Why Should I Do a Bible Reading Plan?
During our last Bible book overview podcast, we discussed the different Bible reading plans we’ve used, the ones we like, and ways to get the most out of reading the Bible daily.
My hope has always been that listening to the book overviews will inspire people to dive into specific books. Whether that’s sitting and reading Philippians straight through, developing a plan to study the history of 1 & 2 Kings, or hearing the message of Haggai as a message for the church today.
It has been encouraging to have so many of you reach out to ask about the different plans we’ve discussed. My hope here is to flesh out a bit of what we talked about in the podcast episode and provide some links to these Bible reading plans.
Bible Reading Plans
Let me say at the outset, I have not always been a fan of plans. It seemed very rote to me, i.e., not very spiritual. Why not just flip the Bible open each morning and let the Spirit guide you? More than that, isn’t a plan just another way to try to achieve something? To earn God’s approval for having a nice little quiet time?
Stepping back for an honest look, I realized that the choice was not between Spirit-inspired reading and a wooden Bible reading plan but between a plan or nothing at all. Now I choose the plan, and it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my walk with God.
Most Bible plans are not year-long Bible plans. If you get on the YouVersion Bible App, you’ll find thousands of awesome one-week, one-month, or any other length reading plans. They are organized around single books, chapters, topics, Bible studies, and devotionals. I’d encourage anybody looking to start from scratch to start with a couple of 1-2 week plans to build the habit.
The first time I read the Bible straight through was in college. I got a little ESV compact Bible and read as many chapters as I could each day, from Genesis to Revelation. Even now, I remember the feeling of making it through the first time. Getting to those last words felt like such an accomplishment — and one I wanted to repeat. The more you read, the more you want to read, so it was back to Genesis for another time through.
After doing this a few times, I wanted to change the plan. I wanted to continue reading through the whole Bible each year but also wanted to change the order and pace to see different things in the text.
Several popular plans out there mix OT, NT, Wisdom, and other sections together. One of my favorites is the Navigators Bible Reading Plan, similar to the McCheyne Reading Plan, which I first learned about through Desiring God. Both plans prescribe four readings each day mixed between the Old and New Testament. These plans are excellent for giving you various readings each day.
Having done the Navigator’s Plan for a year, I liked certain elements but wanted more consistency in the readings. Keeping the overarching scope in mind was hard with four short readings from across the Bible. After that, I tried a plan with only two readings but with longer passages — particularly in the OT.
As we discussed on the podcast, one of the things I wanted to change was the order. For example, I really enjoyed the way the chronological plans arranged the prophets interspersed with the books of history. You can do the same thing in the New Testament with Paul’s letters and Acts.
My interest was less in the chronology than the continuity of the authors, so I started to read Luke and Acts together as parts one and two and John and Revelation consecutively as well. Additionally, I found that moving through the gospels four in a row dulled my attention to the details because of the repetition, so I started alternating between the gospels and the epistles.
Of course, none of this is a must. There’s nothing about this method that is more spiritual, and I’m not claiming that this is the way the Bible really should be read. It’s worked to make me more attentive and responsive to my reading each day; it might do the same for you.
After doing this for a while and adding a Psalm or Proverb each day, I found my Goldilocks zone. Now, I read OT, Prophets, and NT every day, and Laura and I read two psalms out loud to each other afterward. I set it up to run for 260 sessions or every weekday. We get through the OT once, NT 1.5 times, and the Major Prophets twice.
Here’s a link to this plan - OT/Prophets/Wisdom. Select the “List” tab at the top to see the whole plan.
Making Your Own Plan
The goal, at the end of the day, is to immerse yourself in the Bible in a way that leads to daily encounters with the living God.
You can read a lot or a little, read for knowledge, application, or any other number of reasons and accomplish this goal. The point every day is to go before God, commune with him, store his word in your heart, find confidence and assurance, and ask God to be with you in every area of your day. Praying, worshipping, confessing, journaling, studying, memorizing, drawing, and anything else that adorns your time with God is worth doing.
The single biggest factor in your Bible reading time - outside of praying - is planning. Plan your time each day. Make time for it. Have a pre-defined purpose and schedule. Sometimes that means setting off for a year through the Bible. Other times it means spending a week in a psalm or a month in 1 John. Pray and ask God what he has for you, plan your time, then be faithful in it.
If you want to start customizing reading plans, it’s important to think through the number of chapters, and the number of days you’ll be reading. The OT has 929 chapters and the NT has 260. Psalms has 150, and Proverbs has 31.
I tend to do my reading plans with a few extra days built in; for example, plan on 260 days a year, which is the number of weekdays. If you miss a day or don’t read as often on the weekends, you’ll still be able to complete the plan in a year. Plus, that means you can get every chapter of the NT in if you read one every day.
Here are a few plan PDFs:
The One Year Bible Plan - four readings each day: OT, NT, Psalms, and Proverbs. 365 days.
The Bible Project 1-Year Reading Plan - one reading each day in rough chronological order, including links to overview videos. 358 days.
Blue Letter Bible Chronological Plan - one reading each day in rough chronological order. 365 days.
When you create a new Bible reading plan on Logos, once you select a Bible (the ESV for me), you can select the range. For the Bible, Logos allows you to create custom ranges based on books of the Bible. Set the reading plan by chapter and select however many sessions you want for the plan.
For my OT/NT/Wisdom plan, enter the following:
(Ge-Job; Ec-Mal | Mt-Mk; Rom-Phm; Lk; Ac; Heb-Jud; Jn; Re; Mt-Mk; Rom-Phm; Lk; Ac; Heb-Jud; Jn; Re | Ps-Pr; Ps-Pr)
This will give you three readings each day - 2-3 OT chapters, 1-2 chapters of NT, and 1 chapter of Psalms or Proverbs.
For one year, it works well to set the plan for 362 days because that will give you two trips through the Psalms and Proverbs, two times through the NT, and one through the OT.
Pro-tip - when you put this information in for the range, let the plan re-calculate between every two or three ranges so that it can keep up.
For my OT/Prophets/Wisdom, enter the following:
(Ge-Job; Ec-Mal | Is-Da; Ho-Mal; Is-Da | Mt-Mk; Rom-Phm; Lk; Ac; Heb-Jud; Jn; Re; Mt; Ro-Phm; Heb-Jud; Jn; Re)
For a shorter complete Bible plan, enter this:
(Ge-Job; Ec-Mal | Mt-Mk; Rom-Phm; Lk; Ac; Heb-Jud; Jn; Re | Ps-Pr)
This plan can be set for 181 days for once through the OT, NT, and Ps and Prov but it is quite a bit of reading each day.
For a slower pace through the whole Bible, add another round of Psalms and Proverbs, and set it to 362 days. There are only 260 chapters in the NT, so you will run out of NT readings ⅔ of the way through the plan. I’ve supplemented the plan with extra NT readings.
An extra trip through Psalms and Proverbs: (Ge-Job; Ec-Mal | Mt-Mk; Rom-Phm; Lk; Ac; Heb-Jud; Jn; Re | Ps-Pr; Ps-Pr)
Extra NT readings: (Ge-Job; Ec-Mal | Mt-Mk; Rom-Phm; Lk; Ac; Heb-Jud; Jn; Re; Rom-Phm, Jn; Re | Ps-Pr; Ps-Pr)
Dr. Cole Feix is the founder and president of So We Speak and the Senior Pastor of Carlton Landing Community Church in Oklahoma.