Yesterday I introduced the Via Emmaus Reading Plan. Today I want to share a few aims of this reading plan, as well as ways to customize it for your personal reading. If what follows sounds like a personal trainer talking, it is. My undergraduate degree (Exercise Science) and one of the most recent books I read (Hearers and Doers by Kevin Vanhoozer) both contribute to the belief that pastors should be fitness instructors for the church. Vanhoozer even calls them “body builders”—very witty and very true!
So here’s a Bible reading plan complete with various stages for different “fitness” levels. For those who have never read the Bible before, there is a way to start reading the Bible and learn about Christ with God’s people. And for those who have been reading the Bible for decades, this approach will hopefully incorporate many familiar practices to help saturate yourself with biblical truth.
For sake of order, I will answer four questions to explain how this Bible reading plan works and how you can tailor it to match your time, interest, and desires. Here are the four questions:
- What is the aim of this Bible reading plan? Or what makes the Via Emmaus Bible reading plan unique?
- How does this plan work? Really?!?
- How do I read in community? Where can I find a community?
- What sort of supplements should I take (read) with my Bible reading? Or, how do I increase of decrease the load?
Let’s take each in turn.
1. What is the aim of this Bible reading plan? Or, what makes the Via Emmaus Bible reading plan unique?
The goal of this reading plan is not to get you through the Bible, the aim—if God permits—is to get the Bible into and through you!
Whenever we set out do something, we should look at our final goal and develop our plans accordingly. This is as true for Bible reading as for as anything else in life. Applying this “Why” principle—i.e., Why are we reading the Bible?—to a plan for reading the Bible, this plan aims for Scripture saturation. It does provide an orderly way to read the whole Bible in 1, 2, or 3 years, but the comprehensive reading is the fruit of the main goal—reading the Bible to grow in our knowledge and love of God and his Word.
In Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, he devotes two chapters to “Bible Intake.” In them, he lists (1) hearing God’s Word, (2) reading God’s Word, (3) studying God’s Word, (4) memorizing God’s Word, (5) meditating on God’s Word, and (6) applying God’s Word as necessary ways to take in the Bible. This plan seeks to appropriate all of these strategies, one (or two) book(s) at a time.
Yes, you could diversify your Bible intake, but the aim of this plan is to saturate ourselves in one book . . . and then another . . . and another. Every two or three years we repeat. In this way, the disciple of Christ gains a deeper knowledge of God and his Word. In short, this approach has four key components that work together to help immerse disciples of Christ in God’s Word.
1. Reading for saturation is the chief goal.
This will be achieved by all the means listed by Donald Whitney (and then some more). Reading long sections of books or whole books in one sitting is encouraged to promote familiarity with the shape of entire books. There is no specified number of times to read a book in a given month, though we will give some tips along the way. The goal is Scripture immersion by means of reading, re-reading, listening, memorizing, studying, discussing, and prayerful meditation.
2. Related Memorization . . . will be supplied to facilitate Scripture meditation.
Each month we will suggest a chapter to memorize as well as a list of key verses. Whereas other Scripture memory is encouraged, by memorizing texts in the book you are reading, you will assist meditating on the month’s book. Combining Scripture memory with immersive reading of a book not only reinforces the verses being memorized, it also helps place them in context. Conversely, the memory work will help recall the big ideas of the book itself. So instead of separating reading and memorizing, this plan aims to bring them together.
3. Online Resources . . . will be provided each week to assist biblical comprehension.
God’s Word is not meant to be read and forgotten; it is meant to be understood and applied. Often such understanding comes when we learn from trusted teachers. For this purpose Via Emmaus will continue to provide biblical and theological resources, many of which will relate to this reading plan. Certainly, this website does not have corner on the market for theological interpretation or biblical teaching. But biblical theology for the church is why this blog exists, and this year it will focus on helping read the Bible.
Online resources will include Scripture memory suggestions, sermons, articles, and podcasts. Some of these will be culled from trusted gospel ministries; some will be written here. If it serves you, you can have have these resources emailed to you by signing up for emails from Via Emmaus. (See the email sign on the sidebar).
4. Local Gatherings . . . are encouraged to promote personal accountability and encouragement.
God has not given the Bible to individuals to read it alone; he has given the Bible to found churches. And the best place to find a community is in your local church. If you find this approach to reading the Bible helpful, share it with a few friends at church and find a time to discuss what you are learning in Scripture. At our church, we will take one Sunday School hour per month to offer a time of reflection and discussion on the book of the month. How might you bring people together to read Scripture together?
These four priorities serve as the pillars for this reading plan.
2. How does this reading plan work? Really?!?
Here is the plan itself. Below I will explain some of its key features.
|Tracks||Old Testament 1
Law + Prophets
|Old Testament 2
Prophets + Writings
|August||1–2 Samuel||The Five Scrolls||Galatians–
Pick 1, 2, or 3 tracks.
The number of tracks you read at one time will determine the pace of your reading. If you are just starting to read the Bible, you may consider starting with Track #3 to begin with the New Testament. Alternatively, you may want to read two tracks, one from the OT and one from the NT. Whichever you chose, the goal is to read one book for one month. This allows for longer readings and more detailed study. If you choose to add another track or two, this will get you through the whole Bible faster, but it might be difficult to focus on more than one book a month.
Personally, I will focus on Track #2 in 2020 and read Track #3 as well.** In the morning, I will spend my best moments reading Isaiah et al. Then in the afternoon, I will read a chapter of the New Testament. As a pastor, I will also include some Epistle reading in preparation for Sunday mornings, as well as Psalms for prayer. I’ll share more about customizing your reading plan below. For now, let’s consider why reading the Bible with others is so important.
**The reason I, along with our church, is starting with Track #2 is because we already started a two-year Bible reading plan and many of us are in the middle of the Old Testament. Also, many have read Genesis many times, but not the Latter Prophets and Writings. So Via Emmaus will, Lord willing, focus on Track #2 in 2020, Track #3 in 2021, and Track #1 in 2022.
3. How do I read in community?
The simplest and best answer is: find like-minded Bible readers in your own church. Don’t start by looking for a group outside your church; start in your church. Find a time to meet and discuss what you are learning and struggling to understand. God’s Word is not meant to be read in isolation. It is for community, especially community where you can meet in person and see each other face to face (2 John 12; 3 John 12).
Moreover, invite your pastor(s) to be a part of your Bible reading. He would love to know what you’re reading, what you are learning, and what you are struggling to understand or apply. He may not join you in this plan, but he would love to know what you are reading.
To aid local churches, this blog will have share articles and audio that I hope will serve God’s people. Nevertheless, it cannot replace your local gospel-preaching church. God has placed you in a specific place at a specific time and the best thing you can do in reading the Bible is look for local Christians to share that experience.
If you don’t have a gospel-believing, Word-saturated church near you, pray God would raise up a people who hunger for the Word. Pray for teachers to rightly handle the Word of Truth. You can find good gospel-believing churches on this church search. Or maybe the Lord would lead you to become one of a group who would work towards founding a gospel-preaching church. Wherever you find yourself, look for other gospel-believing people in a local church and join them in reading the Bible.
4. What sort of supplements can I take with my main course? Or, how do I increase of decrease the load?
So this really sounds like a workout advertisement now, but I close with this last question to reaffirm the flexibility of this reading plan. Just as no two bodies are the same with respect to strength and stamina, neither are two believers the same in their spiritual fitness, maturity, or availability. What’s good for a pastor may not be good for father of four who is working full-time and going back to school. Likewise what is good for a stay-at-home-mom, busy with little ones, may not be the same as a college student interested in vocational missions. In short, your season in life should be taken into consideration when you plan out a reading plan.
With that in mind, the least demanding course of reading in this plan would be taking one track per year and faithfully reading God’s Word. This may include some Scripture memory and reading an occasional article. But if you have limited time, read more of the Bible and find brothers or sisters in Christ with whom you can share your discoveries.
Then, if you want to add to your reading plan, you could add tracks, you could increase Scripture memory, you could meet once per week (instead of once per month) with a group who is diving deeper into God’s Word, and you could also ingest sermons, articles, podcasts, etc. If you want to add more Scripture, you could also add in a daily Psalm and Proverb, or one Epistle per weekend. In the weeks ahead, we will share more resources on these supplements. But for now, the basic format is one book per month, with an occasional second book or three, if you add tracks.
In short, there is incredible flexibility to this reading plan. And how much you read in a given day is up to you. Even if you miss a day, this plan is helpful because the goal is not daily readings, but a month-long meditation. You might even plan one Sunday a month where you can read a whole book in one sitting. Or if the book is 66 chapters (like Isaiah), maybe you make it two readings. Either way, this plan doesn’t have “make up” days, where you catch up on your reading. Instead, it encourages you to set aside to meditate long and deep on God’s Word.
Moreover, this year Via Emmaus will toprovide various resources to help you along the way. And if there are ideas or interests that would help others in reading the Bible, please share. If there are resources you have read, recorded, or written that might be helpful for others, you can put them in the comments sections of related posts or you email them to ViaEmmaus@obc.org. You can also send questions about the Bible to that same email address, where in the new year, we will also unroll a new season of the Via Emmaus podcast Reading the Bible Better.
I am excited to begin this Bible reading plan. In many ways it organizes how I’ve read the Bible for years. And now I look forward to sharing it with my church family at Occoquan Bible Church and with any others who might benefit from it.
To that end, may God grant us the time, desire, and ability to immerse ourselves in his Word, that we might see more of him. And in seeing more of him, may God make us more like his Son. Truly, this is the ultimate goal of reading the Bible and why this reading plan exists.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
 Pick 1, 2, or 3 tracks. The number of tracks you read at once determines the pace of your reading. You may consider starting with Track #3 if you want to begin with the New Testament. Alternatively, you may want to read two tracks, one from the OT and one from the NT. Whichever you chose, the goal is to read one book for one month. This allows for longer readings and more detailed study. Details on this approach will come out tomorrow.
 ‘The Twelve’ are the Minor Prophets read as one book, rather than 12 isolated books. The Minor Prophets include Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
 The ‘Five Scrolls’ (Megilloth) are a collection of “shorter OT books, brief enough to be read publicly at an annual religious festival: Song of Songs (Passover), Ruth (Pentecost), Lamentations (the ninth of Ab), Ecclesiastes (Tabernacles), and Esther (Purim).”
 The ‘General Epistles’ are the Epistles not written by Paul, namely, James, 1–2 Peter, 1–3 John, and Jude.
 We will also supply a Advent Reading Plan each December. These Old Testament selections will complement and support the reading of Matthew, Luke, and Revelation—each of which testify to the birth of Christ (Matt. 1–2, Luke 1–2, Revelation 12).