You don’t need a Bible-in-a-year plan, but you need a plan

oneyearYou’re setting some goals for 2014 right now, aren’t you? Maybe you’re too good for New Year’s resolutions. You laugh at the new people at the gym in January and wonder how many weeks they’ll make it. But still, you’ve probably given some thought to 2014, and you’re probably making some plans.

A lot of people start planning their Bible-in-a-year plan around now. This is the year that they’ll make it all the way through. Three or four chapters a day are all it takes.

Three points:

1 - If you’re planning to do this, I commend you. It’s a great goal. If you want to know about the God of Christianity, you must read (or hear) the Bible. There is no substitute.

2 — You should know that you’re headed for the same dangers as those new people at the gym. Unless you already do this regularly, you’re not likely to make it past February.

If you’re doing any of the most common plans, somewhere around the end of January, you’ll hit the end of Exodus and get thirteen chapters about tabernacle design, followed by a priests’ manual for animal sacrifices in the book of Leviticus. Don’t get me wrong––these are important passages. Leviticus is one of my favorite books of the Bible. But I know it’s also the book where a lot of Bible-in-a-year plans go to die.

3 — Reading the Bible this way isn’t necessarily the best, in my opinion. If you’re reading three or four chapters per day, you’re reading too much to devote a lot of attention to a small passage. You probably won’t stop and reflect on a particular phrase for ten minutes.

Similarly, you’re not reading enough at a time to really see the big picture. Several years ago, I began trying to read certain books of the Bible all the way through in one sitting. When I read Matthew or Leviticus in a single sitting (or even two or three, if necessary), I got a different picture of those books than when I broke them up in even chunks.

As you look toward 2014, you don’t need a Bible-in-a-year plan. It’s commendable if you believe you can truly do it, but it’s not your only option.

You do need a plan, though.

At least for me, the important things in life don’t all come automatically. When I don’t have a plan to exercise, I don’t exercise. When I don’t have a plan to eat healthy, I don’t eat healthy. When I don’t have a plan for reading the Bible, I read it haphazardly or not much at all.

Can I suggest you do three things for the coming year?

1 — Pick a plan. I just told you it doesn’t need to be a Bible-in-a-year plan. Here are some options:

  • First, you might consider choosing a plan to get you to Holy Week (beginning April 14). That’s not nearly as daunting as thinking about a plan for the rest of the year. If you do something daily, it’s just over 100 days.
  • Browse through the plans offered by YouVersion and choose one that suits you best. If you’re choosing to just plan for the first 100 days right now, you could consider The Essential 100, The Essential Jesus, or 100 Days of Discipline.
  • Practice Lectio Divina (click the link for an explanation). You could choose a book of the Bible to slowly work your way through, or you might use the passages from the Revised Common Lectionary for your readings each week.
  • Choose to go more intense. I have a few friends who have read through the whole Bible in 90 days several times now. They say that kind of immersion in Scripture and rapid reading has helped them see and understand the Bible differently. Do this, and you’ll have read the whole Bible before Holy Week. You could even take a day off each week. Here’s a link.
  • If reading Scripture is brand new to you and anything daily sounds too intense, think about naming something weekly. It would be better for you to choose something realistic and do it than to choose something too intense and quit.

2 — Pick a time and place. If you don’t name these, it’s probably not going to happen. Is there any time in your day that’s rarely interrupted? Or a place you can go to be left alone for 10–30 minutes?

3 — Get some accountability. That’s built-in on YouVersion. You can send updates to friends about your progress. Or you might find someone to follow the same plan as you and get together to discuss your reading each week. At the least, you could tell others what you’re doing. Just telling people makes you more likely to follow-through.

So here’s my plan. It’s actually a plan I’m continuing from the past few months. I’m reading 1–2 chapters of the New Testament and 1–2 chapters of the Old Testament each day, working my way all the way through. I’m reading slowly because I’m reading the New Testament in Spanish, which has helped me slow down and pay more attention to what’s happening.

I do my Bible reading (and a few other set things) from 3–4:30 pm. My three oldest kids are in school during that time while my youngest naps. This is also the typical siesta time in Spain, so I’m rarely interrupted.

Now it’s your turn. What are you going to do? If you want some extra accountability and also want to encourage some other friends to join you, share this article and tell them what you’re doing.

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9 thoughts on “You don’t need a Bible-in-a-year plan, but you need a plan

  1. I’ve used a One-Year Bible for the full year several times. They typically have an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, and a selection from Psalms and Proverbs. But you’re still reading pretty fast and miss a lot of the more detailed study you mention.

    • That’s great, Bill. I don’t meet a lot of people who have actually gone all the way through those one-year plans several times. Check out “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” on that new Kindle of yours for some ideas on the more detailed study.

  2. The reading plan with the Moravian Daily Texts goes through the Psalms annually, OT & NT in 2 years on a 6 day per week schedule. On Sundays it has the Lectionary readings. I’ll see if that works well. The Psalm & NT readings are short enough for meditation or simple inductive bible study.

    • Thanks for that, Jonathan. I confess I didn’t know Bible Gateway had reading plans. I use it daily, though, for my New Testament reading in Spanish. Great to be able to run parallel English and Spanish versions.

  3. I have used several different plans for my devotional. I have read through the Bible in a year several times. I also used “A Guide for Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants” by Ruben Job for several years. But I am really excited now by a plan that my bishop, Ken Carter, is proposing. He is going to read one chapter of Luke or Acts each week–in sequence. He plans to blog about his insights and he is inviting others to join him–starting next week. There will also be a “discussion” of the week’s text on Twitter using the hashtag #LukeActs2014. Here is his initial description of what we are planning to do.

    http://floridaconferenceconnection.info/blogs/detail/507

    I like the slow pace of this plan, and I like this choice of text for reflection; and as a Twitter-holic, I love the tweetchat aspect. I’m sure everyone is welcome to participate.

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