suggestions for implementing a congregational Bible reading plan in your church next year.
• First, pastor, you need to decide what plan you think is best for your church. There are numerous plans readily available for congregations. For the past few years, I have utilized a chronological plan, but there are also many other options. I would encourage you to choose a plan that you can follow and the congregation will embrace. I use the YouVersion app for my personal reading. It provides a wide variety of plans that will track your progress and allows the opportunity for community accountability by inviting others to join in the plan. For those that prefer a book in their hands, there are readily accessible, printable plans and also plans that have Bibles structured according to that plan people can purchase. There really is no legitimate excuse for someone not to participate with their church family.
• Next, pastor, you need to begin communicating the emphasis by mid-December. This gives plenty of time for you to inform the church, allowing them to be ready for a January 1 start. This is also important because of the hectic nature of the holiday season and the number of people who will miss services due to the seasonal activities. I would suggest not only speaking about it from the platform, which I think is very important, but utilizing the variety of ways church communication takes place as well. We can never guarantee everyone will hear, but starting early and sharing often helps to minimize the number that miss out.
• I would also suggest preaching a sermon or making a special emphasis on the Sunday before the start of the New Year about the importance of the Word of God. This will help provide the motivation for the information you have given. They will know the plan, and your passion for it will encourage their engagement. Pastors, I am convinced that our church families would love to join us in a Bible reading plan. In fact, I believe the key to the effectiveness of this plan is our encouraging them to join us.
• Finally, it is important that on a regular basis, Sunday by Sunday, you, the pastor, talk about the Bible reading plan. I have been amazed by the fact that what I have been reading day by day with my church family becomes relevant to the sermon I am preaching on that Sunday, regardless of the passage or topic. God has used that daily time in His Word in my life to shape and sharpen what I preach. It has given me the opportunity to show the church how daily time in God’s Word is transforming my life. Pastors, if you don’t talk about it, the people will not think it is a priority for you, and it will not be one for them.
I hope and pray you will consider spending 2019 together in God’s Word in your church family. I believe if you do, it will become a regular part of the life of your church. I’m praying that God would bless you with a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in His Word!