Do you have an accountability partner? Many do, and that’s good. But after a recent conversation, I began to wonder if sometimes accountability might be a wrong answer to the right question.
A brother in Christ recently told me about his accountability partner. The second individual checks on this brother weekly to ask if he has been reading the Bible. Since I think Bible reading is a generally good idea, I was encouraged by the arrangement.
Later, while studying Psalm 119, I began to reconsider. The person who wrote that psalm seemed to intensely enjoy the Word of God. He repeatedly calls Scripture “sweet,” and frequently says that he “longed for” and “treasured” it. Five times he says he “loved” Scripture and eight times he called it his “delight.” He never mentions needing an accountability partner.
Now, I don’t mean to criticize my brother who felt he needed one. I appreciate his good intent and effort. But it makes me sad to think that he, like many others, feel that they need nagging, even friendly nagging, to do something that should be a delight.
It has been suggested that many of us might need to repent of either self-dependent neglect of the Bible or legalistic routine in reading it. I would not for a moment discourage anyone from repenting, if indeed repenting were in order. However, framing the problem in those terms begs the question of why Jesus’ followers neglect His Word or read it out of mere obligation. If the Bible really is as good as they say, why do so few Christians treat it as such?
Is it that understanding the Bible is hard work? Well, digging the treasure out does require effort, and it can be hard. Most of us do things that are hard work, but we hardly notice because we enjoy doing those things. As I have suggested before, the way that Scripture is taught and read is what is getting in the way. I propose two changes to help restore the joy in God’s Word that He intends.
First, churches should be more intentional in showing not only the grand theme of the Bible, but also how all its parts connect to that theme and to each other. A new innovative resource designed to help with that has recently been released by Bill Foster, author of Meet the Skeptic. Called “How the Bible Works,” it functions like a mobile app and can be viewed in any PDF reader or saved in iBooks. This resource distills major Biblical concepts with summary statements, uses unique icons to visually connect pivotal events, and uses internal links to connect the concepts and events. It also has external links to the relevant Bible passages for each concept and event. Download this free resource here. Use it as a reference tool, an entry portal to make the Bible accessible, but not as a substitute for directly engaging the text.
Second, those who teach the Bible in churches and Christian schools should adopt a fresh approach. The nearly universal habit of Bible teachers, even the best ones, is to download their findings on listeners. That should change. Even expositional teaching is not enough if the learners aren’t part of the discovery. Why don’t our gifted teachers begin to lead those they teach in a process of discovering the meaning of each passage for themselves? One way that can be done is by teaching how to ask tough questions of the text, learning how to find the answers, and not moving on until finding them. I am learning to do this with two people whom I am discipling. We are finding treasure, and we are loving it.
How we treat Scripture is the fountainhead of our lives. It will determine whether we are pushed on paths of mere duty or guided on tracks of truth. As each of us adopt new Bible reading habits, we will see the Bible as God’s love letter to us to tell us what He has done so that we may participate in His great work and that He and we may enjoy each other forever.