If only I had a nickel, (or maybe a Starbucks tall Americano with cream), for every time I’ve heard the following: “I decided to read through the Bible. I made it all the way to the first couple of chapters of Leviticus. Then I stopped.” Yup. I’ve been there. You started with great intentions and a real desire to meet God in his word. Then you came to a verse like this, “And from the peace offering he shall bring an offering made by fire to the LORD consisting of its fat: the entire fat tail cut off close to the backbone, the fat that covers the entrails, all the fat that is on them, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he is to remove with the kidneys” (Leviticus 3:9-10). At that point certain thoughts may have entered your mind. “Hm. Maybe I overestimated myself,” or “I mean, Bible reading is overrated, right?”
The Bible is a complicated book, and parts of it take real commitment to understand. It can be difficult to reach the point where the text is speaking to your heart and connecting you to the God you’re craving. How many genuinely Jesus-loving, God-seeking people have begun some sort of Bible study with great intentions only to stop a few days or weeks later? Then comes the shame and disappointment of quitting, along with the still present ache for a richer understanding of God’s word.
Let’s step back for a moment from the world of Bible study and enter another field to help us understand what might help. A study reported by the National Institutes of Health found that 95% of those who started a weight loss program with friends completed the program, compared to a 76% completion rate for those who tackled the program alone. A huge marketing push for many gyms includes a buddy program, or some sort of person-to-person accountability for those wanting to hit their fitness goals. These marketers aren’t just trying to help you make friends; they’ve tapped into something true about our God-imaging humanity: we do better together.
Genesis 1:26 reads, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” God exists in trinity; he lives in community. We, his image bearers, flourish when we do the same. For a proper explanation of the implications of God’s trinitarian reality for our own lives, listen to the New Bible Dictionary’s words on true fellowship, “Since God is within himself a fellowship, it means that his moral creatures who are made in his image find fullness of life only within a fellowship. This is reflected in marriage, in the home, in society and above all in the church whose koinonia is built upon the fellowship of the three Persons.”
Bottom line— we as humans will always thrive when we do things in community as opposed to tackling things alone. Especially hard things. And like exercise, the discipline of studying the Bible is a hard thing. It takes work, and we can tire of the continuous effort we must expend to really benefit. This is when community gives us such an advantage. Maybe you don’t feel like doing the next chapter of your study, but you know the discussion will be good, so you make yourself do it. Maybe you don’t have time one week to finish your lesson, but you can show up at a group and listen to someone teach through the portion of scripture you only had time to skim. Maybe you just need to get out of your house, and you know a friend will be there. Community is motivating. The Spirit works in the body of Christ in ways that are both encouraging and challenging.
If you’ve decided to study the Bible this fall, find someone to partner with. Maybe you can’t attend the women’s Bible study at church; that’s okay. Find a partner in your neighborhood who can come over once a week for an hour while your kids take a nap. Not a possibility for you? Then find a friend you can call once a week who will commit to studying something with you. Set a time to talk and decide ahead of time what you’ll do on that phone call. Perhaps you answer the last three application questions together every week before you allow yourselves to talk about other things on your call. The particular book or study doesn’t matter as much as the commitment and clear expectations determined ahead of time so that engagement with the word actually happens.
My husband decided to read (or listen, more likely) through the Bible in a year this past January. I didn’t have a plan at the time, so I asked if I could join him. Sometimes we listen together early in the morning. Sometimes he’s out of town for work and we text each other just a few words or a sentence about what stuck out to us. Most mornings when we’re awake enough to form words and he’s in town one of us says, “Did you already read?” Just that much accountability has gotten us all the way to our current place of 43% of the way through the Bible! Sometimes we have a longer discussion about what we read. Most days I just make some snarky comment like, “Paul’s sentences are way too long.” My patient husband smiles at me, and we keep on reading.
If you’ve got a plan for Bible study this fall—great! Find a group, a buddy, or a texting friend to help you stick to it. Chances are you’ll be richer together for it.
 New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Intervarsity Press, 1962 Downers Grove, IL, p. 1223.
About the Author:
Christine B. Gordon, MATS, is wife to Michael and mother of three. She earned her Master of Arts in Theological Studies at Covenant Seminary. She currently lives in St. Louis where she works as the intake coordinator for a counseling center. She loves to walk, make music with other people, and share bad puns with her family. You can find 8 Bible studies written by Christine and her writing partner, Hope Blanton, along with 2 virtual teaching series to accompany them at www.athisfeetstudies.com.