Can you imagine being surrounded by the freshest produce, in the best kitchen with the best utensils, but not knowing how to prepare a meal? For many Christians, that’s exactly what reading the Bible feels like. Simply put, we just don’t know how to utilise it effectively.
Ben Windle says you can attend church for many years, listen to a lot of teaching and still not learn how to read the Bible for yourself. Yet there is no better way to fuel our growth than personally engaging with the Bible. But many of us still lack the practical tools to confidently read and study it.
Ben Windle specialises in pastoring to fellow pastors, millennials and Generation Z. His passion is moving the faith of believers to depth and action. Ben shared his tips on how we can all learn to read and study the Bible for ourselves.
Analogy of the Kitchen
Ben believes the analogy of the kitchen is something that captures a lot of people’s relationship with the Bible. You can be around the church and other Christian influences, and still not actually engage with scripture itself. It’s a double-sided coin because we have access to so much information and content.
‘I’m a content creator,’ says Ben. ‘I produce podcasts, radio, books, blogs, and social media content. The illustration is this, we are presented with finished meals. I’ve done this for many years as a pastor. People come to church to hear a message and I’m presenting them with the finished product.’
Ben feels we have a whole generation that are being served up finished meals, but don’t know how to cook for themselves. The idea of learning how to read the Bible is that we need to get back into the kitchen and learn how to cook and prepare a meal for ourselves.
‘You’re not always going to have a pastor on hand,’ says Ben, ‘or a book or a podcast to refer to. When you’re walking through a valley and you’re faced with a need or a crisis, you have to be able to directly engage Scripture for yourself.’
Using Technology Wisely
Technology can both helps and hurt us. We can access scripture readily on our phones, and many of our kids have never seen us pick up a Bible to read. Ben intentionally went back to using an old-school black leather-bound Bible in his home so that his kids could visually see it.
‘Electronic tools with Bible reading bring a lot of benefits,’ says Ben. ‘But if we’re not careful, we can lose context. We can go to church and just watch a screen. What I’m pressing in on is that lack of personal engagement with Scripture, the wrestling with it, the discovery of new verses and chapters that we’ve never read.’
All of this is what really supercharges our spiritual growth and formation. We need to go deeper. Our culture is largely superficial, and if we don’t push ourselves to go deeper in our own spiritual practices, nobody else will do it for us. We’ve got to put in the work ourselves.
‘That’s where the growth is,’ says Ben. ‘I want to introduce a whole generation to Bible study, knowing God can speak to us when we engage with Scripture. When you go back to the Reformation, the idea is that Scripture should be accessible to every person. Anybody who follows Jesus should have the tools and the confidence to read, study and interpret Scripture for themselves.’
Read Chapters not Verses
Jesus asked a lot more questions than He gave answers to. Younger people in particular, need to be encouraged that questions are healthy. Questions open up discovery. When you bring a question to the Scriptures, what does the Bible say about it?
‘The single most important key to reading and studying the Bible,’ says Ben, ‘is to read chapters, not verses. Why? The context can be completely different. We need to read the whole chapter to get the flow of what the author’s intent was in that moment and in that conversation.’
Ben has put scripture at the centre of his own family, and in a recent conversation with his son about the book of John was able to explain context. ‘John is writing differently from the other three gospel authors. He isn’t writing to a specific group of people, he’s writing to believers in all places. It’s the universal gospel.’
‘That gives me context to what that author is saying,’ says Ben. ‘Who’s the author? Who was it written to? What subjects is it addressing? Is it from the Old Testament or New Testament? That context also provides safety boundaries to misinterpreting Scripture, because we are looking at the chapter and genre of literature in which that book is written.’