The new year has rolled around, which means resolutions to read the Bible are in full swing. Fantastic, right? Well, problem is, reading the Bible can feel quite daunting. We know that consuming God’s Word is good for us. We know it’s our spiritual food, sustaining and nourishing us in daily life—if we’d only come to the table. But we linger for a bit before we pull up the chair. We circle the table, eyeing the meal with suspicion or fear or apprehension. Why?
OUR BIBLE-READING FEARS
For starters, if we are reading the whole Bible in a year, it doesn’t take long to realize the Good Book is also a big one. It takes some serious courage and resolve to stare down the barrel of 1,000+ pages of ancient literature and not flinch. If the Word of God is a meal, we feel like we wandered off the street into a steakhouse that is hosting an eating competition and we’re somehow supposed to consume a whole cow with no training. It’s too much.
Or even if we are not reading the whole Bible in 2021 (perhaps the focus is on the Old Testament this year or maybe the letters of Paul in the New Testament, etc.), all those names and concepts and churchy words may feel a million miles away from our real life. At first sniff, we can tell the meal carries a hint of foreign infusion from some other place and time. It’s unfamiliar, and so we assume it’s not for us. It’s too different.
Or, for the skeptic coming to the Bible, the angst around the meal has nothing to do with volume or familiarity. Rather, the fear is around what the Bible does to people. We’ve seen people use the Good Book in bad ways, doing terrible things in its name. So the meal may as well be a pastry from Hansel and Gretel, or maybe even that notorious apple in Snow White. It looks pristine and delicious on the outside, but what lies on the inside poisons people’s minds and sets them up for a horrible fate. Sure, we’re interested in getting to know the Bible for ourselves, but we’re afraid that if we consume it, it will make us mean, narrow-minded, barbaric, oppressive, or just plain silly. It’s too brainwashy.
TIPS FOR YOUR BIBLE-READING PLAN
Whatever the reason for our fear in approaching God’s table, here’s the truth: it’s truly worth it to read the Bible. It’s not too big—you really can enjoy the whole thing. It’s not too different—it really does apply to your life. And it’s not too brainwashy—you’re really not going to become a monster if you give it a go. In fact, reading the Bible can actually lead to rooting out anything monstrous that’s already inside you if you use it the right way (and the monsters who purposefully use it the wrong way have a double portion of yikes coming their way, according to the Good Book itself!).
So, as you face your fear of Bible reading—whatever form that fear may take—and bravely dive into God’s Word this year, here are some tips to help along the way:
1. CARVE OUT TIME IN YOUR CALENDAR
Budget the time necessary to read. Don’t wait until you find a plan and then hope you’ll be able to squeeze in reading time here and there. Block out the time now and make it an appointment on your calendar so you’ll view it as a priority.
2. VIEW BIBLE READING AS GRACE, NOT LAW
For a lot of us, Bible-reading plans have a way of becoming a chore or a law instead of a great instrument of grace. Before you dive in each day, take a breath and remind yourself that time spent in the Bible is not about performance; it’s about two things.
One, intake. Your reading time may not feel revolutionary on certain days, and that’s fine. That’s not a loss. Why? Because whether it tastes like unseasoned broccoli or savory steak, Bible intake itself is a big win and is good for you! You can’t be changed internally by something you never ingest, so part of Bible reading is just plain intake.
And two, intimacy. Remember that the meal you are consuming is at God’s table. The goal is not just to intake the spiritual food set before you, but also to commune with the table-setter Himself. The Bible reveals who God is—enjoy the One it’s revealing to you!
3. READ ACCORDING TO GENRE
You wouldn’t read a personal letter the way you’d read a history textbook. Nor would you read poetry the same way you’d read a stack of books on case law. When it comes to the Bible, the same thing goes. Scripture tells one big story, yes, but it’s not actually one big book. It’s actually 66 books, written by various people at various times and in various settings and genres. When you hit a new book, make note of what genre it is; this will help you read it according to how it was meant to be read. The good news is that the Bible changes up its genre as you go, so you’ll get a nice smattering of literary experiences—narrative, history, prophecy, poetry, songs, law, letters, and so on. And if a quick overview of each book would help you before diving in, here are some wonderful introductory videos that offer a lay of the land, including a book’s genre, structure, author, and themes.
4. READ IN COMMUNITY
Whether it’s a commitment to working out, reading more in general, or eating better, we all tend to drop like flies when we go at things alone. Make a plan to read the Bible with your small group, your best friend, your roommate, your spouse, or your kids. Your chances of sticking through to the end will increase drastically if you read in community.
5. CHOOSE A PLAN
There are so many Bible-reading plans out there to choose from, but here are a few I can commend to you (and the group you are hopefully reading with!):
WHOLE BIBLE IN THREE MONTHS
The CSB’s 90-Day Bible Reading Plan – For our over-achievers out there, this will get you through the whole Bible in 88 days (there are two grace days built in), and it only takes 30 minutes a day!
WHOLE BIBLE IN ONE YEAR
The CSB Day-By-Day Chronological Bible—I personally love this Bible because (1) it goes through the Bible books chronologically, (2) it lays out each day’s reading right there on the Bible page (no more flipping around), and (3) each day is only a couple pages of reading. Very doable and no extra loose-leaf papers to keep track of in your bag. It comes in leather touch and basic paperback. The Lifeway Women team is working through this plan in community through their blog. You can find how to join them here.
The Gospel Coalition’s Bible-Reading Plan—TGC offers you not only the plan itself, but also a bunch of other resources to help you stay the course: a daily newsletter, a podcast, online articles, and a Facebook Group.
The 2021, 5-Day Bible-Reading Program—Simple and printable, this gets you through the Bible in a year, but has a special perk: it only requires reading five days a week instead of seven, so you can build in days to process or rest.
FOUNDATIONAL PASSAGES IN ONE YEAR
The F260 Reading Plan by Replicate Ministries—This is a 260-day reading plan that highlights the foundational passages of Scripture that every disciple should know. The plan expects readers to cover one or two chapters a day for five days a week, giving weekends off. The two “off days” are built in so you can catch up on days you’ve missed, because, well, life happens. You can download the plan or follow along in the YouVersion app, and you can also keep a “H.E.A.R.” journal to help you process as you go.
WHOLE BIBLE IN THREE YEARS
The CSB offers you a slower track if you’d rather savor the meal as you go. This plan gets you through the whole Bible in three years.
OLD TESTAMENT IN ONE YEAR
Here’s a printable schedule for reading the Old Testament in one year. It’s built chronologically so you can stay on track with the overall narrative.
NEW TESTAMENT IN ONE YEAR
Here’s a plan from the Bible Project for reading the New Testament in a year.
If you’ve never read the Bible before, now’s the time. Stop circling the table and take a seat! You won’t regret it.