It is 2021! God help us.
If you are like many, you have a list of resolutions to improve yourself in the new year. And, like my friend Sam Luce says, that’s a good thing when done with the cross in mind. May God give you the grace needed to carry out the good plans and the wisdom needed to quit the dumb ones.
Among the resolutions you’ve planned already, I would like, on the Eve of this new year, to ask you to consider one more: plan to read the whole Bible in 2021.
Why Read the Whole Bible?
Think that’s irrelevant or too lofty? Allow me to persuade you otherwise with a few points.
Second, listen to a simple word of encouragement: you can read the whole Bible. Justin Taylor notes that, “The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.” No matter how slow of a reader you are, you can still do it.
Third, you make plans for other stuff, why not reading the Bible? As John Piper once wrote, “We take steps to see that we have enough to eat and clothes to keep us warm. But do we take our spiritual needs that seriously? Do we apply the same earnestness in planning to maximize our ministry as we do in planning to make a living?”
Lastly, if you don’t plan to read the Bible this year, just know this: you won’t.
Good. Now that you’re excited, encouraged, motivated, and hopefully sobered up, allow me to offer you some Bible reading plans to take on in 2021.
A List of Plans to Read the Whole Bible
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it should serve as a helpful start. The list is ordered with the easiest plans first (least amount of daily reading) to more robust plans that cover more ground in a lesser amount of time.
The Bible Reading Record Keeper. This isn’t a reading plan, but it is a record keeping sheet that lists all the books of the Bible with their respective chapters numbered to the side. This tool helps keep track of what books in the Bible you have read and those you haven’t. For those who don’t want to follow a particular plan, but plan on regularly reading a few chapters each day, this is can serve as a helpful tool to make sure you’re covering all God’s Word. Here is the same idea, just much more pretty.
5 Day Bible Reading Plan. “This special Bible reading system allows you to read the entire Bible (or just the New Testament) in one year while only reading five times a week. Five readings a week gives room to catch up or take a needed day off, and makes daily Bible reading practical and do-able.”
52 Week Bible Reading Plan. “Read through the Bible in a year, with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels.”
The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers. Justin Taylor describes this plan as one that, “takes away the pressure (and guilt) of ‘keeping up’ with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:
- Sundays: Poetry
- Mondays: Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
- Tuesdays: Old Testament history
- Wednesdays: Old Testament history
- Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
- Fridays: New Testament history
- Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters).”
The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan. This gives you 25 readings each month from four different places (it begins in Genesis, Psalms, Matthew and Acts). Having 25 readings each month means you will have a few “catch up” days each month if you fell behind or “free days” to study passages that intrigued you more deeply.
The Chronological Bible Reading Plan. Read through the Bible in the order the events occurred chronologically. This helps some people focus on the unfolding story a little better.
The Historical Reading of the Bible. “The Old Testament readings are similar to Israel’s Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament readings are an attempt to follow the order in which the books were authored.”
The Kingdom Bible Reading Plan. In this plan the Old Testament receives three readings per day and the New Testament gets one reading per day. “The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of Jesus’ Bible (Luke 24:44 – Law, Prophets, Writings), with one reading coming from each portion per day. In a single year, one reads through Psalms twice and all other biblical books once…Only twenty-five readings are slated per month in order to provide more flexibility in daily devotions. The plan can be started at any time of the year, and if four readings per day are too much, the plan can simply be stretched to two or more years (reading from one, two, or three columns per day).”
Read Through the Whole Bible in Order. “This plan calls for reading all the books of the Bible in canonical order in one year. Each day’s reading is about 3-4 chapters in length, with the exception of the Psalms (which are covered in 5 chapters per day). The idea is to read longer chapters in groups of three (e.g., Pentateuchal narratives, Gospels) and shorter chapters in groups of four. There are 7 “catch-up” days scattered throughout the calendar.”
The Ligonier Bible Reading Plan. “Two readings each day; one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.” Being from Ligonier, you can get the plan in the Ligonier App (iPhone / iPad, Android, Kindle Fire & Windows Phone) and YouVersion.
The Legacy Plan. “This plan does not have set readings for each day. Instead, it has set books for each month, and set number of Proverbs and Psalms to read each week. It aims to give you more flexibility, while grounding you in specific books of the Bible each month.”
The Robert M’Cheyne Plan. My wife and I did this one in 2011 and enjoyed it. This plan starts you in the four great beginnings of Scripture (beginning of creation in Genesis 1, beginning of Israel’s return from Exile in Ezra 1, beginning of Christ’s incarnation in Matthew 1, and beginning of the church in Acts 1). This plan will have you read through the whole Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. It is four chapters a day. One great thing is it has you in four different places in the Bible at once so when you hit the less than inspirational sections (genealogies, records, etc.), you will still be in more immediately helpful sections. Also, you can grab D.A. Carson’s marvelous devotional based on this reading plan here and here. If you don’t want to buy the book, you can subscribe to a daily email where you are sent the devotional for that day’s reading.
5X5X5 Plan. The Ligonier site explains this one as such: “Read through the New Testament in a year, reading Monday to Friday. Weekends are set aside for reflection and other reading. Especially beneficial if you’re new to a daily discipline of Bible reading.”
52 Week Plan. Gets you through the entire Bible in one year. Each day of the week (Monday through Sunday) is dedicated to a different Biblical genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels. This one provides huge variety in daily readings.
Professor Horner’s Plan. Professor Horner’s System is not for the faint of heart. It calls for 10 chapters per day. With this plan, you will read 10 chapters from 10 different books each day. It is a Bible reading immersion plan. No treading the waters with this one, just diving. Here is one pastor’s hearty recommendation.
A Few Helps Along the Way
Here are some resources to help make sure your Bible reading doesn’t amount to you sounding out empty words in your head without actually understanding or appreciating what you’re reading.
Overview of the Bible. Lots of people don’t finish their plans to read the Bible because they get lost in what’s happening. Here, Dr. R.C. Sproul will help you grasp an overview of the Bible so you are equipped to read all that God has given you!
A Graph of the Old Testament Timeline. This is a simple map of the Old Testament timeline. It serves to help you locate where you are in the Old Testament timeline as you’re reading the Old Testament. Like a movie, we need to know how each scene of the Bible fits into the larger plot.
Don’t Scorn Audio Bibles! Most of the Christians in the first few decades of the church most likely heard the Bible more than they read it, so don’t discount audio Bibles. Most audio Bibles are around 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day. Biblegateway has a lot of audio Bibles offered free of charge.
Reading the Bible Through the Jesus Lens. This is a fantastic book that provides a very brief background and introduction to every book in the Bible along with an explanation for how each respective books anticipates or points to the person and work of Jesus Christ. This way you are prepared to understand each book and how it relates to all of God’s redeeming work! Highly recommended.
God’s Big Picture. The publisher’s description describes it well: “In this excellent overview, Vaughan Roberts gives you the big picture – showing how the different parts of the Bible fit together under the theme of the kingdom of God. He provides both the encouragement and the tools to help you read the Bible with confidence and understanding. And he points you to the Bible’s supreme subject, Jesus Christ, and the salvation God offers through him.” Also, two other helpful books that provide the same overarching story line of the Bible are Carson’s The God Who is There and Graeme Goldsworthy’s According to Plan.
Of the making of Bible Reading plans, there is no end. This is not an exhaustive list and it will not be the last. There are a lot more plans out there (like these and these and these). But, in the end, I hope you will make a plan to read God’s Word. Don’t leave it to whenever you find the time because Satan will make sure the time evades you. As the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Don’t fail to plan your Bible reading because then you’re planning to fail in reading your Bible.