Insanely Normal Times: Why TGC Will Read Through the Bible Again in 2021 – Justin Dillehay

“The dumbest thing I ever did was purchase a 2020 planner.” So says one of many internet memes about this crazy year. We knew it was election year and all. But social distancing, urban rioting, mass unemployment, and of course, COVID-19—none of these was in anyone’s planner on New Year’s Day 2020 (except God’s).

So it’s almost comical that we at The Gospel Coalition chose 2020 as the year to suggest a Bible-reading plan. Such plans can be hard to stick to when life is normal.

If 2020 has done anything, though, it’s left us all longing for “normal” to return.

Reflections on ‘Read the Bible in 2020’

We’re not suggesting that Read the Bible in 2020 was the dumbest thing TGC ever did. Not at all. Comical, yes, in how it highlights our blissful ignorance of the future (hindsight is 2020, literally in this case). But it’s also been providential. Rather than concluding, “Looks like we picked the wrong year to launch a Bible-reading program,” 2020 has simply confirmed why we needed it.

Rather than concluding, ‘Looks like we picked the wrong year to launch a Bible-reading program,’ 2020 has simply confirmed why we needed it.

We knew that 2020 would be full of potential distractions—we just didn’t know how many. We knew that it would bring unexpected challenges (see James 4:14)—now we know from experience. Some who began M’Cheyne’s plan on January 1 are now working in a different job. Some are working the same job from home. Some have spent weeks confined to their home. Some have lost loved ones to COVID-19.

All of this reminds us why Read the Bible was (and still is) a good idea: because “the grass withers [and] the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:8). Do you want to know what’s normal in this fallen world? Instability is normal. Suffering is normal. Death is normal. Nothing in this world is permanent except God’s Word, and that is the one thing needful (Luke 10:42).

That’s why we launched Read the Bible in 2020: to encourage churches and Christians to sit at Jesus’s feet and hear God’s Word when there are so many things to be “anxious and troubled about” (Luke 10:41).

For Those Who Persevered (And Those Who Didn’t)

If you’ve persevered with the M’Cheyne plan in 2020, congratulations! If this was your first time ever reading through the entire Bible, we rejoice with you. We hope you found God’s Word to be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Ps. 119:105). We hope that the time required of you to keep up with the (admittedly quick) pace set by M’Cheyne distracted you from much worldly trivia, and left you in improved spiritual shape.

Nothing in this world is permanent except God’s Word, and that is the one thing needful.

But if you failed to finish with M’Cheyne, you’re not alone. Research suggests that Bible reading has actually declined during the pandemic, with fewer people reading their Bibles daily in 2020 compared to 2019. Perhaps you’ve felt more crunched for time now that you’re a part-time homeschooling parent. Or perhaps working from home has blurred the old boundaries and allowed work to bleed into all of life.

Whatever the case, don’t feel condemned. But do fight. Fight to hear God’s Word. Not finishing the M’Cheyne plan is one thing, but allowing the cares of life to crowd out the Bible is another entirely. Being busy is not a legitimate excuse to neglect the Word of God. On the contrary, these are the very “worldly cares” that Jesus warned will choke out the Word if we let them (Matt. 13:22; Luke 14:17–20; 21:34). God means for increased pressure to drive us to the Word, not away from it.

And if you’d like to get back on the horse and take another swing at the M’Cheyne reading plan, you’re going to get another chance.

Looking Ahead to 2021

We at TGC have again partnered with Crossway to launch Read the Bible in 2021. The goal is to help individual Christians and churches read God’s Word faithfully next year. Once again, it’ll involve:

  1. Bible-Reading Plan. Reading the Bible following Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s plan, which will take us through the entire Bible in a year (including the New Testament and Psalms twice). This is the main course. The rest are side dishes. Download the PDF reading plan, print it out, and place it in your Bible. If you’re a pastor, small-group leader, or one-on-one discipler, consider printing out copies to give away and inviting others to join you as you commit to the reading plan.
  2. Daily Newsletter. A daily newsletter with Don Carson’s devotional reflection along with related articles and links to each day’s Bible readings. Subscribe to the newsletter.
  3. Podcast. An audio-podcast reading of Don Carson’s For the Love of God (vol. 2), a daily devotional commentary that follows the M’Cheyne reading plan: podcast (Apple | RSS | Stitcher).
  4. Online Articles. Bible and theology articles on TGC’s website that track with the weekly Bible readings and help us answer tough questions that arise from what we’re reading in God’s Word.
  5. Facebook Group. More than 2,000 people have joined our Facebook group for mutual accountability and sharing reflections from God’s Word.

So we invite you—individual Christians, families, pastors, church leaders, school administrators—to consider joining us in 2021 to read the Bible together.

Starting a Bible-reading plan can be as uncertain as buying a planner. Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Plans are never fool-proof; who knows whether next year will be any more “normal” than this one has been. But this much we know: no Christian who decides to read through the Bible in 2021 is ever going to look back and think, That was the dumbest thing I ever did.

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