Bible reading plans can feel daunting, but we can learn to enjoy reading Scripture. Read or watch below Chad Harrington’s class on crafting your Bible reading plan. He taught this to Harpeth Christian Church in 2022 with a focus on reading the New Testament in a year.
- Use The Bible Project’s “New Testament in a Year” easy-to-use plan to read the NT in a year with the YouVersion Bible app (completed by 10,000 people already).
- Download this PDF we created to help you track reading the NT in a year.
- For more from Chad on how to read Scripture, take his video course “Spiritual Formation” here at no cost, or buy his book Your Spiritual Formation Plan (see especially Chapter 10).
My goal is that you’d walk away from this post inspired and equipped with the tools to read the entire New Testament in a year in a life-changing way. Instead of floating through your Bible reading, you can have confidence in a workable plan.
The main challenge Christians run into, based on my experience, is that they struggle to enjoy reading God’s Word and find life in it.
The goal for us, then, is to learn to enjoy God’s Word, not simply grin and bear it.
Challenges to Reading Scripture
This is difficult for various reasons, such as:
- Lack of vision: we lack a clear and compelling vision for how vital the Word is for fullness of life.
- Fear: we’re intimidated by the Bible itself.
- Guilt: we feel unworthy to read it, affected by guilt and shame.
- Lack of knowledge: we lack general knowledge of where to start and how to read the Bible.
- Laziness: we’re sometimes unwilling to put in the work it takes to read.
- Boredom: we get bored because the Bible doesn’t seem relevant to our lives.
- Selfishness: we read to “get something out of it,” when God wants to connect with us through it—and use it to teach us obedience.
The last one sounds intense—because it is! As hard as it is to say, it’s true:
We as Christians can easily fall prey to reading Scripture selfishly.
Symptoms of selfish Scripture reading are:
- Medicine-chest reading: we try to fix our immediate problem by picking a choice verse that makes us feel better.
- Playing Bible roulette: we need a quick answer, so we close our eyes, land on a page, and put our finger down, hoping to find the answer to our immediate question.
- Graze reading: we pick and choose what we want to read and obey, not getting the “full feeding.”
Certainly, these approaches do not lead to a vibrant Scripture-reading life.
The Solution: Enjoy Reading Scripture
So what is the solution?
The solution is learning to enjoy the Word of God in community while using a specific plan.
Enjoying the Word requires a clear vision.
So start by imagining your life saturated in Scripture, energized, and infused with the Word.
This first happened for me in 1998, when I sat in the youth minister’s apartment in Franklin, Tennessee, with two friends Blake and Jordan. I was twelve years old.
We sat in our youth minister’s living room around the coffee table as he offered our middle school selves a simple challenge:
Read the New Testament in a year.
I decided to do it.
Soon after, I made a plan to get up about 30 minutes early every day before school to pray and read the Bible. I read about a half a chapter a day, and journaled through the Gospels, which took me a year.
While reading the whole New Testament took me two years, I completed the challenge.
As a result, God changed my life. He helped me love Jesus and enjoy his Word. Plus, God used it to sustain me through a difficult season of life for me in high school.
It’s been over 20 years since that time, and I believe now that everyone needs an experience like that at some point in their walk with Christ.
But why read the Bible in the first place?
Reasons to Read the Bible
I believe the first reason is this:
God created us for content.
That’s why we get addicted to various forms of media—social media, TV shows, movies, YouTube, etcetera.
While those can manifest as tech addictions, which have negative ramifications, I also see a positive side to our hunger for content:
Media addiction reveals our hunger for the content of Christ.
This is similar in principle to what the Scottish novel writer Bruce Marshall wrote in The World, the Flesh and Father Smith, “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”
We seek after all sorts of media, but we ultimately long for Christ as media.
I discern this from John 1:1, which says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Our desire for content is ultimately fulfilled in Christ, who is the incarnate Word.
The author of Hebrews gets at this when he says, “In many times and in various ways during ages past, God has spoken to our fathers through the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us through Son” (Heb. 1:1, author’s translation).
“Through Son” is a wooden translation. It sounds odd in English, but I translated it that way to show how the author stresses Jesus’ essence as Son. God has chosen different “mediums” of content throughout history, but his ultimate means of speaking is his Son.
In other words, the medium of his speaking to us is Jesus’ bodily existence. The content Jesus himself—the Logos.
So as we talk about reading the Bible, I want to say that you were created to consume the highest form of content, which is the Word of God. Christ was the Word, whom we receive into our lives.
And God also gave us his written Word, which is the Bible.
We read the Bible because the Bible leads us to Jesus.
The second reason we read is because it’s inspired by God and authoritative for the people of God.
The Word Is Inspired and Authoritative
1. Scripture is inspired by God for our benefit.
The Bible is divinely inspired and authoritative to deliver the gospel to us.
When my wife and I were courting, we went on a few hikes around Radnor Lake in Nashville, Tennessee.
Let’s pretend for a moment that someone hid a treasure around Radnor Lake, and they wrote out a guide to the treasure in the form of a book. The treasure was accessible to those who had the book’s instructions.
Say the first copy of the guidebook ever printed was handed directly to you. You just had to read it and the treasure was yours. As long as you took it, trusted its instructions, and followed it, you’d have the treasure.
The Bible is like that guidebook.
The creator of the universe wrote down for us in the Bible the keys to unlocking the deepest secrets of life. If only we will trust his Word, we can find the treasures of everlasting life.
The eternal God of the universe inspired the Bible—that’s what we hold in our hands when we hold this sacred book.
I’ve heard people say they want God to “speak to them.” I understand this sentiment, and I don’t want to downplay hearing from God—something I think is possible and good.
Yet we currently have access to God’s Word. A guaranteed way to experience God’s voice is to read the Bible. He’s already spoken, and it’s written down!
2. Scripture holds God’s authority for our lives.
The Bible’s not only inspired but also authoritative. That means that it’s not just any words from anyone. God’s Word holds weight and authority for our lives as disciples of Jesus:
- We don’t consider the Words of Scripture to be one option among many.
- We don’t consider it just another opinion to consider.
- We don’t consider it one selection on the smorgasbord buffet of life.
God’s Word holds supreme authority over our lives.
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16–17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (NIV).
“God-breathed” is God-inspired.
It’s inspired and useful for rebuking and correcting, not just teaching and training. That means it is authoritative over our lives.
If you have an inspired but unauthoritative Word, then the Bible’s just another book.
On the other hand, if you have an authoritative but uninspired Word, then the Bible’s a lifeless book.
The Bible is both inspired and authoritative.
That’s why I spent an entire sermon on the meaning of Hebrews 4:12:
For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edge sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (NIV)
God’s Word is Scripture, but it goes beyond simple ink printed on the mashed particles of a dead tree.
The Word is alive.
So why read the Bible? Because it’s the inspired and authoritative Word of God that delivers the gospel about Jesus.
Bible Reading Plans: The NT in a Year
My church asked everyone to read the New Testament in a year together, which is what inspired this post and the video teaching.
So I’ll extend the invitation to you:
Read the New Testament in a year.
Why read the New Testament and not the whole Bible?
It’s a solid option that can help you focus directly on the gospel of Jesus.
If you’re worried about missing the context of the larger story of God, read my short summary of the Old Testament called “The Story of the Kingdom” first.
Consider that by reading just five chapters a week, you can read the whole New Testament in a year:
- There are 260 chapters in the New Testament.
- If you read 5 chapters a week for 52 weeks, you get 260 chapters.
- You can use a pre-made plan through the YouVersion app here.
To track your reading, you can also download and print off this one-page PDF we created here.
How to Craft Your Plan for Reading the Bible
As you may already know from my book Your Spiritual Formation Plan, I’m a fan of planning.
I agree with Khalid, in his song “Location,” that, “Things go a little bit better when you plan it.”
We plan everything else in lives—our weekends, our vacations, our holidays—but we generally fail to plan one of the most important aspects of our lives: our spiritual formation journey.
Reading the Word and praying are the two essential nutrients for healthy spiritual living.
Going without these is like trying to go without water: without them, eventually you’ll die spiritually.
The Word should be our daily bread, even when we go without physical bread.
In order for this to happen, though, we need to make plans, just like anything else we care about!
Making Spiritual Formation Plans in General
Let me share with you how to make realistic spiritual formation plans, and then we’ll get to Scripture reading.
It takes VIM: vision, intention, and means. This comes from Dallas Willard’s book Renovation of the Heart.
Here’s what each aspect means in essence:
- Vision: imagining it, believing in its benefit, and envisioning its results.
- Intention: deciding to do it and making a concrete commitment to it.
- Means: making specific plans and getting the right tools.
You need VIM not only for spiritual formation but for anything you do in life!
For example, if you’re going to build a garage:
- Vision: envision the garage (you have a need and you can see it).
- Intention: decide to do it (count the costs and make the decision to invest).
- Means: hire a contractor (get a plan and then sign an agreement).
Applying VIM to reading the New Testament in a year would mean you:
- Envision your life with that much consistent intake of the Word.
- Decide to do it, write it down, and tell someone about it.
- Make an action plan using the SMARTER acronym (from Michael Hyatt):
- Time bound
Using VIM, it’s time to create your Bible-reading plan.
Create Your Plan for Reading the NT in a Year
1. Vision. Hopefully this post has given you a vision for what your life could look like by reading the New Testament in a year.
If you don’t have a clear vision of what this would do for you, then pause now so you can pray and imagine what God can do in your life during and as a result of this process.
2. Intention. Make the decision, write it down as a SMARTER goal, and then get started.
Your SMARTER goal might be:
I will read the entire New Testament by reading approximately five chapters a week using the YouVersion app’s New Testament in a year plan with my church, talk about it with my friend [fill in the blank], and complete it by December 31 of this year.
3. Means. Now for the most actionable part, and the focus of this post:
Pick your time and place:
- Pick a frequency: how many days a week will you read? I suggest five days per week.
- Pick a time: morning, evening, while commuting, kids’ nap time, etc.
- Pick a place: a quiet place is helpful, but definitely an undistracted place.
Read in community:
- With your spouse
- With a friend
- With a discipleship group
- With your small group
- With your family
I like how the YouVersion NT in a year plan allows you to invite people, track your reading, and discuss each day’s text all in one place.
Get the Most Out of Reading the NT in a Year
I’ve compiled my top ten pieces of advice for making the most of your time reading the NT:
- Start by reading my short summary of the Old Testament “The Story of the Kingdom.”
- Journal about it. Write your thoughts, questions, and observations as you read—keep it to a page or less per day so you can set the bar low enough to complete it each day.
- Make a “Question and Observation” bullet journal as you go through it. For each page you use this journal, divide the page into two columns titled “Questions” and “Observations.” Then fill out each column as you read.
- Read it slowly. Give honor to God’s Word and savor it as you read. Go slowly so you can catch all the details.
- Meditate on it. Slow down even more by meditating on just one verse for 10–15 minutes at a time.
- Memorize it. Lock Scripture into your mind by committing a share of verses to memory.
- Discuss it. Talk about what you’re learning and discovering with trusted friends and mentors in your church.
- Pray about it. Pray before you begin—inviting God to speak to you as you read—pray while you read, and pray after you read (asking God to help you know what to obey).
- Theme it. Pick just one or two themes you carry through the whole year, and make specific observations about those themes as you go.
- Go deeper. One way to go even deeper into these pieces of advice and more is to listen to my in-depth lecture on this topic here: “Reading Scripture.”
Also, my last point is about getting a basic understanding of what the New Testament entails.
The Basic Arrangement and Genres of the NT
It’ll help if you understand the basic arrangement and genres of the New Testament before jumping in.
The New Testament spans roughly 100 years of history during the first century AD.
In order of arrangement, here’s the basic segments and genres:
- The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). The genre of these four books is ancient biography (bios in Greek), the style of which is modeled after important political figures. It generally includes a) a birth story, b) a coming-of-age story, c) their contribution to the world, and d) their life events—with a focus on what to imitate from their example.
- The Book of Acts. This is the story of the early church from roughly AD 30, when Jesus died, to just before Paul’s death in the early 60s. So it’s thirty years of history.
- Paul’s Letters (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). Paul’s main goals center around helping the church anchor their unity and holiness in a proper understanding of who God is and what he’s done in Christ.
- The General Letters (Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude). These have a similar goal as Paul’s letters, only they address additional concerns as well, written by and to different audiences.
- This falls in the genre of apocalypse. Apocalypse is an ancient genre, adaptations of which we see sometimes today, that functions to encourage those who are being socially and physically persecuted to be faithful.
That should get you started!
Summary of How to Craft Your Plan
So in summary, your steps are VIM:
- Vision: Catch the vision of what God could do in your life if you read the Bible consistently in community.
- Intention: Decide to do it.
- Means: Make a SMARTER goal to finish it.
Make your goal:
- Specific: Getting a personal plan with a specific time and place
- Measurable: Find a way to track your reading like the YouVersion app.
- Actionable: Join with others in doing it.
- Risky: Stretch yourself so that you’re going to grow.
- Time bound: Set a completion date.
- Exciting: Do it in an enjoyable way to you.
- Relevant: Apply it to your life as you go through discussion, prayer, and meditation.
Let me know what your SMARTER goal is in a comment below! Then let me know how it goes after you finish.
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