One of my passions is helping leaders lead well. Another passion is helping people better understand the Bible and apply it to their lives. The Bible is actually like no other book on the planet. It claims to be alive (Hebrews 4:12). It claims to have inherent power (Hebrews 4:12). It claims to be always profitable, meaning that you will always get more out of it than you put into it–for that is the nature of something being profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is our doorway to discovering God. It is our invitation to pursue and develop an intimate relationship with Christ. It will transform us. It deserves a reading by all, those who claim to be followers of Christ, and those who don’t. But I recognize that it is not always seen as an easy book to read and understand. After all, it is a compilation of 66 different books by some 40 different authors penned over a span of 1500 years. Yet, in its unity and diversity it contains one overarching theme from beginning to end. I propose that there are two primary obstacles to reading the Bible well. First, you need some sense of the whole. What is the Bible primarily about? What is its overarching theme? How I am suppose to read it in its diversity of genre and context? Second, you need a reading plan. Where do I begin? How much should I read? How often should I read?
The best book I know to provide you with a simple oversight of the Bible is Reading The Bible For All Its Worth, by Gordon Fee. Fee does an excellent job of providing a grand view of the Bible and in understanding the different genres that are there. It is not a long read, nor a difficult one. It was not written with graduate studies in mind, but with every person in mind. This is a very helpful tool in giving you a good foundation for regular reading.
The value of a reading plan is several fold. It provides structure to take out the guess work of where to read within the Bible. Most plans aim to take you through the whole Bible within a calendar year, though there are plans geared for less rigor. A plan provides a measure of accountability and encouragement as you make progress toward the overall goal. A plan will typically expose you to different parts of the Bible so that you gain a feel for the overall storyline and the richness of the different genres. I was once challenged by a mentor to read the entire Bible every year for seven years in a row. This mentor went on to explain that I would be amazed at the way the storyline would come alive and all of the beautiful themes that would emerge. He was right. And now I try to read through the whole Bible every other year as a way to keep the parts in context of the whole. It never gets old. Below, I have provided several links to some of the most helpful reading plans I know. With today’s digital Bibles able to be read on phones, tablets, and laptops it has become easier than ever to follow through with consistent reading. There are now many apps as well for digital reading plans. And may I suggest that you aim for consistency over quantity, especially when you are at the beginning of habit like this. Ten minutes a day for five out of seven days is better than an hour once a week. Remember, this is not just about information. This is about relationship. I do recommend that you get your hands on an accurate translation that can be easily read. My suggestions would include the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, or the New International Version.
The Discipleship Journal One Year Reading Plan (Navigators)
The Discipleship Journal 5x5x5 Plan (Navigators) This is designed to read through the New Testament be spending 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
The Discipleship Journal Book At A Time Plan (Navigators) This is a one year plan that provides reading in both the Old and New Testament each day.
The You Version Reading Plan This is a completely online reading plan. You can choose a book of the Bible or a topic within the Bible.
A Chronological Reading Plan (Biblestudytools.com) This is a one year plan that allows you to read the Bible in the order of events.
The M’Cheyne Reading Plan This is a classic reading plan by Robert Murray M’Cheyne who was a Scottish minister in the 19th century (my favorite).
The 31 Day Experiment (Dick Purnell) This is a tool I have used often with people to help them develop the habit of Bible reading-it requires the purchase of another book-but it is a great tool.
Be sure to check out your app store for various reading plans too.
A word to spiritual leaders: We dare not take our regular Bible reading for granted. We are always desperate servants in need of the food and water the Bible brings. Don’t let your regular reading become preparation. Don’t let it become legalistic. Allow it to take you daily to the face of Christ and be renewed in the gospel. Lead well.