Daily Bible Reading Plans

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.

Bible Reading Plans

A while ago I wrote about the need for a Study Bible. Now, I want to point out briefly the value in a reading plan for your Bible study. Have you ever tried to read the Bible? As in, all of it. Goodness it is long. Most people crack open Genesis and probably quit before you even get to Abraham. My parents’ church is encouraging them to read the whole Bible this year. It is a good goal, but it is pursued wrongly.

My dad was telling me about trying to power through. When we were at the beach in August, he was even trying to ‘get ahead’. Couple things about that – first and foremost, that is not meditation on the scripture. Second, it becomes rote and pointless. Especially if you do not enjoy it. He would say things like, it’s just so hard to get through all the genealogies, and measure, and rules; no one is going to remember, and they don’t matter anyway.

So, I would never recommend someone read it through from beginning to end; you really do get bogged down. The furthest I ever completed was using the Chronological Bible. It tries to mix things up when stories overlap (like the Gospels) and just seemed like a neat idea, and something a little different. It starts off with Job (the idea being that it was probably written before Genesis was written), then goes into the Pentateuch. I believe I made it a few chapters into Exodus.

You have to be honest with yourself about the difficulty of reading some of the OT books. Three to five chapters(20-30 minutes) a day for almost two weeks in Leviticus is tough. The solution is to use a plan that takes chapters from different parts of Scripture. There are a few ways to do this:

ESV Daily Reading Bible: Through the Bible in 365 Days, based on the popular M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan  – This is the plan I have been using for about two months. I have this Bible, because I don’t like looking up the different verses, because I’m lazy. I want to be able to open it to the day and just read. Also, I was able to get it in patent leather, that nice smooth Bible you see that is usually cheap (mine was $12). I’m a sucker for it, I’ll by any book if I can get it in patent leather.

Anyway, this plan gives you chapters (usually one a day, but can be two-three, if they are short enough) from two books of the OT, one from the NT and one from Psalms. Following this plan, you’ll read the OT once a year, and the NT & Psalms twice a year. I really, really like this plan, I like reading from four difference sections; it really helps to keep it interesting and not feeling like you are bogged down. For those whom don’t want to by it, you can find it pretty much anywhere online, such as here.

Related to M’Cheyne plan is this – The One Year Bible: The entire English Standard Version arranged in 365 daily readings. It gives you one OT, NT, Proverbs, and Psalms everyday. It is a bit shorter, as you will not read the NT twice in a year. This is a good alternative, and I might have bought it, but when I originally looked, I think I missed that you get a verse from Proverbs and Psalms everyday and instead thought you just went through two parallel sections, OT and NT. Also, it only comes in paper or hardcover, not patent leather.

Another great option that mixes things up, but is a little slower (whole Bible in two years) is the The Book of Common Prayer (if you want this cool hipster version) daily office (readings). Now, with these you have the plans listed and then you have to search through and find the verses. I haven’t found any Bible options that are set up like this to be a daily read based on the calendar. It can also be found online.

It’s kind of cool that the BCP and the M’Cheyne have been used for hundreds of years. Not sure how popular the latter is, but the former is used by Anglicans all around the world. So, you will be reading the same verses ever days as thousands of others.

There are many other plans out there, but I think ones that hit multiple selections will make it much more likely you will follow-through. I suppose I will let you know ad the end of 2017. I personally like the Bible plans, like the One Year Bible, that break the Bibles into days, with the verses for that day. Maybe you are thriftyer and can just order a card, or book-mark, or pamphlet, or maybe a little too thrifty and print one out a work. Alternatively, if you bought a good Study Bible like I told you to, there will be reading plans in the back. Finally, for you tech savvy kids out there, it’s all online. You can follow the links above, and you’ll get the verses of the day right there.

Good luck if you try it. It really is important to try to read as much as possible in the Word and I think these plans are the best way to do it. Americans are illiterate when it comes to the Bible, though we supposedly hold it in high regard, calling it the inspired word of God (about 60% according to the most recent Pew poll). I’m part of the problem. Here I am, a Pretend Theologian and I haven’t read the whole Bible. There are probably books of the Bible from which haven’t even read a verse. Start looking around now, find a plan you like and in 2017, read the whole Bible.