I like crazy challenges—the kind that are appealing to you specifically because they’re undoable. Like when I thought running 5 miles was epically long and then the girl I was dating (now my wife) ran a full marathon (26.2). In some weird way, the very fact that I thought I could never do it made me want to try.
That’s why for years I’ve had a dream of carving out a week to read straight through the Bible. I tried it before with the NT and other sections. I tried to do it four years ago and failed. But there’s something helpful about covering so much content in such a short time that it’s all in front of your mind at once. It’s exhausting; it’s transformative. You immerse your brain in God’s words until it starts coming out in your sleep.
This Christmas break (and with the tremendous patience of my wife) I was finally able to do it. Reading through the Pentateuch on day one was like climbing the world’s tallest mountain to see the entire OT panorama at your feet. Reading through the NT on day 6 and finishing with Revelation was sheer wonder and joy at the grand victory of the Lamb. It was a transformative experience.
And so I want to issue a Bible reading challenge to my friends. Set a crazy goal—something you’ve never even come close to before. Shatter the barriers of what you think possible or plausible, not to earn credit with God or anyone else, but just to enjoy reading His words because it’s a beautiful book.
I’ve started noticing a phrase thrown around a good bit—”binge watching,” as in “I stayed up all night and binge watched an entire season of ——. Amazon even jumped in on this recently with a banner—“’tis the season to binge watch,” offering three series that were around 8-10 hours each.
So what if Christians tried binge reading? What if we tried in-taking massive amounts of Bible in a short period of time? In the time it would take to binge watch one of those seasons… you could read the entire New Testament.
A full week free is very hard to do. (I’ve been trying for five years!) But you could cover a lot of Scripture with just three days (take a long weekend), or even just a single day (clear out a Saturday). Once you sit down and work out the numbers, it’s not quite as undoable as you might initially think. (And I’m not a terribly fast reader.) Here are three possible schedules:
I’ve also created an interactive page that will let you figure out the numbers at your own reading speed. Pick any book of the Bible, read it in one sitting and time yourself. Then enter that information at the top of the page and everything else will update automatically.
Crazy? Of course! That’s a great reason to set aside a day or two and try it. In a future post I’ll share more. But in the meantime here are a few lessons learned from my own failed attempts and some practical pointers to make this possible.
- Consider buying a really cheap award Bible and reading with a pen in your hand. Patterns and repeated ideas will start to jump out at you. Marking them will keep you mentally engaged.
- On the other hand, you’ll be tempted to stop and study to check things out. Do not get bogged down. Of course understanding the text is the point. But there is a huge advantage to covering lots of content quickly. Save more detailed study for another time. Make it your goal to cover as much of Scripture as you can. Don’t let yourself stop.
- Pace yourself. Use the schedule above. Or just divide the total number of pages in your Bible by the amount of time you have. This will let you know whether you’re on track hour by hour and also keep you moving.
- When your brain wears out, change up what you do. Read standing or pacing to stay alert. You could try listening to an audio Bible set on double speed.
- Expect to mentally struggle. In my experience, the first day or two is mostly exhilarating. You get motivated at the end because you’re so close. It’s the middle that becomes a slow slog. Expect it and don’t be surprised when it comes.
When I sat down to review 2016, one week was obviously the biggest highlight of my year—the week I got to binge read through the Bible. It changed me on every level. In my next post I want to share some of the thoughts and experiences that arose from that. I hope you’ll consider a crazy reading goal for 2017 and let the most extraordinary book in the world transform your year.