One of the questions I get every year around this time is about Bible reading plans for the new year. I want to offer a few thoughts on reading plans, and then provide a list of different plans that might be of use to you and your family.
Bible reading plans are great – I highly recommend them, especially for Christians who struggle with organization and/or memory. A reading plan is a wonderful way to maintain structure throughout the year as you seek to meet your Bible reading goals, whatever they may be. I would recommend reading a 1984 article by John Piper about the importance of a Bible reading plan. But, there are a few things to keep in mind when using a structured reading plan:
1. More important than successfully completing your plan is actually reading the Bible. If you find that the plan you’ve picked is too ambitious, try another one, or ditch it all together. While I think it’s important to systematically work through books of the Bible and to work through different sections of the Bible throughout the year as to get a full picture of the Bible’s story line, this can be accomplished without a structured plan. The goal is to be changed by Scripture, not simply to finish working through a reading plan.
2. I recommend changing your reading goals each year. One year, plan on reading through the Bible from cover to cover. The next year, plan on reading through the New Testament 6 times. After that, perhaps through the Old Testament twice. There are countless ways in which to read the Bible – mix it up, it will make you more well rounded in your biblical understanding and will help you remember the text. This is, in my experience, one of the cures to “I know it’s in the Bible somewhere…” To know the Bible you must read the Bible widely.
3. You are justified by grace, through faith, apart from works of the Law. Jesus doesn’t love you more if you read the entire Bible 5 times in 2012, nor does He love you less if you miss a day or two and fall short of your goal at the end of the year. Your standing before God is based upon the righteousness imputed to you through Christ, not upon your ability to maintain a strict schedule of spiritual disciplines. Of course, these things are important and necessary for our spiritual growth (sanctification), but they are not the means of our salvation. Let us not confuse justification and sanctification.
- Stephen Witmer’s two-year plan to get through the entire Bible.
- The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. In one year, you will read through the New Testament twice, the Psalms twice and the rest of the Old Testament once.
- George Guthrie’s Chronological Bible Reading Plan. Guthrie has also made a a booklet version of the Read the Bible for Life 4+1 Reading Plan. In this plan, you read four different places in the Scriptures and a psalm a day, thus cycling through the psalms twice in the year. This plan is semi-chronological, placing the prophets and the NT letters in rough chronological order.
- The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers (Pastor Andy Perry explains the plan and why he recommends it)
- Don Whitney has a simple but surprisingly effective tool: A Bible Reading Record. It’s a list of every chapter in the Bible, and you can check them off as you read them at whatever pace you want.
- For the highly motivated and disciplined, Grant Horner’s plan has you reading each day a chapter from ten different places in the Bible.
- There are 10 Reading Plans for ESV Editions, and the nice things is the way in which Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats (web, RSS, Podcast, iCal, Mobile, pdf).
- The ESV study Bible has a reading plan in the back – you can also find it here.
- The discipleship journal reading plan will get you through the entire Bible in a year, and allows 5 days each month to “catch up” if you’ve gotten behind. We have used this to read through the Bible as a church together in the past. You can also print bookmarks with the reading plan on them: 1st half of the year, 2nd half of the year.
Is that enough to get you going? If you have another idea in mind of how you’d like to read the Bible this year, let me know and I will help you develop a reading plan.
Leave a comment below and let us know how you’re going to read your Bible this year! I am going to work through the Mastering the English Bible ideas of James Gray.