Tips for your Bible Reading Plan
This post may be a little late for the "Bible in a Year" New Years Resolution crowd, but my hesitation to write on this subject stemmed from my belief that if the people who actually completed this goal in 2013 tried to field a baseball team, they wouldn't have enough players for an outfield.
Perhaps my New Year's Resolution should involve being less cynical?
But last night I had a conversation with a group of ladies from Living Stones who have dubbed themselves the "One Year Bible Babes" and have a plan that is worth sharing. Based on my conversation with them, here are some helpful tips that will help you prove me wrong.
1) Read the Bible Cover to Cover
If you've looked into Bible reading plans, you've undoubtedly come across a slew of options to ingest the entire book in a year.
But the simplest, and, in my opinion, most effective method is to read the Bible straight through from Genesis to Revelation. My wife Caitlin has been doing it this way for years, so I began employing it and finished the Old Testament yesterday (no, I didn't start Jan. 1). Because I am constantly studying the Bible in small segments for research papers and blogs, focusing on specific chapters and even specific words, this method has been hugely beneficial for me. Here's why.
The goal of any "Bible in a Year" plan is to attain familiarity with the Bible as a whole, and this method emphasizes the overall storyline upon which the individual theological branches stem. While the English Bible is not arranged chronologically (for the most part), it is arranged according to genre to tell the story from creation, to the cross, to the second coming.
For example, reading the history books (Joshua - Esther) in sequence immerses you in the story of Israel's rise as a kingdom, subsequent rebellion, and God's grace and restoration. Reading the prophets (Isaiah - Malachi) afterwards supplies additional details to that narrative.
Also, I am using one specific Bible and have a bookmark to chart progress. The bookmark is a motivator like mile markers are to marathoners. It moves like a lazy tortoise, but it moves.
2) Read Each Book in One Sitting
This tip coincides with tip #1. When reading the Bible, you're not so much reading a book as you are reading an anthology of 66 individual books. Each has a micro story arc (even if they are broken into two parts like the Samuels, Kings, and Chronicles), thematic and character development, and main points for the audience.
Sermons and Community Groups are great for looking at small segments of the Bible and incorporating other verses to supplement the message, and if you're a member of Living Stones (or any church, for that matter) you're going to be looking deeply into short passages each week. So think of it like this - reading the Bible cover to cover, book by book, is like painting with broad brush strokes on a canvas. Studying smaller passages is like doing the detail work. Both are necessary.
Also, the Bible is front loaded with longer books (by the time you finish the Psalms you're over halfway done). It's best to tackle the heavyweights while you still have the motivation.
3) Tackle the Goal with a Group
The One Year Bible Babes are geniuses. Be like them. They have formed a group for accountability, administering encouragement should anyone fall behind as well as distributing the appropriate amount of shunning should anyone fizzle out.
Also, because the Christian life is communal this strategy connects the individual nature of reading to other people. Therefore, more will be learned and more enjoyment will be had. My bet is that the One Year Bible Babes will turn into a cohesive militia armed with biblical truth by the time 2015 arrives.
4) Don't Get Hung up on the Difficult Details
The Bible is hard to understand in certain places, but reading each book in one sitting allows you to skim certain parts (e.g., geneologies) and chew on others a little more (e.g., the resurrection accounts). So don't trip up when you come across something like "people of the Negev will occupy the mountains of Esau" (Obadiah 19). Keep moving forward.
5) Set Weekly Goals Rather than Daily Goals
Daily readings sound great and manageable until you fall behind and are engulfed by a wave of psalms and Isaiah oracles, thus giving you the sensation of drowning in the Sea of Galilee (this is why P90X fails so often, but that's for a fitness blog).
Schedule time each week, and be open to reading in spurts. One week you might have time for 5 or 6 books, another you might only have time for one. Your bookmark will help keep you on track (especially if you fold it into an origami tortoise).
6) Remember the Ultimate Goal
Lastly, remember the point of reading the Bible in the first place - God has spoken, and we can connect with him through his word.
Also, the Bible is a sword (Eph. 6:17). Become a swordsman. Or, like the One Year Bible Babes, become a member of a squadron armed with excalibur-wielding prowess.
Because of them, perhaps I should have a more optimistic view of this resolution?: