Enjoying God’s Word with Others
We all know the value of sharing a meal with others. Reading the Bible is similar to eating food—we can do it alone, but we’re missing something if we never share it with others. But what can communal Bible-reading look like? Here are seven tips for reading the Bible with another person.
- Keep it simple.
Reading the Bible with another person doesn’t need to be time-consuming or involved. It’s meeting with someone regularly to simply read through portions of Scripture. This is different than meeting for Bible study, which may involve preparation or study skills. When you meet to read the Bible with someone, you don’t need to read the material beforehand or come prepared with key observations and questions. Instead, simply come with a plan to read and respond together.
Here’s what it can look like: Briefly pray to thank God for his word, and ask for help with understanding and responding to his word. Then read a section of Scripture out loud together. Afterward, briefly respond by sharing thoughts you had while reading the passage. End your time together by praying again.
- Pick a section of the Bible.
Find a section of Scripture to read together over the course of your meetings. You could read one chapter of a shorter book like Philippians or Colossians each time. If you did, you could finish both of them in eight meetings! Or you could read a couple of chapters of one of the Gospels each time. For example, if you read two chapters of the Gospel of Mark each time you met, you would finish in eight meetings. If you wanted to spend a little more time in each session, you could read through six chapters of Isaiah and finish in just eleven meetings.
- Make a short-term commitment.
When you ask someone to join you for reading, ask them to commit for a short period of time. For example, if you want to read through the Gospel of Mark in eight meetings together, ask them to join you for eight meetings. This gives a natural transition at the end of your commitment to decide to do it again right away or not. I’ve found that this kind of clarity around expectations can get rid of any potential awkwardness if one person no longer wants to meet after a period of time.
- Read with coffee or a meal.
Bible reading doesn’t need to be the exclusive reason for meeting. For me, it rarely is. I typically invite someone to meet with me over coffee or a meal for a few months. Throughout this time, we’re getting to know one another, talking about important matters in life, and reading God’s word together.
- Read with other Christians.
When you think of someone to ask, start with the people who are already in your life. Is there someone in your small group that you can go deeper with? Is there someone from your church community that you would like to know better? Do you have a close friend who would be a good fit for this with you? Perhaps you could invite two or three others to read together. Whenever we read any part of the Bible, we need to keep the whole in view.
- Read with non-Christians.
It’s increasingly important in our culture to help people understand who Jesus really is. When people offer their objections to Christianity, I often agree with them. The version of Jesus that they reject I also reject because the Bible rejects it. They are often rejecting a misunderstanding of the Bible, the gospel, or Jesus. We have a great opportunity to invite people to explore the real Jesus by going right to the source—the Bible itself.
So ask your non-Christian neighbor, coworker, or friend: Would you be interested in reading through a part of the Bible with me? Then, invite them to meet with you to read through the Gospel of Mark together, two chapters at a time. After you read, you could respond by asking two questions: What do we learn about who Jesus is? What did it mean for those people to follow him?
- Keep God and his grace in view.
As you read the Bible, remember that this is God’s word to us. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). Just as our words are breathed out by us, the Bible is breathed out by God. It is his very speech to us. So as we read his word, let’s remember that this is God speaking to us.
And remember, the Bible is ultimately an overarching story of God’s unfolding grace to sinners and sufferers. Whenever we read any part of the Bible, we need to keep the whole in view. The Bible tells us the larger story that makes sense of our lives—where we come from, what went wrong in the world, and how God is redeeming sinners and ultimately making all things new through Jesus.
- Respond with openness and prayer.
We should always end our time with God’s word by responding to it. God says, “this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2). We should humble ourselves before him and seek to respond appropriately. After reading Scripture, pause to ask—even briefly—how you think this should change your thinking, your desires, or your actions.
We were made to know God, and we were made for community. Reading God’s word with others fulfills both of these purposes. Reading the Bible, like eating a meal, isn’t only for individual consumption. Some of the greatest joys come when we enjoy God and his word together with others.