Bible Reading, Duty or Delight?

BibleAs a pastor, I desperately want the people in my church to read the Bible. Not just when they come to big church or Bible study, but during the week on their own. I want my people to read the Bible regularly and consistently. I want my people to study the Word, memorize the Word, and meditate on the Word. To that end, I have seen other pastors take two approaches to motivate people toward faithful Bible reading.

Approach one emphasizes duty. A pastor can stress one’s obligation to read the Bible, focusing on the fact that believers “ought-to” read the Bible. I certainly believe literate believers who have access to the Bible in their own language “ought-to” read the Bible. However, in my experience this approach often results in contrived guilt trips for not reading the Bible, legalism regarding the issue of Bible reading, and a general sense of burden in relation to Bible reading.

Approach two emphasizes delight. A pastor can stress one’s opportunity to read the Bible, focusing on the fact that believers “get-to” read the Bible. In my experience, this approach results in a healthier approach to the spiritual discipline of Bible reading, and a more joyful practice of reading the Word. Additionally, I think focusing on delight lines up more closely with the emphasis in Psalm 119. Repeatedly the psalmist describes his emotions about God’s Word using words like “joy” and “delight” (Psalm 119:161-163).

So, if you want to motivate people to read the Bible from a heart of joy and delight, how do you do it? Here are a few thoughts:

  • You must model delight for your people. Don’t expect your people to delight in God’s Word if they don’t see you delighting in God’s Word. Your preaching and teaching must be driven by joyous delight in the Word of God.
  • You must help people see the big picture. Often our people are frustrated by the Word because they don’t understand the big picture. They just don’t know the overarching story of the Bible. Help them see that big picture, then watch them delight in God’s Word as they place each little story into the larger story of God’s grace.
  • You must help people see Christ in the Bible.  When people think of the Bible as a collection of rules or an anthology of history, a spirit of duty will prevail. But when people see how all of the Bible points to Christ and what he has done for sinners, delight will follow.
  • You must be careful when suggesting “tools.” People often ask me to suggest a Bible reading plan. I do so gladly, but I also do so carefully. I never want to present a particular system of Bible study on someone as the only right way to read the Bible. You don’t ‘have-to’ read the entire Bible each year to be a faithful follower of Christ.
  • You must encourage delight without ignoring duty. The truth is this … There are times when people go through a “dark night of the soul,” and in these times God’s Word may not feel like a delight. In these moments, encourage people to listen to the Word out of duty, and as they listen, pray that God would change their heart.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about duty and delight. In your experience, what is the best way to motivate people to read God’s Word?

Originally published September 19, 2016 on