Reading the Bible in 2023
As a community of faith, in 2023, we’re reading the Bible together. Many of us have never done this. Or perhaps you tried and gave up in Leviticus. Or Judges. Or somewhere in the Old Testament. So, this year, we are going to do it together. Listen to Norton explain why we’re doing this and why you should participate. Here are a few things you can do to join us:
ONE: Join the group! Click here or the button below to register your involvement with us. We will regularly communicate with everyone who is undertaking this project with tips, suggestions, high-fives, and fist bumps.
TWO: Buy a physical copy of the Bible if you don’t already have one. You might be tempted to use your phone, but there are huge benefits to using a physical book instead. We offer numerous suggestions below on Bibles, translations, and audio versions.
THREE: Use the plan that we intentionally developed for this shared experience (see details below). Download and print out the plan so that you can mark off your progress.
FOUR: Establish a habit. Choose a regular time and place that you’ll read the Bible each weekday. There will be days that you don’t follow your routine or you forget. And that’s okay. But the more you can stick with a consistent habit, the better your chances of staying on track.
FIVE: Use the resources we provide below. Reading the Bible can be tough. After all, it was written thousands of years ago in a different language, different culture, and different part of the world. There will be times you’re confused. That’s normal. We’ve provided a ton of recommendations that will help you navigate these challenges.
SIX: Encourage a friend to do this with you. You are a million times more likely to finish this project and get something significant out of it if you’re doing it with others. We encourage groups of friends or D-Groups to discuss what they’re learning as they go.
SEVEN: Hang in there. Any practice worth doing (like learning to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language) takes time, patience, and endurance when you’re tired or face setbacks. When you get behind, don’t give up. Just keep going and use the built-in rest days to catch up. Give yourself grace AND keep going.
What if I’m brand new to reading the Bible?
Then you’ll have a really unique perspective. We can’t wait to hear what you learn and teach us.
What if I’ve done this before?
Awesome. We’re betting it was a great experience the first time you did it and that you’ll see and learn new things this time. The plan we’re using is very different and you might try using a new translation.
What if I don’t want to do this?
Then you’ll be shunned in our community. Kidding. You might have good reasons for not doing this and we will respect that. But we also hope everyone will consider joining us in doing this together.
What if I’m not a good reader?
Join the club. Many of us have a hard time reading something like the Bible. That’s why we’re doing this together.
Can I listen to the Bible instead of reading it?
Yep. Note: reading is the best option because it engages our minds and imaginations in unique ways. And it requires more of our attention. It’s easy to get distracted while listening to audio. So, prioritize reading if possible. But we provide some suggestions for listening to audio if that is your only option.
What if I don’t have enough time to do this?
You do. It will take about 20 minutes a day (30 max), five days a week. You’ll have the weekends off or for catching up.
Seriously, what if I don’t have enough time to do this?
The average American spends **8 hours every day** on their phone or watching TV. That doesn’t include time on computers or tablets. Track your screen time for a week and then ask yourself: do I really not have enough time to do this 20 minutes a day?
Is this only for adults?
No, we think anyone age 13 and older can do this. So if you have a teenager, invite them to read with you.
Can I join the plan late?
Yes! If you’re just a few days or weeks late, then maybe grind it out to catch up. If you join us later in the year, then start on the week where we currently are in the reading plan (not at the beginning), then you can come back to the beginning of the plan next year to finish the reading you missed. You will still be reading the whole Bible in a year.
Can I use a different Bible or translation than the ones recommended below?
Of course! There are many great options.
Will God be more proud of me if I do this?
Will I get instant benefits when I start doing this?
Maybe. But probably not.
Can I call myself a Bible scholar if I do this?
Why should I do this?
Why not? Also, see Psalm 119, Romans 15:4, and 2 Timothy 3:14-17.
Will we talk about this throughout the year at NDC?
Will there be awards at the end of the year for everyone who completes this?
We’re considering that… 🙂
Bible Reading Plan
We developed our own Bible reading plan because there were a few values that we thought it important to include (skip this part if you don’t care about the why):
- Reading from one section, one book at a time. Some Bible reading plans include an Old Testament, New Testament, Psalm, and Proverbs reading every day. Others skip around in different ways. We think it’s easier and more effective to read one section a day and stick with one book at a time.
- Mostly canonical. “Canonical” is a fancy technical term meaning the established order of the books of the Bible. There’s an important progression and learning that happens when you read the books in the order we have them. From time to time, our plan diverges from this (for reasons discussed next), but overall, we follow the general order from Old Testament to New Testament.
- Exceptions to the rule. A few times during the year, we jump out of order. For example, during Lent, when we should still be in the Old Testament, we read a few New Testament books about Jesus and his sacrifice. We also sprinkle in a few weeks of Psalms throughout the year and break up the Old Testament prophets a bit (you’ll thank us later).
- Weekday reading. Most Bible reading plans are for every day of the year (all 365). We’ve learned that it can be tough to never have “rest days” or “catch-up days.” A plan where you read five days a week takes a little bit longer each day but provides weekends off, which is really helpful over the long run.
Here’s the reading plan (we will have printed copies at NDC or print your own and check off each day):
- Why are we doing this? (start here!)
- Sermon message about the importance of engaging Scripture (start here too!)
- Supplemental message with practical tips for how to read the Bible
- People of the Book series:
Books and Videos:
- How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart
- How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart
- A Reader’s Guide to the Bible by John Goldingay
- Enjoying the Bible by Matthew Mullins
- How to Read the Bible videos at The Bible Project
- Book Overview videos at The Bible Project
First, let’s talk about translations. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. That means every English Bible is a translation from the original language. Because there are different translation philosophies, there are many different English translations. We discussed this in two recents sermon at NDC that you can listen to here and here.
While there are many good translations, we recommend these three:
- NIV (New International Version) – probably the most respected, well-known, and commonly used English translation.
- NLT (New Living Translation) – very readable and more accessible than the NIV; one of the best translations for reading through the Bible in a year.
- The Message – a unique translation written using modern language, idioms, and literary forms; a great option for those who have read through the whole Bible before but are looking for something fresh and new.
There are two general types of Bibles: a simple, plain Bible that is mostly just the biblical text, and a study Bible that also includes lots of additional resources and footnotes for understanding what you are reading. A good study Bible can be very helpful. Two that we recommend are:
However, for reading through the Bible in a year, it’s often easier to use a plain Bible without any study notes. Single-column is nice. Also, some new “reader’s versions” of the Bible have taken out the verse and chapter numbers (which were not in the original text) in order to read more like a normal book. Here are a few suggestions you might consider:
Note: if you do not have a Bible or cannot afford to purchase one, we will be happy to give you one at NDC. Just ask one of hte pastors or email us at [email protected].
Regarding audio Bibles, the easiest thing to do is download the YouVersion Bible app (free) on your phone and use the audio versions included for either the NIV, NLT, or Message. Another great option is the Dwell app (1-year subscription cost). It has numerous voices and ambient music options for listening to the Bible on your phone. Also, there’s an app called the Courage for Life Bible that includes the audio version of the NLT read by women.
One of our goals is to help you along as you read new sections of the Bible. Throughout the year, we will pause our current sermon series to teach and discuss what is coming up in a new section of the Bible that we will be reading together. We hope these sermons help you prepare and stay motivated. Our tentative schedule:
- January 1st: Intro to the Pentateuch
- April 16th: Intro to the OT Historical Books
- June 4th: Intro to OT Wisdom and Poetry
- July 2nd: Intro to OT Prophets
- September 3rd: Exile and the Intertestamental Period
- October 8th: Intro to NT Gospels and Letters