Most people think about reading the Bible in a year, or in a lifetime. So where did 90 days come from? We interviewed Ted Cooper, the founder of the Bible in 90 Days program, to find out how he drew up three months as an appropriate time frame, and why this former skeptic even started to read the Bible. Find out and hear for yourself how God took ahold of Ted’s life through His word.
We all think about what we need to be doing and doing better in a brand-new year and that includes reading the Bible, doesn’t it?
For as many people who have now done this, there are still tens of millions, hundreds of millions, even billions of people who haven’t, so this is the crusade, this is the mission, to help all of God’s people read God’s word.
Tell us what was going on in your life when you even started to read the Bible.
This all started for me back in 1999. We were at a point where I was agnostic, my wife was agnostic, and we had three children at that point who were getting to the age where they were impressionable. And we decided that rather than have them grow up in a non-Christian household or in a household in which we were blatantly disavowing God and Jesus Christ, we thought, well gosh, you know, let’s let them go to church, be in Sunday School and make up their own minds. We had otherwise remained silent on the subject. So we decided to bundle them up, throw them in a car one Sunday, take them to a church that we knew had a great youth program, and that I had in fact attended as a child, and walked through the door with them. And as we joke now, that was our big mistake. Becky and I crossed the threshold ourselves.
You were Thomas. You were a doubter.
I had gone to church as a child, gone through in fact, even the confirmation process, but very much the kicking-and-screaming approach and did it more than anything else because it was going to make my parents happy. And I walked away from that. The bottom line was that we were agnostic, and I’ve always felt that the reason we were agnostic was we just weren’t brave enough to be atheists. We weren’t brave enough to say, “No, absolutely, there is no God.” But we just don’t think that there is one, and even if there is, why waste the time, frankly? Why waste our lives wondering about this thing that will never be proven, until in fact we die? That was very much my mindset. However, let’s don’t impose that thinking on our children. And if we were wrong, we didn’t want to impose that on them.
We joined a class called Discovery 101 that was led by a wonderful pastor by the name of Carl Hamilton, and a woman by the name of Susan Ray. They just did a wonderful job, for four weeks, of introducing what were prospective members of the church to the Christian faith, to the faith as practiced by that church. So we just went, and thought, “Well, we’ll see what they have to say.” And frankly, we would leave every week, kind of shaking our head, and going, boy, they’ve got this wrong. I remember vividly the opportunity to study the prodigal son. And Becky and I both left there thinking, “Wow, that’s just all about bad parenting.” But what did happen during this particular hour each week for four weeks, was that Carl Hamilton would ask a question, pose a question, that I just couldn’t answer, that my worldview couldn’t answer. And that would make me mad. And he suggested that the Christian worldview really did have the answer. This made me mad, it took me out of my comfort zone, and I wanted back in my comfort zone just as quickly as possible. The noodling that I did arrived at a point … and the plan was, I want to get back into my comfort zone, the way that I can do that is to actually read the book that’s supposed to tell me all about the Christian faith and I needed to do it and do it as quickly as possible so that I could go back to my disbelief and my own comfortable life.
Ted, how did you work this out? You’re a linear thinker, and you decided you wanted to check the book out to see if it was really true.
I’m a businessman and I was used to thinking in terms of projects and I was used to thinking through things, how I make sure this project was going to be successful. This particular project was to read all of God’s word. I knew and had met plenty of people who had started out to read the entire Bible and the vast majority had failed. So I thought through the process of what kind of resource do I need, and that would mean a particular Bible, what would be the timeframe that would be successful for me, and in my case, I thought, “I won’t stick with it over a year.” And so 90 days made a lot of sense for me. I thought, “I can do anything for three months.”
It’s amazing that you did this, and went to all this trouble, to not believe in something—that you didn’t expect to be having any impact in your future or in your kid’s lives, either. But you started the project, and you started reading the Bible through in 90 days. So I guess, as they say, the rest is history, but what happened?
The first half, I was reading along. I was trying to be very open-minded about it. I didn’t want to go in with a defeatist attitude. I didn’t expect to have my mind changed by it, but I didn’t want to read it in such a way that I would clearly not have my mind changed by it. So with a fairly open mind, I started reading it. I kept reading it. I read 12 pages a day. And darned if halfway through, I didn’t realize that I was actually believing what I reading.
For anyone who’s never read the Bible all the way through, you were still in the Old Testament, you hadn’t even gotten to the New Testament yet, had you?
I was still in the Old Testament, somewhere in Isaiah or Jeremiah. And you know, this was my first time through. I wasn’t keeping them straight, which one was which. But yes, in the Old Testament, and then back in the major prophets, which is not a particularly likely place to become a believer, but I did.
So you actually lost your agnosticism somewhere between Isaiah or Jeremiah. The spirit of the living God was actually speaking to you.
I believe so. I wouldn’t believe it before. But at this moment, this great revelation was, I believe this. It changed my life so dramatically and yet so subtly at the same time. When I woke up the next morning, I still had the same personality, I still had a lot of the same quirks and approaches to life and my compass had been changed. The big issue for me had been, I had always thought that I was in control. And once I accepted that there is a God, and that He sent his son to die for his sins, to be our savior, I had to accept that I wasn’t in charge but that he was in charge, is in charge. And if I’m going to have a life that has meaning, I better figure out what the creator’s plan for me is, and get with the picture.
I am so amazed. This is a risky thing. If you do not believe that Jesus Christ is your Savior, you know in your heart that you’re not a believer, we’re going to ask you to do this, but you better be careful for what you ask for.
I think that’s what people’s big fear is. And I do understand it, coming from one side to the other. The neat thing that I can guarantee is that if you take the leap, you will not regret it. If we accept the notion that God created us, that He created this incredible universe, with wonderful blessings, and also horrible tragedies, then what we want to do, I believe, is be on His team. And if we’re not, then what we have to understand is, that we’re in a battle against the creator. And that doesn’t make any sense. We’re not going to win that battle. So as much as we may fear change at any point in time, the great thing is, he has wonderful plans in store for us.
And I can tell you, 13 years ago, I would have been very, very cynical if I heard somebody telling me. What I would just ask people, invite people, very heartily to do, is to go find out for yourself. That is a big part of what we think the mission of this ministry is, to help people find out for themselves what this wonderful scripture says. God gave us this gift. And most of us including the vast majority of Christians, have never fully unwrapped it. Please do. When you do, you get to respond to it. You get to decide whether it makes you happy, it makes you mad, it makes you knowledgeable, it confuses you. You go through this process, and I think you’re going to come out on the other end going, “Gosh, I’m glad I did that.”
As the leader of the 80-year-old Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” Charles is a former secular journalist, working for United Press International, and a former press secretary for two U.S. senators. After seminary, he started working in the Christian world, coming to Haven as the fourth speaker in 2000. He and his wife Janet are looking forward to their soon-to-be-released book Missing Jesus: Find Your Life in His Great Story.