You want to read the Bible all the way through… but where do you start?
Do you read from cover to cover? Pick a book at random until you’re done? Play Bible Roulette and hope you don’t end up in Lamentations or Leviticus every day?
While any of these can work (although that last one might not be the best idea), a good reading plan can really help you out.
What is a Bible reading plan?
A Bible reading plan is a guide to help you read the Bible within a set period of time (the most common plans are in 90, 180 and 365 day increments). There are a pretty wide variety of plans that cover the Bible from start to finish (Genesis to Revelation), chronologically, literary style, and some that have you reading in both the Old and New Testaments daily.
Have you used a plan?
I’m actually about to start using the M’Cheyne plan for my second run through the entire Bible (see below for details on that). The first time, I read straight from Genesis to Revelation in about 11 months, just taking a few chapters a day. While I found it a great exercise, honestly, by the time you get to Lamentations, you can find yourself in a pretty dark place if you’re not on the look out for Christ in the Old Testament. It can be pretty depressing stuff at times!
What tools do I need to go with my plan?
The essential tools are a pen, highlighter and a journal. Make sure you’ve got a pen or highlighter that won’t bleed through the pages of your Bible (so if you use pen, use a ballpoint). Your journal doesn’t have to be fancy, just functional. When you’re reading, prayerfully be on the lookout for one or two verses in each chapter that God brings to the forefront. Write them down. Read them in context. Journal your thoughts and at least one specific way you can apply the truth of what God has shown you today.
What’s a good plan?
Probably the most popular plan is the M’Cheyne Reading Plan developed by Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish pastor who ministered during the 19th century. The M’Cheyne plan takes readers through the whole of Scripture over the course of a year, with Old and New Testament passages being read daily. It’s also intended to be used for family devotions as well as personal reading. Here are the advantages of the M’Cheyne plan:
The whole Bible will be read through in an orderly manner in the course of a year. – The Old Testament once, the New Testament and Psalms twice. I fear many of you never read the whole Bible, and yet it is all equally divine. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect.” If we pass over some parts of Scripture we will be incomplete Christians.
Time will not be wasted in choosing what portions to read. – Often believers are at a loss to determine towards which part of the mountains of spices they should bend their steps. Here the question will be solved at once in a very simple manner.
[Should the whole church be going through the exercise at the same time] the pastor will know which part of the pasture the flock are feeding. – He will thus be enabled to speak more suitably to them on the Sabbath: and both pastor and elders will be able to drop a word of light and comfort in visiting from house to house, which will be more readily responded to.
The sweet bond of Christian love and unity will be strengthened.- We shall often be lead to think of those dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, who agree to join with us in reading these portions. We shall oftener be led to agree on earth, touching something we shall ask of God. We shall pray over the same promises, mourn over the same confessions, praise God in the same songs, and be nourished by the same words of eternal life.
As with so many things, the plan you choose is a matter of preference. There are a great many terrific programs are available; I’d recommend looking at a few over at ESV.org. Pick the one that works best for your goals and have at it!