A Light Unto My Path: Changing Lives (Part 1)
GEORGE ALLEN, Retired CCCC MINISTER
I don’t have to convince members of our fellowship that it is crucial for Christians to know the Bible—the whole Bible—and know it well. The Bible is a big book, so to know it as we need to in this age of increasing biblical illiteracy requires a system and a plan. A Light Unto My Path is my fourth attempt over a period of some twenty years to develop a method of helping my congregations come to grips with this foundation of our faith.
It is easy to make a “through the Bible in a year” program by adding up the chapters in the Bible and dividing by 365, resulting in an assignment of somewhere between three and four chapters a day. Besides getting a bit tedious around Leviticus and postponing the New Testament until into October, this schedule tended to wear down my members who still had to get to work in the morning. I decided the program needed to be more user-friendly.
The first step in this process was extending the schedule from one year to three. This results in a daily assignment of between one and two chapters a day. The Old Testament is scheduled over three years, while the New Testament is read every year, a reasonable ratio for Christian readers. The Psalms and Proverbs are assigned every year because of their special character and use in devotional life. This is not a lectionary program or a selection of scriptures based on political correctness or a theological agenda, but every word of the Bible is included.
The three-year Old Testament schedule, instead of corresponding to the order of the biblical books, is rearranged chronologically. There are widely differing opinions about the dates of certain biblical books, but the chronological arrangement I chose adheres to a traditional conservative standpoint. The book of Job, for instance, appears with the patriarchs of Genesis, because while the conversation between Job and his three “comforters” may be a later creative addition (under the inspiration of a very creative Holy Spirit), the original story in the beginning and closing chapters is, I think, very ancient. The prophets are factored in at the points where they appear in the story of God’s relation with Israel.
The Psalms and Proverbs are arranged differently each year, individual psalms occasionally inserted at points where they tie in to David’s life, and the proverbs are rearranged according to topics, such as finances, rewards, and honesty.
The New Testament is organized around a different focus each year. In year one the gospels are made into a “harmony” to give the account of Jesus’ life and ministry as a continuous story, and the rest of the New Testament presents the beginning of the Christian church. The New Testament books for year two are arranged by author, and in year three they are arranged around the main seasons of the Christian year.
This is not a crash program; it is meant to bring about a long-term lifestyle that makes the Bible a part of our daily routine. It is meant to be an adventure of discovery, not a burden. If for any reason the reader falls behind in the schedule, I encourage people to do anything but give up. If it is possible to catch up, do so; if not, just start over at the date where you are and pick up the discipline again. If the schedule is too burdensome, put the Old Testament sections on the shelf for a while. All of it does not have to be accomplished the first year.
Many people from the churches of my earlier ministry tell me they continue to be faithful to this Bible reading schedule. I believe it is a life-changer. It is also a church-changer.
Watch for the conclusion to this series “A Light Unto My Path: Changing Churches” next month.