Tyler from Louisville, Kentucky writes, “Where you would point a new believer to start reading in the Bible? I have heard it suggested that John’s Gospel is a good place to start.” What do you say, Pastor John?
Well, as I thought about this, it would be easy to pick out one or two places and say, “Start there.” But here is what I think needs to be emphasized: Let’s make sure that we say to the new believer, “You are launching on a lifetime of Bible reading.” Maybe you have been a Christian for ten years — for John Piper, it would be 63 years. And I read my Bible every day. You are launching out on a lifetime of engaging with God in the Bible.
So build into their mindset, “Wherever you start, you are going forever. You are going forever in the Bible. This is not about merely starting.” And you might point out to them, “You know, in my Bible there are X pages in the New Testament, and at three pages a day, you will read the New Testament in three months. You can approach it that way, and just make sure they get the mindset: I am moving through all of this book. I am not just taking a verse here and a verse there.
Journey Through the New Testament
Here is another thing I would do: If they are utterly unacquainted with the New Testament, I would take five minutes and sit down with them and show them how the New Testament is laid out. I would say,
Here are four books called the Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are the books about the historical foundations of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Second, here is the book of Acts. This is the story of how the early church got started and launched by the power of the Holy Spirit after Jesus went back to heaven, and how the church took root because of what Jesus had done. And then here is this group called Letters. These are the authoritative apostles — the spokesmen for the risen Christ — teaching the church how to live in the church and in society. And then here is this strange book at the end called Revelation which describes the victory of God at the end of the age.
“A new believer needs a church with solid preaching, vital corporate worship, and a small group of relationships where he can ask lots of questions.”
Now they have got the whole New Testament figured out, right? They have got four Gospels, Acts, the epistles, and Revelation. And tell them, “Now you can jump in anywhere. Know what you are jumping into.” And then you might say, “Since the Bible was put together under God’s guidance this way, you should probably read it this way. Let’s just go from beginning to end. Read the Gospels, read Acts, read Romans, and right on through the epistles.”
Here is one last suggestion. You might say, “If you would like to go on the fast track here and read one of these gospels, one of the epistles, and maybe get the church history down, let’s do it this way: Luke-Acts is one book.” Then show them that. Show them the first verses of Luke and the first verses of Acts and how it is one volume. And they might respond, “Oh, that is cool — one man writing a double volume about the foundations and then about the expansion of the church.” And then you reply, “And, by the way, he was a really good friend of a man named Paul, traveled with him for twenty years, and wrote his biggest book, Romans. So let’s stick that on and read Luke, Acts, and Romans.” And that might be a very concrete way to begin.
Reading in Community
Now, this might be a six-year-old you are talking to. It might be a blue-collar worker who finished eighth grade and dropped out of school because of dyslexia and can barely read. So, you can’t just make assumptions from what I have just said. What I just said may be naïve. But here is the big picture: A new believer needs a church with solid preaching, vital corporate worship, and a small group of relationships where he can ask lots of questions, and where, if he is not a reader, he can get all the help in the world to make his way through little by little. In other words, know the person you are talking to, and give them wise counsel based on what you know.