In 1784, American founder and first Chief Justice John Jay penned an urgent appeal to his son:
“The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.”
Jay’s exhortation captures my heart for Christian leaders today.
The Bible is indeed the best of all books for leaders—which is no small claim. According to Forbes, nearly 11,000 new business books are published every year. Not to mention the thousands of Christian titles published on top of that. But if you are serious about thriving as a Christian leader, there is simply no substitute for spending quality time in God’s Word every day.
Here are three reasons why you should prioritize the Bible in your daily walk as a leader. If you heed Jay’s advice, God’s Word will strengthen your friendship with Jesus, fortify your decision-making, and transform the people you lead.
1. The Bible deepens your friendship with God.
If the topic of Bible reading makes you a bit squeamish, I don’t blame you.
Too often, Christians talk about Scripture engagement as if it’s all about us. Our religiosity. Our brilliance. Our perfect record. Check the box.
Jesus wants us to flip that way of thinking on its head. Reading Scripture is all about him! It’s about investing in a relationship with someone who loves us, and whom we love.
Can you hear his voice in the midst of all the emails, tweets, texts, conference calls and meetings?
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Rev. 3:20, NLT)
Think about your other relationships.
What would happen to my marriage if I didn’t spend time talking with and listening to my wife, Rita? What if we never laughed and cried and dreamed together? What if I told her, “I’m sorry, but I’m too busy at God’s work for you?”
Sadly, this is often how we treat God. The stresses and responsibilities of life distract us from “the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4). We can be too busy at his work to spend time with him.
Can you relate? All of us can.
But God has shown me time and time again that I can’t afford to neglect those precious moments in the Scriptures. Hearing God’s voice grounds me to face the daily stresses and decisions that inevitably arise.
Jesus modeled this dependence on God. He constantly retreated from people to spend quiet time with his Father (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12).
If Jesus needed this spiritual sustenance, how much more do we need to commune daily with the one who made us—hearing his Word and calling out to him in prayer!
Pastor John Piper sums it up nicely, “If you want to be a great leader of people, you have to get away from people to be with God.”
2. The Bible conforms your daily decisions to God’s will.
A recent study highlighted in the May-June 2017 edition of Harvard Business Review revealed that the number-one trait of successful CEOs is “deciding with speed and conviction.”
As Christian leaders, we need far more than speed and conviction in our decision making.
We need minds that have been renewed and transformed by God’s Word. We need wills that are constantly testing and approving God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2).
In short, we need to spend more time with Jesus, so we can lead like Jesus.
It sounds like a no-brainer—so why do we struggle to seek God’s will in the Scriptures as often as we should?
We need minds that have been renewed and transformed by God’s Word.
One temptation leaders face, especially those of us with many years of studying Scripture, is to view the Bible as a sort of spiritual vaccine. We can subtly believe that a past season of rich Scripture engagement will cover us for future spiritual battles.
However, God describes his Word as something we need to consume every day, like food (Deut. 8:3), and something that sustains us every night, like sleep (Psalm 1:2).
I’m reminded of a recent neuroscience article with this headline: “Sleep Deprivation Takes Toll on Decision Making.”
If sleep deprivation harms our decision making, the damage done by Bible deprivation is far worse!
In 1 Chron. 13:9-11, God strikes him down for touching the ark of the covenant as it tumbled off a teetering ox cart. Uzzah was a casualty of David’s leadership decision.
At first, David was furious that God would do such a thing. But later he realized that his own Scripture deprivation was to blame for Uzzah’s death:
“The first time we tried to bring the chest to Jerusalem, we didn't ask the Lord what he wanted us to do. He was angry with us, because you Levites weren't there to carry the chest.” (1 Chron. 15:13, CEV)
The stakes are just as high for us! Neglect of God’s Word puts others at risk—spiritually, emotionally, even physically. Just think of the people looking to you for hope in the midst of loss, struggles, depression or trauma. Which leads to my final point…
3. The Bible transforms the people you lead.
As a leader, God has entrusted you with the weighty responsibility of influence.
Many eyes are on you!
This is one of the reasons God will judge leaders more severely than others (James 3:1).
However, this great responsibility comes with an even greater opportunity. Your example can help others experience the sweet fellowship with Jesus described above.
Even your smallest efforts could change someone’s life.
Looking back on his childhood, my son Wes says that my personal Bible reading habits inspired him to take God’s Word seriously—a conviction that ultimately led him into full-time ministry.
When he told me this, I was stunned!
I regularly read my Bible long before Wes woke up in the morning. I certainly didn’t draw attention to the habit. How did he know I was doing it?
“Easy,” he told me. Every morning, my Bible had moved—from coffee table to shelf to side table. So had my bookmark—from Genesis to Psalms to Revelation.
I didn’t need a rigorous strategy to convince Wes of the Bible’s importance. He was watching! Regularly seeking God in those still, quiet hours was enough.
If leaders will take their profound influence in this area of Scripture engagement more seriously, I honestly believe we will see a spiritual revival in our organizations.
The latest research from Barna “State of the Bible 2018” paints a picture of this amazing potential. In the United States alone, there are tens of millions of people who have a friendly attitude toward the Bible—they just don’t read it regularly.
That’s a sleeping giant! How can we influence our organizations if we are not in the Word daily?
Imagine what our world would look like if those millions of people—the people in your church, office, and neighborhood—discovered a daily life-changing relationship with Jesus in the Scriptures. Imagine if they embodied God’s love and justice in their communities. What would our world look like then?
Friends, I believe this vision is possible—and it starts with you.
It starts with your resolve to follow Jesus every day. It starts with you surrendering every decision to his will. It starts with your daily dependence on the Bible—the very best of all books for leaders.
Roy Peterson is the president and CEO of American Bible Society, which has been helping people all over the world experience the life-changing message of God’s Word since 1816. He is also the author of Set Free (American Bible Society, 2017), which recounts his incredible journey from a Mexican prison to the frontlines of ministry.