I am committing to read through the entire New Testament over the next four weeks. Will you join me?
Seedbed has published a reading plan I adapted to read through the entire New Testament over the season of Advent. You can find the full reading plan here.
If you look at the reading plan you’ll notice that to read the New Testament in four weeks means reading large chunks of scripture each day. The task might seem overwhelming. For some, this is quite a large commitment to make, and a lofty goal to set. But it’s one that I have found to be incredibly good for my soul. Allow me to offer a few reasons why:
1. It helps me to prepare
Advent is a season that focuses the Church on preparing for the coming of Christ. What better way to prepare for the coming of Christ than by reading His story? In a couple of weeks, a movie adaptation of The Hobbit will hit theaters in America. There’s already a lot of hype about the movie. In preparation, many fans are reading the original story written by J.R.R. Tolkien. In many ways, reading through the New Testament over Advent enters that same attitude—preparing for something we anticipate.
2. It helps me to simplify
Advent is also a season of simplicity, discipline, and examination. When I look at day one of this reading plan, it is easy for me to think, “When can I find time to read 12 chapters of Mathew?” If I were to honestly look at my day, the time is there—it is just a matter of what I give priority. For most people, each day’s amount of reading should not take more than 30 minutes. That’s half an hour—one episode of a sitcom or the time it takes for our morning facebook routine. What might I cut out of my life in order to give more time to reading God’s story over the next four weeks?
3. It helps me to not miss the forest for the trees
One pushback I have gotten from this type of reading plan is that it ceases to be less “devotional.” I’ve been told, “I just don’t get anything out of reading large chunks of scripture. I don’t feel like it speaks to me.” There is certainly something to be said for studying small portions of scripture as well as taking in the large. For me, Advent is a time when I stop trying to examine each tree and instead step back to marvel in the beauty of God’s forest. Reading larger sections of scripture has allowed me to see the overarching themes of the writers that I sometimes miss. The repetition of certain words and ideas jump out at me in stronger ways. I see the continuity of the story and understand the grand narrative better. It often takes a couple of days or more before our eyes and minds adjust to a new reading approach. Don’t let the difficultly of first few days be a discouragement!
John Wesley believed that Scripture reading was profitable not only for those who already enjoy personal relationship with God and want to know him better, but also for those who want to come to know him for the first time. In this Advent, perhaps you are one who wants to know God better. Perhaps you are one who really wants to meet God for the first time. Either way, I invite you to accept the Advent Reading Challenge with me. May it reveal to us wisdom and grace and show us the path to true salvation.
Jonathan Powers serves with his wife, Faith, as the director of student ministries for World Gospel Mission at Asbury University, where he is also an adjunct professor of Worship Arts. He is currently completing his doctoral thesis at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies in Orange Park, FL and serves as the worship pastor for the Offerings Community of First United Methodist Church in Lexington, KY. Jonathan is the co-author with Jason Jackson and Teddy Ray of Echo: A Catechism for Discipleship in the Ancient Tradition published by Seedbed.