Every chapter of the Bible in 140 characters or less.
I summarised the Bible on Twitter between Aug 2010 and Nov 2013 - one tweet per chapter, one chapter per day.
Now available in Paperback and on Kindle
Last Saturday marked one year since I completed the Bible Summary project. To be honest, I'm amazed that it's only a year. So much has happened since then!
Here are a few notes and reflections:
I continue to be amazed and humbled by the number of people visiting the website and getting in touch about the project. I thought the website traffic would drop off after I finished, but more people visited the website in the past year than did over the whole three-and-a-half years of the project. Students visit for help with their assignments, pastors visit for help with sermon prep, Bible study leaders visit to give context to their classes, people from all over the world visit to help them understand what they're reading in the Bible. I pray that these summaries help people to connect with Scripture itself, and through Scripture to God himself.
I can't believe how many opportunities have come up on the back of the project! My book '@BibleIntro' will be out on Authentic Media in March 2015; I recently spoke about Scripture in the Digital Age at the Christian New Media Conference in London; I've been working with various partners on offshoot projects; people regularly get in touch about licensing the summaries for other projects; and I've got a few more interesting possibilities waiting in the wings. It's an absolute joy and privilege to work with so many great people towards encouraging engagement with the Bible!
Regarding my own Bible engagement, I feel slightly embarrassed to admit that I haven't been very organised in the year since I finished. I still read the Bible almost every day, but there hasn't been a lot of structure to it. I've mostly been focussing on specific sections for a few days (recently, Psalm 88) rather than systematic reading. It's been a joy to have the liberty to do that after so many months of strict structure, but I'm beginning to feel that it would be helpful to have a more deliberate plan.
I have lots of other plans for the year to come! The biggest of those is that I'm going to relaunch the Twitter account early in 2015. Following your feedback, I will be posting the full set of summaries again, and I think I'll use the account to interact and get into conversation about the Bible. So stay tuned!
I can hardly believe there's still so much life in Bible Summary. I think the reason must be that I've rooted the project very deeply in Scripture, and there's always life in Scripture.
Thanks for reading, everyone!
It's four years to the day since I posted my summary of Genesis 1!
That tweet kicked off a huge chain of opportunities which has ended up - among other things - with me writing a Bible Handbook for a major Christian publishing house. I can still hardly believe it!
Now that I've finished the intense work of writing my @BibleIntro book, I'm thinking a lot more about what to do with Bible Summary itself. I talked about some of my ideas here last month.
One thing that I didn't say was that I'm wondering about posting from the @BibleSummary Twitter account again. I'm interested in your thoughts about that.
In the first instance I would be re-posting the whole Bible Summary project from the beginning (which is actually already underway via @BibleGateway), but I'm also wondering about commenting on the project there as well.
When I was planning Bible Summary the first time I definitely didn't want to use the Twitter account for replies and comments. I wanted to keep the focus squarely on engaging with Scripture, I wanted to avoid the temptation of self-promotion, and I liked the idea of finishing with an account with exactly 1,189 tweets (the same number as chapters in the Bible). So that's what I did!
But I quickly realised that I had cut myself off from the social aspect of the medium that I was using. And when the medium is social media, that a pretty fundamental loss!
I've also come to realise that, although there's a pleasing purity in having this account with exactly 1,189 tweets, there's a risk that I'm communicating that I think I've written the definitive set of notes on each chapter of Scripture. And that's certainly not what I think at all!
I'm very conscious of the weaknesses and limitations of some of the summaries. One of the attractions of re-posting the project is that it would give me an opportunity to work through the summaries and revise and tweak them. I wouldn't be under pressure to write a new summary each day (and only one per day) so I could pay much more attention to ensuring consistency of flow and style.
I'm actually quite excited about the prospect of a revision. But I'm cautious because I don't want to undermine the distinctive vision of the project by reactivating the account.
I would very much appreciate any wisdom or opinions you might have. Should I start again? Or would that take away from what I've already done?
Please share your thoughts either by commenting on this post, or by commenting over on Facebook.
It's almost three months since I finished Bible Summary. That's hard to believe!
Life with a young family and work opportunities have quickly swallowed up the morning slot that I used to spend reading and summarising. I can't think how I ever managed to fit it in now!
I still connect with Scripture most days (especially as my son always asks for some pages from the Jesus Storybook Bible before bed at the moment) but I do need to find a more regular pattern for my personal reading. It feels very strange to say that.
The project itself is still surprisingly full of life. There aren't many days that go by without someone getting in touch with comments, questions or ideas. The website gets ever more visitors. And the finished Twitter account still gets new followers and retweets every day.
My partnership with Bible Gateway is going well. They're up to Genesis 36 at @biblegateway. I enjoy seeing the updates every day, and it was great to contribute a first guest post to their blog a couple of weeks ago.
There's a good amount of interest in the Kindle version of Bible Summary. So much so that I'm looking into the possibility of releasing it through other channels, potentially even as an actual paper-and-ink book. (Do let me know if you'd be keen on a print version - the more people ask for it, the more I'm likely to make it happen.)
Beyond that, I've been doing some writing for RBC Ministries about my experiences with the project, which I'll say more about in due course.
And I've also begun work on a new Bible Summary-related project for Authentic Media. Again, I'll say more later, but I'm excited to be coming back to the question of how to encourage engagement with Scripture.
More than ever I am incredibly grateful for all your interest in the project.
The project is over. The media attention has pretty much faded. So how has life changed now that I don't summarise the Bible every day?
For the first few mornings I felt a nagging sense that there was something I ought to be doing that I'd forgotten. It was both disorientating and a huge relief when I realised each day that it was Bible Summary and that it was finished.
Then I began to notice having energy to spare as I started my work. I realise again how much the effect of summarising every day has added up, and I'm thankful again for the support of my family.
Right now I'm mainly feeling surprised at how easily I've adjusted. Ten days after the end and I'm fairly unmindful of the absence of the deepest of habits.
I've been shocked to rediscover how difficult it can be to know what to read in the Bible. I decided to read Romans, which I'm obviously benefiting from. But it's hard to feel the same urgency as when I knew I needed to summarise my reading for tens of thousands of Twitter followers.
I actually went a whole day without reading Scripture a couple of days ago. Lots of things were going on in life, and without the obligation of the project I simply didn't prioritise it. It's strange to think how many consecutive days of reading that brought to an end.
Of course, it's possible to end up going through the motions with any habit. Summarising chapters has greatly helped my focus and understanding, but it has also became a technique that I can perform without my whole heart being in it. It's healthy to ask again why I'm reading the Bible at all. There are profound answers to that question.
Bringing my private reading into the public sphere has been an interesting and helpful experiment. But there's risk in it. Having finished the project I wonder how much it has in common with the Pharisees praying on street corners in Matthew 6. In the end I don't think that's a valid criticism, but it does make me think.
Summarising the Bible on Twitter was exactly the right thing to do when I started. And now it would be exactly the wrong thing to continue. It's time for me to reconnect with devotional reading as a private habit.
I've finished! How absolutely surreal!
And just to bring things full circle, I'm in the news all over the place again. Here are some stories, starting once again with the Northern Echo...
BBC Look North were almost here this afternoon, and I've done interviews for the Newcastle Chronicle and the Press Association. So watch this space!
I'll keep updating this post with additional stories. Do let me know if you see Bible Summary featured somewhere that I haven't listed.
I'm just two days away from finishing the project now.
The book of Revelation has been a challenge, but not nearly as hard as I feared. Interest in the project has picked up and I've been wryly conscious of the apocalyptic proclamations that greet visitors on this home stretch.
For many months now I've only really read the chapter for the day each day, not looking ahead much. But conscious of wanting to finish well I decided to look over Revelation 21 and 22 this afternoon. I'm amazed again at the breath-taking beauty of the final vision.
It's a big deal for me personally to reach the end of the project, but Scripture doesn't leave much room for introspection. It's a truly transcendent finale. I'm so glad to finish the @biblesummary account with these two chapters to come...
It's a book a day for the next three days - just one chapter apiece for 2 John, 3 John and Jude. Then on to the intimidating finale.
Famously difficult to interpret, the book of Revelation has loomed large from the very beginning of the project. One of the (thankfully few) negative responses to the project has been people questioning whether I'm flouting the warning at the end of Revelation not to 'add or take anything away' from the word of God.
I'm very confident that the warning doesn't apply to a devotional endeavour like Bible Summary. (What I'm doing is not really that different from simply taking notes on my Bible reading.) But I'm conscious every day of how much I have to leave out of my summaries, and the incomplete picture they therefore give. That effect will only be exacerbated with a book as complex and layered as Revelation.
That said, I always get the most out of summarising the more challenging sections of Scripture. And the days are counting down so quickly now. I'm actually quite glad to have a steep climb up to the summit.
Time, times and almost half a time. Just 25 days to go...
I'm about to start the book of James.
I first came up with the idea for Bible Summary in July 2010. At the time I was near the end of reading through the New Testament, just about to start the book of James.
I decided to use James as a five day test run for the project (although not publishing to Twitter). Could I really imagine myself summarising a chapter every day?
As it turned out, I was amazed by how much I got out of the process, and by how much I looked forward to the task each morning. Summarising James made me all the more eager to summarise the whole Bible.
So James is kind of where the project began. It feels significant to reach the book for real. My style has developed quite significantly in the many months of summarising, so it will be interesting to see whether anything from the test run survives.
I'll post the original summaries below so you can check with me over the next few days...
James - 2010 test version
Jas1: Let trials produce perseverance in you. Riches won't last. God will give you everything you need. Don't just hear God's word, do it!
Jas2: Don't show favouritism to the rich; if you break one law you've broken it all. Faith that isn't shown in the way you live is useless.
Jas3: Be careful how you speak; the tongue is like a small fire that sets a forest ablaze. Godly wisdom is shown in a life of peace.
Jas4: Worldly desires cause conflict. Resist the devil; draw near to God. Don't judge one another. Don't be proud.
Jas5: To the rich: you're storing up judgement! Beloved: wait patiently for the Lord. Pray for one another for healing and forgiveness.
I've completed 1089 of the 1189 chapters!
I'm enjoying summarising Paul's letters a great deal. My excitement as I started Romans a few weeks ago probably reveals how much I'm an Evangelical at heart.
I think I've benefitted most from the project when I've been wrestling with less familiar sections, but these chapters of Paul effortlessly fill my mind with interesting and edifying ideas for the whole day. Which possibly just means I need to read the other sections more attentively.
People keep asking me about the end of the project now, and I'm thinking about it more and more. Here are answers to a few common questions...
How do I feel now I'm nearing the end? So excited at the prospect of finishing what I set out to do almost three years ago now. It's surreal to be getting to this point.
Am I looking forward to summarising Revelation? It's an intimidating end, no mistake, but that's been true about several sections and they've all been alright.
Am I going to publish the whole thing as a book? Yes, hopefully. I'm exploring my options.
What am I going to do afterwards? Start again at the beginning..! Seriously though, I do have a couple of ideas for other projects. But perhaps I should take my Bible reading out of the public domain for a time.