It’s the start of a new year, which is generally the time that many people begin their goal of reading through the Bible in a year. This is, of course, a worthwhile goal, but it is one I have mixed feelings about in the sense that frequently, people get behind in their reading plans and because they feel like they can’t catch up, give up instead. This is wrong-headed, I think, since the real point of Bible reading plans is to cultivate the regular practice of reading Scripture rather than finishing the whole Bible in 365 days.

At the same time, reading through the entire Bible is a very worthwhile goal, and it always amazes me when I hear of people who have been Christians for years and years but have never read the Bible from cover to cover (if you are reading this and fit into that category, I am not trying to make you feel guilty or ashamed, just keep reading). Simply put, if you don’t read the entire Bible, you tend to miss out on some important and recurring ideas.

For the last several years I have read through the Bible using different plans and methods, and for those who might be interested in reading through the Bible in 2018 (it’s not too late to start!), I thought it might be helpful to share of the different methods that I have enjoyed and what I liked about them:

  • The Daily Bible: This Bible attempts to place the books of the Bible in chronological order, and divides it into 365 readings to make it easy to know exactly how much you need to read per day. It also includes helpful introductory material to each book.
  • The Message: This is a simple “method”—I just read through the Message one year. This is not a common translation for me, which meant that I was constantly reading passages in new language, which led to new reflections and new insights. I’m sure some editions now come with Bible reading plans, or you can simply divide the 1189 chapters in the Bible (or the total page numbers in the edition you are using) into 365 portions.
  • ESV Journaling Bible: The ESV is the primary translation I use, and I really liked being able to write a lot of notes and reflections as I read through in the journaling space. Also, I really liked the reading plan that came along with it, which included a daily selection from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Psalms.
  • The Listener’s Bible: Two years ago, I did my Bible “reading” in the car by listening to audio CDs that were recorded by Max McLean. Not only did this allow me to make the most of time in which I was otherwise unproductive, it also allowed me to hear Scripture instead of read it, which is the same way that the original audiences would have been exposed to it. Bonus feature: your road rage tends to decrease when you drive around listening to God’s word.
  • ReadScripture App: Last year, I used the Bible Project’s free ReadScripture app on my iPhone (also available on Android), and absolutely loved it. Having everything on your phone is incredibly handy, the Bible Project videos that introduce each biblical book are incredible, and the emphasis on the Bible as one unified story that points to Jesus is very helpful.
  • Bibliotheca: This year, I am using Bibliotheca for my Bible reading. This approach is novel for a couple of reasons. First, everything about Bibliotheca has been carefully designed to enhance the reading experience: from removing the verse and chapter numbers, to the craftsmanship of the books themselves, to even the specially-designed font. Second, Bibliotheca uses an updated version of the incredibly literal American Standard Version. So far, I have not loved the stilted style of this translation, but the novelty of it and some of the word choices it uses has caught my attention several times and has helped me to see things in a new light (similar to what I said about the Message above, except from the opposite perspective).
  • Whole Books at a Time: This process is described here and is my tentative plan for next year. This is not truly a daily Bible reading plan, as you basically set aside one large block of time per week to read entire books in one sitting, but I can certainly see great potential value in reading the individual books as unified wholes.

If you are currently trying to read through the Bible this year, I applaud you on your goal, and maybe one of these methods will be helpful to you. But remember, more important than completing the entire Bible in an arbitrary amount of time is establishing the practice of regularly spending time in God’s word and seeking the transformation that comes from doing so.