I’ve been meaning to write a post about Bible Reading Plans and the pro’s/con’s of the M’Cheyne plan I used last year. Then I saw this video from Southern Seminary, and Dr. Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines, hit most of the broader points about reading plans.
I appreciate that he points out that there is no requirement to read the Bible, either daily or in a year, or to even read the whole Bible. We don’t want to be Pharisees,heaping requirements of behavior on people, especially ones that are not in the Bible. That being said, I think it is a good practice for every Christian to do something daily. I’m a big fan of those quick Daily Devotionals, my favorite so far is Utmost for His Highest, that usually have a short verse or part of a verse and then a brief commentary or pastoral message. The problem with those, is that you will not get the whole scope of the Bible. It will be mostly Gospels and Letters, with some Genesis, maybe Samuel (for the story of David) or some Jonah, and the Psalms.
For that reason, I think it is a worthwhile goal for every Christian to read the entirety of scripture, at least once. You could just open the Bible and get moving, but, honestly, you probably will not. It is hard, especially once you leave Exodus. You just feel bogged down. There are so many dates, genealogies, and then there is the repetitiveness. If you set out 15-20 minutes a day, you’ll start to feel like, ‘what did I just read?’ or ‘didn’t I read that a week ago?’. This is especially true in Kings, where the writer actually finishes a chapter or section with, ‘aren’t all these things written in Chronicles?’. You are sitting there thinking, ‘yeah man, I feel the same way.’
Thus the value in reading plans. As Dr. Whitney points out, there are multiple plans to follow, a lot of pre-made Bibles that are broken into that plan, and ones that have you reading different things. I know there is an ESV One Year Bible plan that starts in Genesis and Matthew. Another point about reading straight through, the OT books are long. Really long. You see the extent of this when you have the mixed up plans. You’ll read two Gospels and a couple of letters before you finish First and Second Samuel.
He also points out that you should look for a plan that has some ‘flex’, I’d slightly disagree and say, look for a plan that has days of the year in it. As in, a February 5th reading, a March 1st, etc. That was something I liked about the M’Cheyne plan. Also, the plan is a few hundred years old, so to know you are reading the same thing other Christians are today is pretty cool, but also the same thing someone in England read on February 5th, 1818, really connects you to the history and continuity of the church. I guess you’d have to endeavor to try to read the Bible a few times, to make up for the days you did miss. I suppose this is my plan. I’ve tried for two years so far, am not trying this year, might try next year, but certainly will try again two or three years in the future.
The biggest downside to the M’Cheyne plan, it is long. It isn’t just the whole Bible. It is the whole Old Testament, but it is the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs, twice. That sounds cool at first, but it gets long. I am a fairly quick reader, but it would take me 15 minutes easy, or longer, to do the daily reading. If you are a slow reader, this is not the plan for you. Unless you are just looking for a challenge, and can devote substantial time to it. I’d recommend the ESV One Year, or the Two year reading plan over the M’Cheyne. Especially the two year if you are a little slower at reading, or if the thought is too intimidating. Alternatively, the Book of Common Prayer has a daily reading plan, and it is actually spread out over three years. So, you are looking at something more like five minutes a day. You can find this plan online, in emails, on apps, pretty much everywhere except a pre-made Bible laid out in that order. Which is a downside to me.
Finally, though I enjoyed reading all parts of the Bible, because the reading was so long and so heavy, I felt it diminished my desire to read and study deeper certain parts of the Bible. I typically go deeper and look into commentaries and try to write some thoughts on scripture, but to add that to the M’Cheyne plan and to a Daily Devotional, just did not work for me. I was worn out, basically on Bible reading overload.
So that’s it, hopefully some helpful tips. I’d highly recommend every Christian try getting through the whole Bible at least once; but you have to have a plan of attack. Likewise, you need to be realistic about how, and how much you will read.