If you’re looking for a systematic plan to read the Bible in the new year, here are a few from which to choose. There’s a wide variety in these schedules: some take you through the whole Bible in a year, some are associated with devotional reading, and one follows the church liturgical calendar.
1. The 5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan. This comes from the Navigators who have developed a strategy for beginners, so to speak. The plan takes the reader through the entire New Testament in a year, and requires five minutes a day, five days per week. The third “five” refers to its “five ways to dig deeper”: underline key words, put the passage in your own words, ask and answer some questions, capture the big idea, and personalize the meaning.
If you are not regularly reading the Bible, this is a great plan to get you started. I also recommend it for parents to disciple their children in this discipline. (My former pastor, Dan Brooks, and his wife found it an effective strategy with their kids.) You can download the pdf here.
2. The Daily Office Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer has guided Christians in the systematic reading of the Bible for centuries. The Daily Office Lectionary offers select portions from all over the Scriptures, with special emphasis on the Psalms, Isaiah, and the New Testament. Crossway has made the Lectionary readings available each day on its website; you can also subscribe to its RSS feed or iCal format (plus Google Calendar, Outlook, etc.).
3. The Whole Bible, Four Pages at a Time. My high school Bible teacher, Russ Maurer, used to lay his Bible flat, hold up two leaves of Scripture, and say, “If you read this much every day, you’ll read the Bible in a year.” Do the math yourself! Divide the number of pages in your Bible by 365 and you’ll likely discover that simply reading four pages of text (the front and back of two leaves) will have you through the entire Bible in less than a year.
4. The Whole Bible, One Book at a Time. This plan from the Navigators takes you through the whole Bible in a year. Each day has two readings totaling three or four chapters each day. The first reading alternates between the testaments, while the second reading comes from the Psalms, wisdom literature, or Isaiah. Each month includes just twenty-five readings so you have time for additional meditation and/or to catch up. The plan is available here.
5. The Whole Bible, Four Different Sections. Another Navigators plan, this takes you through the entire Bible by reading four different sections of the Bible at once. One reading comes from the Gospels, one from the rest of the NT, one from the Psalms and wisdom literature, and one from OT history or prophecy. Like the previous strategy, you have twenty-five readings per month. You can easily make this a two-year Bible reading plan by following the first two columns one year and the other two columns the next year. You’ll find this plan here.
6. The M’Cheyne Plan. I mentioned Robert Murray M’Cheyne in an earlier post in this series. M’Cheyne, a nineteenth-century Scottish pastor, offered a plan that takes the reader through the Old Testament once a year and the New Testament and Psalms twice a year. Its format is similar to the last one: each day includes four readings from various portions of the Bible. M’Cheyne encourages following the first two columns as a family and the other two in private.
A number of resources have been developed to assist readers following the M’Cheyne plan. Crossway provides each day’s reading in the ESV (subscribe via RSS here). The last two years I have supplemented the M’Cheyne readings with Don Carson’s books, For the Love of God (volume 1 | volume 2). For each reading Carson provides a brief meditation on one of the readings. A friend of mine once remarked that he had used M’Cheyne’s readings with Carson’s books for six straight years because “nothing has helped me see the unified message of the Scripture more than this.” The Gospel Coalition generously offers each day’s devotional online.
7. The Whole Bible Chronologically. You can purchase a chronological Bible (KJV | NKJV | NIV) and follow the four-pages-per-day strategy above. You can also purchase chronological plans (e.g., Kohlenberger’s). Or you can follow along with Crossway’s daily posts on its Chronological Bible website (RSS). (See also the monthly listing at Back to the Bible.) This is the plan I hope to follow in 2011.