Yes, Christians should read their Bibles regularly. But regular Bible reading isn’t where good Bible study ends. It’s where good Bible study begins. In order to move from Bible reading to better Bible study, we first need to realize that there is a difference between reading and studying.
Reading is easy. It’s surface level. It’s often enjoyable (although let’s be honest, sometimes reading can be boring too, depending on what we’re reading). It doesn’t require much effort. By reading we are able to cover large amounts of text in a fairly short amount of time.
Bible study is different. It takes concentration. It takes effort. When we study the Bible, we’re asking questions, we’re considering different possible answers to those questions, we’re searching for information, we’re considering the strengths and weaknesses of various positions, we’re forming judgments, we’re drawing conclusions, and we’re seeking to apply those conclusions.
Imagine if you and a friend were aliens from a different planet, and Michael Jordan and the Tune Squad were to challenge you to a game of basketball. Since you are from a different planet, you don’t know anything about basketball. You decide to prepare for the game by looking up the word “Basketball” in a dictionary. “Basketball: A game played between two teams of five players in which goals are scored by throwing a ball through a netted hoop fixed above each end of the court.”
But your friend decides to take his research a step further. How is the game actually played? What are the rules? Are there different kinds of strategies? What kinds of skills are needed for the game of basketball? How can my team of monstars acquire those skills? How can we practice for the big game?
Whoa. That’s way over the top. But we know why. Our friend is interested in more than simply reading about basketball. Our friend has a purpose in mind. He wants to actually prepare to master the game. His aim is studying, not just reading.
There’s a big difference. Bible reading is good, but it’s not the same as Bible study. Both are needed if we’re going to be better Bible students.