Table Talk

The 5/7 Plan

The first Bible reading plan anyone ever shared with me may be the best plan for developing a daily habit of Bible reading.

I learned it soon after I was saved as a college freshman, and it's called the 5/7 plan. The plan is to read the Bible for at least five minutes a day, seven days a week. This idea is deceptively simple, yet effective in making Bible reading a daily habit.

Here's the secret that everyone who daily reads the Bible knows: the hard part is getting started.

But with the 5/7 plan, the time commitment on the front end isn't large, so it's easy to get started. And everyone has five minutes to give in a day.

When I first tried it, something surprised me. As it turned out, that five minute period actually went by pretty fast and I ended up reading longer than five minutes. As I became consistent, I was increasingly eager to read the Bible and devoted more time to it.

Someone could object: "Five minutes isn't long enough!"

But here's the math: 5 > 0. Better to read something than nothing.

Just by starting, most people will read for longer than 5 minutes.

Here's one other benefit to the 5/7 plan that I didn't learn until later. By consistently reading each day, the amount of the Bible I could read over time was massive.

Average readers read between 200 to 300 words per minute. How long do you suppose it would take you to read the entire Bible every year at those speeds?

At 200 w.p.m., just under 11 minutes a day.

At 250 w.p.m., under 9 minutes a day.

At 300 w.p.m., about 7 minutes a day.

It's like a dripping faucet. Each drip doesn't amount to much. But come back later and the bucket will be filled.

In this way, I read the entire Bible for the first time in my life as an undergrad.

So if you haven't developed the habit of daily Bible reading, try the 5/7 plan. You'll be amazed at how easy it is and how much of the Bible you'll read.

Drip. Drip. Drip. . .

5 Tips for Jumping Back into Bible Reading

We're already one-quarter into the year. If your Bible reading has fallen off, here's five tips to jump back in.

1. Start anywhere you'd like.

For many people, starting in Genesis and working your way through Revelation won't be the best plan. Pick a book of the Bible you're interested in reading and begin reading there.

2. Keep a record of what you've read.

We all have favorite books in the Bible that we enjoy reading. That's great, but we also want to take in the whole counsel of God in all the Scriptures. To avoid reading the same books over and over again, keep a log of what you've read this year. I've been using this one from the Navigator's for nearly two decades.

3. Try listening while you read.

Does your mind ever wander as you read? One way to help stay focused is to listen to the Bible read as you read along. I especially like doing this with Old Testament narrative books. I use the ESV mobile app.

You'll notice that the app reads slower than what you can probably read. One trick I use is to speed up the audio. In the ESV app, I timed the Fast Speed at 250 words per minute, a pace that is still very easy to comprehend but keeps moving so that you'll stay with it.

One caution: as you listen, don't start doing something else (like checking your email). Have your Bible open and follow along. Your understanding of the text will increase, plus you'll learn how to say all those hard-to-pronounce names!

4. Make a plan, a place, and a space.

Without a plan, a place, and a space, the likelihood that you'll be consistent in Bible reading is slim. So, first, make a plan. Know before you go to bed what you'll be reading the next day. What chapter will you start with and where will you end? A Bible reading plan can be a great tool to help you read through the whole Bible regularly. 

Next, know before you go to bed when you'll be reading your Bible. In other words, make a space in your calendar. Treat it like a doctor's appointment. You won't cancel those appointments unless it's an emergency. So make a commitment. This is a time to read God's very words, after all.

Finally, make a space where you'll go to read. Know exactly where you plan to read. Is it a favorite chair? A coffee shop? A park? Decide now and put it in your calendar. If it's in your home, make the space free of distractions the night before (e.g., take the laundry off the chair!).

5. Start fresh every day.

Let's say yesterday you got off schedule and didn't read what you'd planned. Start fresh today. Forget about trying to make up readings. That gets discouraging. Just start right back in today with a clean slate. His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23).

Keep at it. God has treasures stored in his word waiting for you to discover. Just imagine what he has in store for you as you read in 2016!