Why I Dropped the Horner Bible Reading Plan

So, it’s February, how are we doing with those New Year’s Resolutions to read more? I don’t remember where I first came across Professor Horner’s Bible Reading Plan. You can find the details on Professor Horner’s Facebook page here. YouVersion also have the plan in the reading plans section of their app, if you wish to try it, or keep track of your progress electronically. I very much prefer reading in a physical Bible with bookmarks, but sometimes flicking back and forth is just so much less convenient than clicking from one reading to the next in YouVersion.

In short, the plan goes thus: You take ten bookmarks, place them throughout your Bible and read one chapter at each mark each day. That’s right, ten chapters each day, from the Gospels, Pentateuch, major epistles, minor epistles/Revelation, Old Testament wisdom literature, Psalms, Proverbs, Old Testament History, prophets and Acts.The idea is to read quickly without delving deep into the text, and to do it repeatedly so that it is drilled into your memory by repetition. If you use the same translation and physical Bible consistently, you get very familiar with that translation’s wording and where specific words/phrases/verses and paragraphs are on the page. If you’ve been using the same Bible for 5 or ten years, I’m sure you’ve found this effect already, if you’re like me any way (I know it was about here on the page, but where’s that page…). You also see various parts of scripture referring to and commentating on eachother, and certain topics and phrases repeated and emphasised in both Old and New Testaments in ways you did not expect. Professor Horner has apparently read this way for 30+ years, sometimes doubling up days (twenty chapter days) or splitting days in half (five chapter days).


If you have the time, this sounds like a fantastic plan, if lacking on indepth devotional focus and study. I did it successfully for awhile, but as my son got older (and stopped sleeping half the day), my opportunity to read at length uninterrupted, and hence quickly, diminished quickly. More and more I found myself trying to finish my day’s reading late at night, not an ideal situation on a regular basis, when it is voluntarily forced more than out of desire.
The main problem I found with the plan, however, is that I find it hard to read without thinking and digesting what I’m reading at length, with connected cross-referencing and research. This does not facilitate easy 30-45 minute daily readings from the plan. The plan, it is claimed, will make you “wonder how you ever survived before on such a slim diet of the Word” – I found this somewhat true – it did reignite my desire to read and study the Word. Deep study is somewhat precluded by the fast reading required for the plan (which I lack the discipling to stick to), and that, along with the time issue, is why I am quitting the Horner Bible Reading Plan in favour of a more focused reading of the Word.

This decision has been a month or two in coming. I’ve been meeting my ten chapter goals less and less, the plan becoming more of a burden than a joy, and with other reading commitments, in my current circumstances decidedly unwieldy. I read this article by Jim Elliff, as well as a couple of others (that I can’t remember, and wish I could find to reference), and Elliff’s pint make sense, and seems to be where I’m at. Basically, he’s advocating a similarly immersive approach to Professor Horner, but not with quite the same daily volume, rather focussing on one or a few books (or sections of the Bible, like the minor prophets or Acts and the letters) at a time for periods of weeks or months. You wouldn’t get the same ‘big picture’ view of the Bible as a whole this way, but you get a nice in depth study, and the big picture of a whole book or section, that you don’t get with Horner’s jumping around, and that I didn’t get when I did Bible-in-a-Year plans.
I haven’t chosen any books of the Bible for this yet, and will have to pray further on that, although I will be able to give much more time to 1st Timothy than I’ve been able to so far. 

[I’m taking a free online course at Eternity on 1st Timothy, you can register to take a free course through their Silo project too, until the 1st of Feb. See here my other post for more information.]

Ironically, since it was Nate’s original post on dropping the Horner plan that was part of my taking it up, I plan to take a leaf our of his redux on that post and leave a lot of variability in my planned Bible reading. This is good for me, not just because my daily opportunity to sit down and read varies, but rathe than sticking to a rigid daily plan, I can meditate on a verse or passage, read an entire book, or supplement with various devotional books. There are several Christian books I am slowly reading, and I wish to give more time to these (which I’d more or put down the last month or two). Additionally, while I was failing at the Horner plan, I took up a couple of other devotional plans through YouVersion (essentially a verse or few plus exhortational commentary), as well as John Piper’s daily devotional app Solid Joys, on my tablet to supplement my (declining reading with much more condensed reading. These have been good for mornings, bathroom breaks, while my son is going to sleep in my arms and I haven’t the hands to flick back and forth through a Bible, and evenings before bed when I haven’t read much that day. Smaller, but more focused readings will also allow me to read and then think about that scripture on and off throughout the day, smaller reading windows not hindering as much (not that I probably won’t be reading larger chunks as well, possibly more at times than the Horner plan dictated).

So that’s the (rough) plan. Taking advantage of the fact that I get distracted and sidetracked easily, which in reading my Bible (as long as it stays on the Bible) is not a terribly bad thing at all. It, somewhat ironically, requires more discipline of me than the rigid plan that I wasn’t able to keep to. Hopefully my discipline to read will be aided by the stimulation that digging deep into the Word tends to give me, and of course bu His guidance as I read, to focus and think about things, rather than merely reading what is given, when I can get to it. I will be keeping the Horner plan on my YouVersion, and the bookmarks in my Bible, for starting places, downtime etc and work through it slowly over time, for intentional variety’s sake as much as anything, to make sure I don’t neglect books or sections in the long term. I also get to go back to using my study Bible, where I was reading mostly in a single column journalling Bible, which is great for longer reading, but not so much for study.

Pray for me. I’ll try to update at some point as to how this is going.



Spirit Filled Life Bible (NKJV)           ESV Single Column Journaling Bible (Red)