According to LifeWay research, approximately 20% of Americans have read through the entire Bible at least once. A shocking statistic from the Ponce Foundation reveals that out of two billion Christians worldwide, less than 30% will ever complete this task! Reading through the Bible can seem daunting for some, but with proper planning and guidance, it is achievable within one year – as I know firsthand.
This article presents simple steps to help any Christian take on the challenge and reap its many rewards by reading through the entirety of God’s Word in one year! You might also consider reading four reasons for reading through the Bible in one year is recommended or our answers to common objections some Christians have against this practice.
The Need to Prepare and Be Organized
Reading through the Bible is a major undertaken, especially for new Christians or those who have never done so. This difficulty is not because we are unfamiliar with reading; we read almost daily. However, the Bible is different: it is not just a book but a library of 66 distinct books, ranging from easy to understand to more complicated—and sometimes boring (initially) chapters. Furthermore, it is an ancient text with content, style, and culture unfamiliar today.
The best way to succeed is to prepare and plan for the task properly. We recommend these three big-picture steps:
- Develop the right perspective.
- Prepare for difficulties and success.
- Follow simple steps that increase your likelihood of success.
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Develop the right perspective
If there is one thing that determines the success and effectiveness of reading through the Bible, it is our motivation. And this motivation is grounded on our perspective about this subject: our understanding of what it is we want to do (the what), why we are doing it (the why), and how it fits in our personal Bible study plan (the where).
Reading through the Bible in one year is not merely reading the Bible. It is reading the Bible within a predetermined time frame, usually a year—it could be less or more, but we will focus on one year in this article. If the task is straightforward, the vision also becomes clear.
Our concern here is specific: we are not merely concerned about why we read the Bible but why we read it regularly every year. Although no such commandment exists in the scripture to read the Bible in a year, there are many reasons to make us do so. In another article, we identify four reasons to read the Bible every year: awareness of the breadth of the divine revelation, combating knowledge decay, sharpening our bible interpretation skills, and a powerful incentive to be in the Word daily. In another article, we examine some objections some Christians have raised to doing so.
Reading the Bible in a year is only one piece of our personal Bible study plan puzzle. Regrettably, many believers have no personal plan for Bible study. They read here, study there, meditate on this verse, try that bible study method, etc.; they approach the Bible in a disorganized, disorderly and unsystematic manner.
You should know how reading through the Bible in one year fits with your devotional Bible reading or in-depth Bible study.
If your mind is clear on what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how it fits in your organized plan, you are over fifty percent successful before you even open the Bible! Contrariwise, a flawed perspective is the most important reason for failure. Furthermore, this perspective problem often leads in practice to the actual reasons many believers cannot read the entire Bible—they are unprepared for the troubles on the way.
Prepare for Difficulties and Success
As Christians succeed and fail to read through the Bible over the years, common patterns emerge for those who follow through and those who don’t. If you want to read through the Bible yearly, prepare to deal with the difficulties that stop those who fail and do what those who succeed do.
Prepare for Difficulties
Only begin this task by counting the cost and preparing to meet the adversaries on the way. Jesus said:
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28, ESV)
Everyone who attempts to read through the Bible will face common difficulties. It is not an issue of if but when. However, while some stop at the feet of these mountains, others have trained themselves to overcome them and continue their journey successfully.
We can only enlist some of the common problems in this article and will deal with them in detail in another article. These are some common problems:
- Motivation failure
- Disorganized approach
- The religious mindset trap
- Lack of commitment
- Unwelcome complexity
- Options Paralysis
- Difficult passages
Prepare for Success
There are simple tips and principles for succeeding in this endeavor. Again, to keep this article short, we will enlist these principles here; please see our free Ebook: “Bible Reading Guide,” for details.
- Perspective: as discussed above.
- Simplicity: keep things simple, especially the plan you follow.
- Suitability: A plan that is right for you, including where you are in your relationship with God, Time, duration, Bible format translation, and place.
- Flexibility: Readiness to adapt to changes, including periods of little, more, or no time.
- Agility: quick, resourceful, and adaptable character. Use resources (people and things) to help you succeed.
Once you develop the proper perspective and prepare your heart, you are probably over 75% on your way to success. Please take a moment to think through what you just read. I estimated that about 75% of Bible reading is already done if you have the proper mindset and are mentally prepared to deal with the obstacles. This is because the heart is far more important than the actions or outward circumstances. A ready and willing heart can read through the Bible in 30 days, while an unprepared heart will struggle to read it through in 30 years.
With a ready heart, we can follow some practical steps to maximize our chances of success.
Follow Simple steps that increase your likelihood of success.
Let’s get to the mechanics, the steps. At the risk of coming through as repetitive and boring, I will repeat that the actual steps, which paradoxically are what many Christians are looking for, are not the most important. The right frame of mind described above—the correct mindset and preparation for the heart—are the significant determinants of success. Nevertheless, steps are still essential.
There are two significant steps here:
- Decide on the key components
- Follow your plan and just do it
Decide on the Key Components
There are several things you will need to decide before you start, including:
- Reading Plan
- Weekly Schedule
- Time, place, and setting
- Bible Translation and format
- Resources to use
By reading plan, I mean how you will read the Books, chapters, and verses—your reading plan. I know many of us are familiar with the hundreds of well-written plans freely available online. However, that many believers still cannot read through the bible with these plans should remind us that it is not the plan but the person executing it that matters most.
The basics of the Bible reading plan
Since the Bible is an enormous book and you plan to read it through not in one setting but over 12 months or 365 days, you need to know at least two important questions
- How many chapters or verses should you read a day to achieve your goal?
- Which order of books should you read?
Your reading plan is your plan that includes what passages to read and what order of books to follow.
The Bible has 1189 chapters. For the typical year with 365 days, on average, read 1189/365 = 3.2 chapters daily to read through the Bible. In practice, you can read three chapters on most days and four on some days.
Similarly, if you have to read through in two years, read on average 1189/730 = 1.6 chapters every day; in practice, reading two chapters about half the time and 1 chapter other times will take you through the Bible in two years.
A simple order to follow is to read both portions of the Old Testament and the New Testament each day. Except you have read through the Bible many times, are an expert, Bible scholar, or well grounded in the Scriptures, I suggest you stay far from any fancy or complex plans. Reading the Bible through is daunting for beginners, and any added layer of complexity exponentially increases your chances of failure. As noted above, keeping things simple is a prime principle of success.
With a plan in hand, you need to decide on your weekly schedule. Should you follow a seven days a week plan or five days a week?
Suppose you have attempted this and frequently missed days, a five-day-a-week plan that allows two days a week to catch up might work better. However, since Bible reading is not the same as devotional, though you follow a five-day-a-week Bible reading plan, do not develop a habit of spending devotional time with God 5 days a week. Strive to spend time with God daily—though you will often miss some days. That is life on earth!
Time, place, and Setting
Designing a time and a place to read the Bible and devoting that moment to be with the Lord in His Word increases your chances of spending time in the Word daily. In line with the principle of suitability, the time of the day and where you read should be most suitable to you in your personal Bible reading plan.
Most Christians read the Bible during their devotional time. That is the ideal setting for Bible reading. But it is also beneficial to incorporate non-devotional times as the need arises. The morning hours are best for the devotional before you start your day, but the evening hours might be preferable for some. Also, reading a few chapters a day before bed may prove valuable.
Bible translation and format
Every Christian should have a base Bible: a format and translation that their minds can master, memorize, and declare as the situation arises. The purpose of reading through the Bible is not to read through the Bible but to make the Word of God dwell richly in you (Colossians 3:16). For God’s Word to live abundantly in your mind, you must read, study and meditate on the same material multiple times.
If you are a Christian for any time, you have a translation that you use regularly. But if you are new, we suggest standard translations such as the English Standard Version, New International Version, or the King James translation. Your priority is to immerse yourself in your base translation and use other translations as needed in subsequent reads, Bible listening, or quick comparison to help understand difficult passages.
Similarly, we have the Bible in different formats today: print, electronic, and audio. Again, have a base format that you will repeatedly use for life, make it your own, and supplement it with other forms. We suggest a print Bible as your base Bible and use Bible Apps and audio bibles as supplements. Again, no rules here; have a base Bible in whatever format that you will read.
The essential resource for reading through the Bible is your Bible (format, translation). Additionally, supplemental resources will help you immensely in ways your base Bible will not; they are optional but recommended.
1. Bible App: if you have a smartphone, I recommend you have a Bible App installed; specifically, I recommend the YouVersion App, given its ease of use and features. The Bible App grants instant access to other translations to consult for difficult passages but also helps you read the Bible in situations you might not have a print Bible.
2. Audio Bible. Listening to the Bible is an excellent way to supplement your Bible reading. In fact, where you cannot read the Bible, you can instead listen to it. However, your Base Bible should not be an audio Bible for the reasons mentioned above. Instead, use it as an excellent supplement to your benefit.
3. Study Bible. In-depth Bible study will destroy your Bible reading. There is a time to read through the Bible, and there is a time for in-depth study; I cannot emphasize enough the importance of grasping this simple but profound truth. A study Bible is a quick reference to determine the meaning of difficult-to-read passages. I recommend the ESV Bible notes. Consult it not more than 1-2 times during your reading and 2-3 minutes each time.
Just Do it
Once you have developed the proper perspective, prepared your heart, and worked out the details, one thing is left: do it!
As you begin and continue to read through the Bible daily during the year, you will develop a personalized system that is customized to you and incorporates the essential principles outlined above. God does not want you to relate to Him as your pastor, that outstanding Bible teacher, or a friend. Instead, He wants you. So even if you learn something important from other believers and begin with their steps, your goal should not be to copy and duplicate the exact steps or procedures of others every time. As you grow, allow the Spirit to lead you to be you in God’s presence.
However, a step-by-step guide is advantageous; after all is said and done, there is a need for steps or procedures; we need the mechanics.
Step by Step
You can follow these steps when reading the Bible during your devotional time.
1. Respond to the call
Move to your devotional place or your closet at your set time. Few things show our devotion to God as stopping what we are doing to meet with Him at the set time of fellowship.
Gather what you need: Bible, notebooks; ensure your setting is conducive and turn off any devices as required.
The purpose of this prayer is to ask God for wisdom and understanding in reading His Word. In the setting of a devotional, this will be a devotional prayer and not merely an “opening prayer” to read the Bible. In non-devotional settings, you can say a purposeful prayer asking the Spirit for wisdom in reading His Word.
4. Read The allotted Chapters
Open the Bible and follow whatever personal plan you have for reading through the Bible. Remember, your goal here is not in-depth study or devotional Bible study. Underline, highlight, and take notes as needed. If a passage jumps at you, note that verse and plan to do a devotional study for that day (focused meditation) or an in-depth study later.
5. The Close
Again, in this devotional setting, your Bible reading should lead to a time of meditating on the Word (a devotional Bible study). During this time, you stop reading and meditate on specific passages. A closing prayer follows this, thanking the Lord and asking Him for wisdom and power to apply His Word fully.
6. Leave your closet full of God, ready to flourish and shine during the day!
Although reading through the Bible is a taxing commitment, it is doable with proper preparation and planning. We discussed three significant steps to read through the Bible: develop the proper perspective, prepare for difficulties and success, and follow simple steps to increase your chances of success. Furthermore, we mentioned that we do not read the Bible just to read through the Bible; we read the Bible to enrich our hearts with the knowledge of the Lord, which ultimately translates into an intimate relationship with Him.
Do you plan to read through the Bible in one year? Have you faced any difficulties before that made you give up or had any prior success with tips to help other believers? Please comment below to share with our visitors and us.
- What is Bible Reading?
- Four Reasons to Read Through the Bible In a Year
- State of Bible Reading amongst Christians
- Beginner friendly: An Article from Calming Grace on how to read the Bible in a year.
- More advanced readers: Three tips for Better Bible Reading from DesiringGod.org.