The #1 Bible-Reading Mistake You're Probably Making without Realizing It


Do you ever skim or skip over passages you're familiar with? Keith Ferrin explains the benefits of fixing this common mistake.

You and I both know the Bible is different from other books. It’s unique. Special. Many of us also read lots of other books. (BTW – That’s not the mistake I’m referring to in the title.) The mistake is actually made while we are reading other books.

It’s a simple mistake. Most of us make it – not even realizing it’s a mistake. Up until about six months ago, I was doing it all the time. Let’s take a look at the Situation, the Mistake, the Reason, the Solution (simpler than you imagine), and the Benefits of correcting it.

Here we go…

The Situation

The situation can best be understood by answering a simple question: “When you are reading a book and a Bible passage is quoted, what do you do?”

You know what I’m talking about. You’re reading along, inspired, challenged, or simply enjoying the author’s wordsmithing ability. She references a verse – or 20 – from the Bible. The verses are printed right there on the page.

What do you do?

That’s the situation. And that’s when I typically make the mistake…

The Mistake

When I find myself in this situation, my natural tendency in this situation is – at best – to skim it, and – at worst – to skip it!

Many of the Bible passages referenced are common passages. We have read them many times. We might have even internalized them. And so we skim – or skip – them.

This is a mistake.

It’s a mistake I admit is very tempting. It is also one that – while I am absolutely convinced it’s a mistake – I am still tempted to do it.

That said…I think I’ve discovered the reason we make it…

Are you making this common mistake when it comes to reading the Bible?

The Reason

I have come to believe we make the mistake because of the mindset we have when reading non-fiction. (Most “scripture references” appear in non-fiction, so that is what I am focusing on here.)

Our mindset when reading non-fiction is typically utilitarian. We’re there to learn something. To gain a new perspective or insight. To get something practical.

Reading something we’re already familiar with doesn’t seem to serve that purpose. Why waste the time when we already know it? And so we skim or skip.

The Solution

The solution is actually incredibly simple. And yet, as you’ll see a couple inches down your screen, the benefits of this simple solution are many.

The solution? Commit to reading those passages – out loud!

If you have been around here very long, you know I highly encourage reading the Bible out loud.

I’m talking about reading short Bible passages in the context of other reading. As I have started to read the Bible out loud in these situations, I have realized more benefits than I ever imagined.

The Benefits of Fixing It

It reinforces the “specialness” of the Bible. When we read only some parts out loud, those parts stand out in our minds. Without taking much more time, we are saying “Hey brain…pay attention. Something special is happening. This is unique.”

It helps our retention of God’s Word. These passages might be familiar. After all, if I come across a passage I’m not very familiar with I typical don’t skim or skip. However, even with these familiar passages, reading them again out loud re-solidifies the passage in our memory banks.

After all, whatever we repeat we remember. (Note: If you’re interested in the science of how learning occurs, one of my favorite books on the subject is called Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina. While there are 12 chapters, two of them are titled “Repeat to Remember” and “Remember to Repeat.” Yup.)

It gives more credence to the point the author is making. When we pause to focus on the Word, and then return to the author’s thoughts, we realize the foundation it’s built on is solid. It also shows us where we can go to read it again and have our own conversations with God about this particular topic.

It gives us mini “God-moments” in the midst of our practical learning. We need extended time of sitting and hanging out being with God. We also need little reminders throughout our day. Think of these as the unexpected text from a friend or loved one, or the note in the lunchbox reminding your child you love her. It’s doesn’t replace extended, focused time. But it does add depth – and fun! – to the relationship.

Final thoughts…

I’d love to say this is something I’ve been doing for years and years. But truthfully, it’s a habit I’m still developing.

Sometimes I still catch myself skimming – or skipping. When I do, I go back and read the passage out loud. It might take a little extra time, but the benefits are well worth it. So much so, it is now a habit I am weaving into the way I always read non-fiction.

Question: “What do I do when my motivation wanes?”

This is a question that hits all of us at one time or another. My first thought on this is: Take some time to evaluate why your motivation might be waning. Have you drifted into an informational mindset instead of a relational one? Have you been doing the same thing – devotional, reading plan, etc. – for a long time? (I find this is very commonly the culprit.) Is there something you need to confess that is getting in the way of intimacy with your Father?

Sit still. Listen. Allow God to remind you of why you are there. (Note: I’ve mentioned this book before, but if the concept of being still is both appealing and seemingly impossible, you owe it to yourself to read Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence by Ruth Haley Barton.)

During these seasons, I would encourage you to do less “technical” study. If you’re doing a specific devotional or book study, take some time to simply read. Go to one of the Gospels and hang out with Jesus. Take some time to read through some Psalms – as poetry – not to “learn” something.

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