Why use a Bible-reading plan?
As many of us know, if we don’t make specific, concrete plans to do something, it often doesn’t get done. This is true not only in our personal, family, social, and professional lives, but also in our spiritual life. If we don’t plan regular devotional time for Scripture reading and prayer, it happens at best sporadically.
John Piper has written, “Since God is a God who does all things according to plan, it benefits us to approach the most important things of life with forethought and plan, not haphazardly.” Planning our Bible-reading is a great way to grow in our knowledge of God and His Word, and to keep ourselves and others accountable for doing so. Small groups are a great place for accountability for spending time in the Word.
Which plan should I use?
There are a number of great plans for reading through the Bible. One useful plan is called Read Scripture. The plan can be done either on your phone (search for the Read Scripture app, available for iPhones and Androids), or via the PDF. As you begin each new book of the Bible, you’ll watch a video by the Bible Project (See the Old and New Testament videos, as well as the theme videos).
If you would like a good overview of several other options, read this from Justin Taylor at the Gospel Coalition. Here a few of them:
Discipleship Journal Plan: In a year, you read the entire Bible, with five catch-up days per month.
Two-Year Bible Reading plan: In two years, you read the Old and New Testaments once, Psalms and Proverbs four times.
New Testament in six months: Normally just one chapter per day.
A typical plan involves about 15 minutes/day of reading. Though reading the same plan has certain benefits, the most important thing is that we are encouraging each other to be in the Word and being accountable to one another. Choose a plan which most facilitates this.
Other Resources: Psalms
"'The other Scriptures speak to us,' observed Athanasius (AD 296–373), 'but the Psalms speak for us.' For 3,000 years the Psalter has been the prayer book and songbook of God’s people. It was also the prayer book and songbook of God’s Son. Our Savior quoted from the Psalms more than any other biblical book—even while breathing his last (Matt. 27:46; Luke 23:46)." — Matt Smethurst
Many plans, such as Read Scripture, dedicate many readings for the Psalms. As Smethurst indicates, there are several good reasons for Christians to spend devotional time in the Psalms. Here are some ways to incorporate the Psalms into your prayer and devotional life:
"Five Ways to Pray the Psalms," by Ben Patterson
From Don Whitney's Pray the Bible, here is a practical illustration of how to pray the Psalms using Psalm 23.
Dangers and Advantages
Systematically reading through the Bible has great benefits. But take note of some of the dangers of reading plans, pointed out by 19th-century Scottish minister Robert Murray M’Cheyne (summarized by Stephen Witmer):
Formality: Bible-reading degenerates into a lifeless duty
Self-righteousness: We pat ourselves on the back for doing the daily reading and ticking the box
Careless reading: We read fast to get it done and don't tremble at the Word of God
Burden: Having the Bible-reading plan become a yoke too heavy to bear.
Be intentional about avoiding the dangers, but relish the many advantages M’Cheyne noted:
the reading of the entire Bible in an orderly manner over the course of a year
no wasting of time deciding what portion of Scripture to read each day
improved spiritual conversations between parents and children and between friends when each member of a family or circle of friends is individually reading the same portions of Scripture
a greater opportunity for pastors to reference passages of the Bible in their praying and preaching and individual conversation with church members who have just read those same passages
the strengthened bond of Christian love and unity among Christians who are reading the Scriptures together