Five Bible Reading Plans for Personal Discipleship
How are Bible plans helpful? Bible reading plans are helpful because the Bible is an elaborate document. In fact, it is 66 different documents written in different styles. If you are to read it like it is any other book, you are likely to misunderstand it or not get much out of it. Therefore, if you have some systematic or organized plan, you will gain much more insight from your reading compared to if you don’t.
What are some discipleship Bible reading plans for personal development? Here are five discipleship Bible reading plans that are great for personal development:
- Bible in One Year
- Accelerated Bible Reading Plan
- Chronological Bible Reading Plan
- Character Study of Bible Reading Plan
- Thematic / Topical Bible Reading Plan
These are the five Bible reading plans that I personally recommend and endorse:
1. Bible in One Year
The Bible in One Year plan has been growing in popularity. The idea is, that an individual will read through the entire Bible in a 12-month stint. There are different variations but the concrete goal is to aid in the process of reading the entire Bible through in one year. Many Christians do not read the entire Bible. If the Bible is truly valuable like we believe, we should know everything that is in it. This doesn’t mean that we must know every single detail but we should generally understand what is in the Bible. We should get this information through our heads at least once.
There are different types of Bible in One Year programs and various subcategories. Some people believe the Bible should be read through start to finish: Genesis through Revelation. Others believe it is more valuable to jump back and forth from the Old and New Testaments. Still, others believe it is better to have diversity in the style of reading. Typically the best Bible reading plans that most people enjoy and receive the most out of are a combination of Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs as three separate categories.
2. Accelerated Bible Reading Plan
The goal of accelerated Bible reading plans is to understand the general themes of the Bible without necessarily getting all components of the Bible completely. The primary focus is on the overall themes throughout scripture. Frequently, people read the Bible so slowly and get caught up in the minutiae and details, similar to the old adage, “you missed the forest through the trees.” Sometimes with the Bible, we can be so focused on the individual components or the “trees” that we miss that there is this massive, majestic beautiful scene. If you read through the Bible quickly, you are able to see the overarching trajectory and overall themes of certain books and certain sections.
There are various different plans that exist for this. Recently, the most popular plan is the Bible in 120 Days plan. This is about 12-14 Biblical chapters a day and allows you to complete the plan in four months or less.
Note: Biblical chapters are much shorter than usual chapters in books. They tend to fill only part of a page or one entire page. Typically they don’t exceed more than a few pages, however, there are some passages that do.
3. Chronological Bible Reading Plan
The Bible is not written chronologically, meaning, the books from Genesis to Revelation or not in the order that things took place. Genesis chapters 1-11 are the first events of human history that we know about as we look through the scriptures. Then, the book of Job, as most scholars believe, occurred either contemporary to Abraham or just before Abraham, which is Genesis chapter 12. If you are reading the Bible chronologically, you would read the first 11 chapters of Genesis, then pause from Genesis and break away from that to then read the book of Job. After Job, you would then continue back in Genesis. You are reading it basically in the chronology of human history.
This can be really effective if you are also studying other world events or events in world history during that time period. It gives you insight into the scriptures that you may not otherwise have understood, that can be helpful. Furthermore, it is beneficial if you are reading different books of the prophets or Psalms in the order in which they are written. For example, if you are reading Exodus you can pause and read Psalm 90 because that is written by Moses. That is the earliest Psalm ever written. Psalm 90 gives insight into how Moses was feeling when he was wrestling through these things.
This is also effective if you are reading 1 Samuel. As you are reading what was happening to David you can read Psalm 23 to gain insight into how David was feeling when he was going through this particular season of life. It brings an incredible understanding of how people are feeling in the midst of situations. It helps us to resonate with Biblical characters much more.
4. Character Study of Bible Reading Plan
The character study is where you take individual characters of the Bible and you study all passages related to them. You could do this in any number of ways. Some people do this with the prophets. There have been recent studies of women of the Bible and studies of Gentiles in the Old Testament. You could pick any number of types of character studies and basically study those types of people over the course of 6-12 months every single year.
One of the neat recommendations that many scholars have recently pointed out is how valuable it is to potentially pick a different category of character each year. For example, this year I am studying women of the Bible and I am reading through all passages that are related to these particular people. Last year I specifically studied the apostles and used both Biblical and outside resources about their lives. This was really helpful to give me insight into the New Testament.
5. Thematic / Topical Bible Reading Plan
The Thematic or Topical Bible reading plan can be really helpful if there are particular topics you want to learn more about. This crosses over to what is called systematic theology, which is basically studying theology that is organized by topic or concept. Rather than studying just passages of scripture, you are studying all the passages of scripture related to a particular topic.
You could take a handful of topics that are related to each other and read all the passages of scripture that are related to that. If you have a good systematic theology book or even just a study Bible, it can really help you find all the passages related to that particular topic.
There are two other common questions that come up about Bible reading and personal discipleship.
What’s a good Bible reading plan for beginners?
The ideal Bible reading plan for beginners is to read the Bible throughout the year, without feeling the need to get through the entire Bible in a year. For many new beginners in the Bible, reading the entire Bible can be a bit overwhelming. The idea is to start in the more simple narratives of the scripture. The best place to start would be in the gospels or basically any part of the Bible that is a narrative (segments of Scripture that are telling a story or simply explaining what happened). The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) or the book of Acts would be phenomenal places to start.
Secondarily, anything related to the history of the Israelite people would be beneficial. You could starting reading in Genesis 12 until the end of Genesis. Then read through Exodus, Leviticus, and then jump to 1 and 2 Chronicles. I would avoid the books of the prophets initially because they can be harder to understand and grasp for someone new to reading the Bible. Stick to narratives that can train you on how to read the Bible before you tackle some of the more difficult passages.
Are there any good phone apps for Bible reading?
The YouVersion Bible app is fantastic because they’ve got dozens of variations of Bible reading plans.
Additionally, Blue Letter Bible is a great app that has various plans that are more scholarly and academic. Once you feel like you have your feet under you they’ve got more Bible reading plans like the ones we mentioned.
Kenneth E. Ortiz (M.Div.) is a professor and recruiter at Bethlehem College and a pastor at Cities Church. He has 15+ years of vocational ministry experience. He’s also a podcaster, author, and Ph.D. student. Kenneth lives in Bloomington, MN with his wife Malaina, they have one daughter.