Most of us want to read the Bible more, but often we find ourselves too busy, don’t know where to start, or we simply don’t know how to start reading the Bible. So we just don’t.
If you are wondering where to start reading the Bible then you are in good company. Many people feel overwhelmed when it comes to reading the Bible. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I want to give you some of the best tips I know to help you start reading the Bible and grow your faith.
Getting Prepared | How To Start Reading The Bible
Before you start reading the Bible you first need to make a few decisions. You might not recognize it, but these first few decisions have a big impact on how you read the Bible. How to start reading the Bible begins with these basic steps.
1. Choose A Bible Version
The first thing you need to do is choose the Bible you are going to read. That might seem like an easy thing to do. But there’s as many translations of the Bible as there are toothpaste options at the store. That’s a lot…
I’ve written a whole guide on this, so I won’t spend too much time on it here (read it here: Bible Translation Guide).
What you need to know is that most translations fall into two broad categories: Formal Equivalence (word for word translation) or Dynamic Equivalence (thought for thought translation).
Formal versions risk miscommunicating the original meaning by seeking a literal word. Yet they can be helpful for studying the formal features of the text.
Dynamic versions more clearly communicate the meaning of the text in modern langue. Yet because they are more interpretive they run a much greater risk of misinterpretation.
Here’s how this looks on a spectrum:
Let me boil all this down. Here’s what I recommend:
Easiest To Read: New Living Translation (NLT)
Best Study Bible: English Standard Version (ESV)
Something In-Between: New International Version (NIV)
Picking a translation to read is the first step. There’s many options, just choose which one is best for you. How to start reading the Bible begins with this first step.
For more on choosing the best Bible translation for you check out: How To Choose The Best Bible Translation
2. Where To Start Reading The Bible? (Don’t start at the beginning)
Common sense tells us when we pick up a book to start at the beginning. It’s how you read a book. But the Bible is different.
For starters, the Bible isn’t a single book. It’s a collection of 66 books written over sixteen centuries by over forty human authors. It is quite an amazing collection with very different styles, unique voices, different purposes, and incredible stories.
Because of the uniqueness of the Bible I think it’s best to not start at the beginning. For most people I recommend starting by reading the Gospel of John followed by James. That will give you a good understanding of what Jesus has done and how we should live in light of what he’s done.
Of course that’s not the only place to start reading the Bible. YouVersion (Bible App) is one of the most popular apps and is on half a billion phones around the world. This app has thousands of plans to help you know what to read. There’s a reading plan for everyone. That’s a great resource when you are asking yourself, “how to start reading the Bible?”
Find some of the most popular YouVersion reading plans here: Top YouVersion Bible Reading Plans
For more about where to start reading the Bible check out: The 4 Best Places To Start Reading The Bible
3. Practice Good Hermeneutics
I know hermeneutics is a fancy word. It simply means to read the Bible in the way it was intended to be read.
I’ve written a whole article on this, so I won’t go too in-depth in this post (read it here: The 5 Best Tips On How To Read The Bible)
Let me spoil the 5 tips. Here’s what it means to practice good hermeneutics:
- Approach the Bible with humility
- Consider the genre
- Consider the context
- Ask questions
- Reflect and meditate
I’ve broken down each of these steps here: The 5 Best Tips On How To Read The Bible
How to start reading the Bible begins with practicing good hermeneutics.
Getting Started | How To Start Reading The Bible
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at how to start reading the Bible.
4. Set Aside A Time
One of the biggest objections I hear people give to reading the Bible is time… there’s just not enough of it. But that’s simply not true.
You have time in your schedule to spent 15 minutes reading your Bible. I know you do because the average person stares at their phone for almost 2 hours EVERY day. The issue isn’t the amount of time you have, it’s what you prioritize in your life.
If you don’t prioritize something in your life it will not happen. There’s just too many things vying for your attention. If you actually want to read and understand the Bible you need to prioritize it in your life.
So, pick a time that works for you. Put it on your calendar, set a reminder, and don’t let anything else overtake it. You don’t need all day. To start 10-20 minutes is plenty. But it’s up to you to make it happen.
The answer for how to start reading the Bible is to set aside time to actually do it. It’s a discipline. It won’t happen magically. It will only happen when you actually prioritize it.
5. Start With Prayer
Before you actually open your Bible, say a prayer. Invite God to open your eyes to what he has for you. Pray that distractions would fade away. And pray that what you read would transform you to look a little more like him.
Starting with prayer helps us focus our time. We all have a thousand things on our mind and lots to accomplish throughout the day. If we aren’t careful those things will creep into our time studying the Bible. Starting off with a quick prayer will help us stay focused.
If you are struggling with how to start reading the Bible begin with a brief prayer.
For more about prayer check out: What Is Prayer? (9 Powerful Tips)
6. Read A Little (start small)
A couple verses a day is better than zero verses a day. One minute reading the Bible is better than zero minutes reading the Bible.
That’s how habits are formed. A little by a little.
So often when we try to start a new habit we try to go from zero to a hundred. If you’ve never stepped foot in a gym you probably shouldn’t start by trying to work out for an hour and a half. That would just set you up for failure. Instead you should start small and formulate a habit that can grow.
When it comes to reading the Bible just strive to spend more time than you did yesterday. It’s okay to start small and build that habit. If you’ve never consistently read the Bible don’t feel like you have to read it cover to cover in the next month.
Focus on building a habit. Start small. A couple minutes a day is a great place to start. Build the habit. Make it part of your daily routine. And increase the time as it becomes part of what you do.
How to start reading the Bible means you focus on building a habit, not checking a box.
7. Pick Up Some Tools
Picking up a few simple tools can help you build this habit of reading the Bible.
You don’t need much to start. Here’s what I recommend:
- A good study Bible (Like this one: Study Bible)
- A journal (Like this one: Journal)
- Bookmark some good online resources
If you are looking for a quality resource that’s free I highly recommend Dr Constables’s Expository Notes. You can easily pull up some quality notes on any passage you are reading. This will give you a much greater understanding of the Bible and the context in which it is written.
8. Follow Through (but don’t worry if you miss a day… or a week)
This final step is probably the hardest. Now that you have the time and the place you are going to start, it’s time to actually read your Bible. If you’ve never had a regular time devoted to reading the Bible it’s going to take some work to build that habit.
Have you ever worked out for the first time in a long time? Your muscles scream once you are done. They aren’t used to it and they get sore fast and it can still be painful days later. But after a few weeks it doesn’t bother you much anymore, in fact you start feeling good after a hard workout. You just have to push through the first little bit.
It’s the same process with any habit you want to form. If you want to read your Bible more you need to be prepared for it to be really difficult at first. It’s going to take some discipline. But it will get better once you push through.
So follow through.
Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or a week… or a few months. That’s okay. Beating yourself up will not help anything. Just get back to it the next day. Keep prioritizing your life to make space to invest in your faith. Don’t give up.
Let me offer you one more incredible resource as you consider how to start reading the Bible. Core 52 removes both barriers, offering a common-sense solution that fits into our busy lives. This book is written by Mark Moore, a professor I had in my undergraduate studies, and I would highly recommend it if you are looking to dive deeper into how to read the Bible.
Each week features a brief essay, memory verse, Bible story, trajectory verses, and practical ways to put what you’ve learned into practice. An optional “Overachiever Challenge” offers the chance to memorize the top 100 Bible verses by year’s end.
This simple approach allows you to become familiar with the big ideas of the Bible in less time and with less effort than other reading plans. In one year, you can master the core of the Bible—focusing on topics from God’s will to worry, happiness to holiness, and leadership to love. These fifty-two core passages are lenses through which you can read the rest of the Bible with clarity and confidence.
Let’s hear from you. What have you learned that you help you understand how to start reading the Bible.
Don’t forget to leave a comment! What resource or tip would you give someone who was wondering how to start reading the Bible?
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