Sunny Side of The Stream: Former Mormon’s Memoir Inspires Bible-Reading Program

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on April 20, 2024

The memoir of a young Mormon missionary who came to true faith in Jesus after reading the New Testament a dozen times so deeply impressed Mike Crawford that he’s created a Bible study approach designed to help anyone read through the entire New Testament with relative speed and ease.

The idea struck Crawford, 83, after a conversation at a weekly men’s breakfast he attends in the Dayton-Cincinnati area of Ohio, where he lives. About 50 men from multiple churches — and even some who aren’t believers — turn up for what’s “probably the best breakfast in town” for an optional donation of $3. Sometimes there are speakers. Sometimes there is no agenda, and attendees are invited to share what they’ve been learning from God in the past week.

During the summer of 2022, Crawford shared what he had learned from Passport to Heaven: The True Story of a Zealous Mormon Missionary Who Discovers the Jesus He Never Knew by Micah Wilder (Harvest House Publishers, 2021). A YouTube video of Wilder’s testimony, filmed in 2013, has amassed 4.4 million views.

Wilder says his religious understanding as a Mormon required having to earn God’s approval. When he tried to convince a Baptist pastor to convert to Mormonism, the pastor shared the Gospel of Jesus with him — the first time Wilder had ever heard it. However, he didn’t accept it and grew frustrated. So the pastor challenged him to read the New Testament like “a child.”

Wilder took up the challenge and read the New Testament through 12 times as he continued his two-year Mormon mission. In doing so, he realized Mormonism — which had defined his life until that point — was false. He put his trust in Jesus after discovering the saving truth of Christianity and left Mormonism behind.

Recognizing a Need 

Crawford, impressed with Wilder’s testimony, shared it with the eight men at his table at the men’s breakfast. Several of them said they’d never read through the New Testament themselves: One said he has dyslexia. Another said he wasn’t a good reader. Both were active members of Crawford’s church.

“Here I have two neat Christian guys, but there’s something missing here,” Crawford recalls thinking. “They really aren’t actively involved with Scripture.”

Crawford thought of the Bible app he uses, YouVersion, which plays an audio recording. He then developed a New Testament reading program with the following components:

  • Listen through the New Testament at a comfortable reading pace that is fast enough to optimize engagement, such as 1.5x speed.
  • Read along in a physical Bible while the audio plays.
  • Physically engage by using a highlighter to mark key words and phrases. 
  • Focus on the message. Try not to allow distractions or mental wandering.

Crawford put together a reading plan in June 2022 that prioritizes getting through an entire book in one sitting whenever possible. He calculated that a person can get through the entire New Testament by spending an average of 50 minutes per day, or session, in about two weeks. (Crawford made his calculations using an ESV audio Bible that’s available for free on the YouVersion app.)

Courtesy of Mike Crawford. Click to view full size image.

Making an Impact

Crawford says one of the men at the breakfast who’d never read the New Testament has now gone through it twice in a year. The dyslexic man has now read through the entire Bible for the first time in his life.

Crawford says his own understanding of the Scriptures has improved by using the program. For example, in seeing what both the apostles Paul and John wrote about sin, a fuller picture emerges. Reading entire books of the Bible in context with others has given him a strong foundation both in what it says and what it means. He finds he can now more easily comprehend theological points others make or identify flaws in them. He finds that when reading so much Scripture, he can more easily make connections to other portions of Scripture he recently read.

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“This week I read through the entirety of Matthew on Tuesday,” Crawford says. “That shocks people. Nobody thinks of sitting down and reading it that way. … These are letters. If you, as a good friend of mine, send me a letter, I wouldn’t read the first paragraph, and then wait two weeks and read the next paragraph, and maybe sometime over the year, finish the entire 10 pages that you sent me.”

Crawford also made a spreadsheet showing the length of time it takes to listen through each book of the New Testament. While not everyone in his Saturday breakfast has necessarily tried his reading program, he believes the insights he’s shared have encouraged others to realize how quickly and easily a person could read through a smaller book of the Bible and the importance of understanding verses in context.

Courtesy of Mike Crawford. Click to view full size image.

Crawford says that as we immerse ourselves in Scripture, our minds become transformed to think more like God would have us to think — what the Apostle Paul describes as “renewing our minds” (Romans 12:2).

Crawford himself came to the Lord in 1964 while working for NASA as a young Air Force officer with the Ranger spacecraft, which took the first close-up picture of the moon. Christian colleagues befriended him and invited him to study the Bible with them. He became a believer and then began to attend the weekly fellowship of Christians at NASA, and was mentored in the Bible. Wilder’s testimony impressed him, he says, because he realized the truth of Christianity without mentors — he simply read Scripture.

The simple tools in Crawford’s plan — a Bible app with audio, a physical Bible (which could even be a small, inexpensive pocket New Testament), and a highlighter pen — can go a long way towards receiving the transformative power of God’s Word. Reading the New Testament convinced Micah Wilder to embrace the saving truth about Jesus and shed the false teachings of Mormonism. How powerfully might consuming as much Scripture as quickly as possible, in a manner that keeps us engaged and with emphasis on seeing the big picture, renew our minds?

This article has been updated. The YouTube video originally embedded was removed because the ministry that published it closed and shut down their account. The higher number of views now listed reflect a different account’s upload of the same video, which is now embedded.

 

Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer and proofreader for The Stream. You can follow Aliya on X @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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