In February 2016, we launched RBT to encourage a deeper knowledge of God’s word, greater intimacy with Christ, more zeal for his church and an increased love for his world.
A Hidden Jewel
Supposedly it’s our most treasured possession; but sadly for most of us, the Bible’s more like the Crown Jewels. We wear it on special occasions but keep it safe the rest of the time! We may own a Bible but in honesty it doesn’t own us.
The Christian knows that reading the Bible is important. In fact most of us can reference that renowned Galilean nutritionist* saying something about God’s word being far superior to the ubiquitous sliced pan, but we just don’t seem to be able to adjust our diet!
I bet like me, you wished you were more disciplined, more determined, more resolved to push past the hauntings of good intentions; and finally get into the word, as the word gets into you. With thanks to our friend Steve Levy down in Swansea, we hope RBT provides the necessary encouragement.
What is it?
RBT is simple: Read the Bible Together. That is, read whole books of the bible, rather than fragments, and like someone training for a marathon, run with others towards the same goal. The emphasis is deliberate: read, not study! (Or listen for those of you who prefer). Leave the fine tooth-comb in the drawer, ignore chapter and verse numbers, commentaries, Greek lexicons, and read at your own natural pace. And when you reach the end, return to the beginning and start over again!
Amazingly, there were some boffins who cottoned on to this years ago, among them a James Gray who wrote a book in 1904 entitled “How to master the English Bible” and he wrote this:
“The first practical help I ever received in the mastery of the English Bible was from a layman. We were fellow-attendants at a certain Christian conference or convention and thrown together a good deal for several days, and I saw something in his Christian life to which I was a comparative stranger –a peace, a rest, a joy, a kind of spiritual poise I knew little about. One day I ventured to ask him how he had become possessed of the experience, when he replied, “By reading the epistle to the Ephesians.” I was surprised, for I had read it without such results, and therefore asked him to explain the manner of his reading, when he related the following: He had gone into the country to spend the Sabbath with his family on one occasion, taking with him a pocket copy of Ephesians, and in the afternoon, going out into the woods and lying down under a tree, he began to read it; he read it through at a single reading, and finding his interest aroused, read it through again in the same way, and, his interest increasing, again and again. I think he added that he read it some twelve or fifteen times, “and when I arose to go into the house,” said he, “I was in possession of Ephesians, or better yet, it was in possession of me, and I had been ‘lifted up to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ in an experimental sense in which that had not been true in me before, and will never cease to be true in me again.”
Now, if the thought of reading a book like Ephesians 12-15 times daunts you! Here’s some encouragement from a man familiar with the pressures of our current times:
“By about the fifth time you read it, you’ll probably be dreadfully bored. Stick with it. Somewhere around the eighth time you’ll go through a wall and find riches of meaning you had not glimpsed before. When you reach the point of saturation and mastery, you’ll know. There’s a kind of click in your consciousness, and you feel the whole mass of the book shift as it is transformed in your understanding from a set of verses and disconnected lines of argument into one whole.” (Fred Sanders)
But, please don’t be discouraged from engaging fully with RBT if for instance you are not a fast reader or you struggle to find the time. Even if you don’t manage to read through the book once, please come and share and learn from what others have gleaned. Since we began, the testimony of folk, many of whom struggle to get through the book once, aligns with that of the Psalmist who found great delight in reading and meditating upon God’s self-revelation.
So, every month for 10 months of the year (holidays in August and December!), we read through a book or multiple short books throughout that month and then gather at the Christchurch Centre on the last Thursday, break into small groups and share the effect of having been washed by the Word.
Frequently, we reserve the last 15 or 20 minutes for a Q & A time as invariably our reading throws some curve balls or gives rise to questions we didn’t have before we read the book. We have found these times particularly helpful in alleviating the pressure to try and understand everything we’ve read privately before the gathering.
So, please get stuck in! RBT is open to anyone, member or not, young and old and I bet you’ll be surprised at how much bible gets into you in a short time!
*(Editor’s note: For anyone struggling to understand Bob Mc Can’s rare attempt at humour here, please see Matthew 4:4)
For previous book overviews and sermons, please click here.