Every good story has a good beginning. A story begins by introducing the most important characters, the purpose, tone, conflict, setting, and universe. It sets the stage and draws the reader and listener deeper into the world. A scary story might begin with something like “It was a dark and scary night”; a fairy tale might begin with “Once upon a time”; but the greatest story of all says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”.
In Sunday school we hear stories about the different characters and heroes through picture books, songs, skits, and flannelgraphs (if you were lucky enough). Some of the best known and repeated stories come from the beginning of the Bible, like Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark, Joseph and his coat, and Moses and the plagues. These stories stick in our minds and are remembered well into adulthood – even when other parts of the Bible become foggier. While some parts of the Bible are easier to understand then others, it is all telling the story of God and his love for humanity; God has been, and is at work, creating a holy people for Himself.
As a Covenant church, we place a heavy emphasis on the authority and centrality of scripture. It is the only perfect rule in matters of faith, doctrine, and conduct – being our primary compass in navigating the challenges and questions of life. When we need guidance or have conflict over what is true, we agree that the Bible needs to be at the forefront. It is the first of the Covenant Affirmations and Healthy Missional Markers – the foundation on which all other affirmations and markers are built.
But the truth is that most people have a hard time reading the Bible broadly. We might get small snippets in a devotional or sermon on Sunday, but the larger story is oftentimes missed. Only about one in ten Christians have read the entire Bible – a difficult feat but shockingly low for something that people profess to be so important. One of the most common ways people attempt to read the Bible is opening to the beginning and reading straight through – alone and without any interaction. Unsurprisingly, people oftentimes only get a few books in before quitting.
There is a better way. A few years ago, our church participated in “Community Bible Experience”, an eight-week intensive where we read the entire New Testament together. We read using special Bibles that didn’t include chapters and verses but read more naturally like other books. The response was highly positive, with many people reading the entire New Testament for the first time. We are going to be doing another round of communal Bible reading over an eight-week period this Fall. This time, though, we will be reading the first five books of the Bible using a specialized version of the New Living Translation called “Immerse”. We are going to read together through the beginning stories of the Bible, rediscovering the truths that are foundational to the rest of scripture. Please join us as we jump again into reading together in a Bible study like no other.