Why I Dropped the Horner Bible Reading Plan

February 8, 2012 — 37 Comments

[UPDATESee my re-engagement with the Horner Plan in 2014]

A while back, I told you about a Bible reading plan that was developed by Prof. Grant Horner. Thanks to Tim Challies I was introduced to this plan and decided to start it at the beginning of this year. It was part of a 3650 challenge to read 10 chapters a day for the whole year.

Now, I wasn’t so much sold on the challenge as I was sold on the idea of being more consistent in reading Scripture daily. I wasn’t convinced that the underlying presuppositions of the plan were actually the best way to grow in personal knowledge of God’s word. However, it was suggested to try it for a month, and so I thought, “Why not?”

I also almost immediately made adjustments to the cycles that Prof. Horner had set up. After working with that for a while, I decided I just didn’t like the pace, especially with all the other reading I do on a daily basis. I don’t think I’m necessarily downgrading my Bible reading so I have more time in the morning to other books. I’m just re-orienting what I’m aiming to do with my personal Bible reading and making room for more focused study of Scripture alongside daily reading.

Right now, our church is moving through the Gospel of Mark, and as a newly minted small group leader, I want to make sure I’m not just breezing through the passage, and then expecting to lead a group of college students in studying and applying it well to their own lives. They always have good questions, and often are looking for further clarification on some parts of the text that are not addressed on Sundays. My hope in studying the passage more myself is that I can supplement the message on Sunday by providing more exposition but also help to make the application less abstract and more concrete for the people in our group.

Additionally, I’ve started leading two separate Bible studies for high school boys (more on that soon!). Thankfully, both are going to be going through Ephesians. But, there again, that means slower, focused study of that section of Scripture on my part. As you can imagine, the first week in one of the Bible studies involved a discussion of predestination, which is only a sign of things to come with a densely theological and practical book like Ephesians.

Lastly, for my personal reading, I feel that I need to focus on the Old Testament more. So, I’m keeping four tracks within the Old Testament for my daily readings:

  • Historical (Genesis-2 Chronicles)
  • Wisdom (Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Songs)
  • Psalms
  • Prophets (Isaiah-Malachi)

The way I’m approaching it each day is to simply read however much I have time for. If it’s a more leisurely morning, then I’ll read more than one chapter in each cycle. If it’s not, then I read a chapter on each cycle. I’ve found this fits better into my overall study patterns and keeps me open to being able to take stay and linger a while in Mark and Ephesians, while I can also cover some ground in the Old Testament on a recurring basis.

This also fits better with how I understand we grow in our knowledge of Scripture. The Horner plan implies that this happens through osmosis. In some sense, if you read 10 chapters a day for a year it will infiltrate your heart and mind. But, if you’re reading so fast that you don’t have time to slow down and understand it, it might not be doing you too much good. I know many people who are very knowledgeable in what Scripture says (i.e. they know verses) but are not very knowledgeable in what Scripture teaches (i.e. they don’t understand what the verses really mean).

Since I’ve made it a point to pursue specifically growing in the latter (what the verses mean), then I need a Bible plan that allows for that kind of study. With some tinkering, I think I might have found it, but I’ll be sure and update you next month.


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

37 responses to Why I Dropped the Horner Bible Reading Plan

  1. I think you’re missing out on something good. If you are leading, you need to be “eating” more than they are because they will suck you dry if you don’t nourish yourself spiritu

    • Oh I would agree that I need to be “eating” more than they are, I just don’t think this plan is the best way to go about it. I’ve got it on mp3 and plan to start incorporating that into my routine, but at this point, I think I’m pretty well nourished spiritually, but that doesn’t keep me from being continually hungry!

  2. A suggestion: listen to it on an ipod or on the computer and follow along in your Bible. It goes quickly and gets you into the Word.

  3. I notice that you said you almost immediately made adjustments to the cycles that Professor Horner set up, so maybe it would not be good to say that you dropped the Horner Bible Reading Plan because it sounds to me like you didn’t actually do the Horner Bible Reading Plan as he says to do it.

    I just came across this plan today and I haven’t tried it yet. I’m just doing some research on it to try to decide if I will try it, but he does say to follow his plan for 30 days and then decide, so if you didn’t actually do that, then perhaps it isn’t a good thing to make it sound like his plan wasn’t useful for you.

    Maybe you could try it without your own changes for 30 days before deciding if it is useful or not.

    • Did you read the adjustments I made? The essence of Horner’s plan was still in force, there’s nothing particularly magic about using his specific cycles. The point is to be reading a large volume of Scripture from a wide variety of places on a daily basis, and I did that for more than 30 days.

      • I would think that if you didn’t need to use the specific cycles that he prescribes, then he probably would have mentioned that. I didn’t see anything about switching things around to suit what each individual wanted to read.

        I’m just saying that I don’t feel that you followed his plan so it might not be good to have commented on it. I still stand with that.

        • That’s fine, I think you’re missing the point, and I’ll stand with that.

        • As a newly minted small group leader, you might want to learn from others with more experience so you can better lead others. That is one of the most wasted resources, learning from the more experienced. At least, stay in the Word on a daily basis.

          • I’m not particularly a newly minted small group leader, and I learn a lot from the more experienced. I’m going for depth in my Bible reading, not width, which is why I’m not doing Horner’s plan. I realize they aren’t mutually exclusive, but for me it too easily becomes a checklist when its conforming to volume based plan like this.

      • FWIW, I think that Horner’s specific cycles are there for specific reasons, rather than just a pseudo-random picking of books. Gospel + Torah + Pauline General Epistle + Pastoral/non-Pauline General Epistle + Wisdom + Psalm + Proverb + History + Prophet + Church History every day has a definite impact.

        I did the plan last year (well – I did around 260 days worth, thus managing every chapter at least once) and was amazed at the difference it made to my spiritual journey. This year I’ve been doing 5 chapters a day, but using the same cycles. The side benefit was that I actually needed to readjust my life a bit to fit in the reading, which included doing my reading at breakfast which means that my kids actually get to see me modelling my own Bible reading, and they managed to learn all of the lists by heart).

        Not saying that you should go back, or anything, but wanted to give a little bit of clarity to the reasoning behind the lists.

        • Ben,

          I would definitely agree there are specific reasons for the cycles. I don’t think I implied here that it was random, and if I did, that is my mistake. I think my other post on the adjustments I made explained my issue with the cycles, which wasn’t that they seemed random. Rather, I don’t think that it is the best selection of cycles, or as I put it, I think it is imbalanced.

          That’s good to hear that the plan worked well for you this past year and that it forced you to make changes in your schedule. I too having been doing a 5 chapters a day plan, but just with different cycles. I found in general I wanted to emphasize quality reading over quantity reading on a regular basis, but have times when I sit down to do reading in large sections of Scripture.

      • Pastor Bill Slack December 29, 2015 at 6:57 pm

        Nate… I don’t think you gave the plan enough time.. I have been ding it for about 3 years now (naturally not perfectly!) and it has revolutionized my preaching and teaching. It’s not “osmosis” and it doesn’t replace deeper study – but it really does work – at least for me. Now.. I am in full time ministry,. The plan takes about an hour a day for me (and I also have modified the plan – I do 13 chapters a day, doubling up the OT chapters so I get through them twice a year). Personally, I think that spending an hour just in the Word a day (no commentaries etc.) makes good sense for a pastor.. Anyway that’s just one beggar’s opinion!

  4. I am currently in the plan, and I am enjoying it. I don’t anticipate using it forever, for the reason you dropped it–I will want to go back to slower study. That said, I have very much enjoyed the parallels in text and the generous amount of Scripture that I am bathing with every day. I was looking for a way to grasp my mind better around the whole of Scripture, to reunite with some of the smaller books, to make wisdom literature a daily reading, to see Scripture interpret Scripture. I am not surprised by your reasons for dropping it, but I wouldn’t find those same reasons compelling for myself at this time. Most of all, I look forward to having just a bit of the recall Horner has. I’ve heard the man pray and he knows Scripture well. He attributes much of his familiarity with Scripture to this system–and using the same Bible for years.

    • I think using the same Bible for several years is one of the more attractive parts of the plan and I’ve kept up with that actually. That is encouraging to hear that Dr. Horner is steeped in Scripture. I hope to be myself some day as well, I just didn’t find his specific plan to work best for me.

  5. I think the take away here is that you tweaked a plan to make it the most beneficial for your needs. You are not telling others not to use the plan, you are informing them of your personal reasons for an adjustment to make a correct prescription of personal devotions for you at this time. I wish you great success with your plan and growth in your Christian walk. We would all do ourselves a favor to keep checking on how best to be reading and studying God’s Word. I also think that Prof. Horner does not expect everyone to follow the plan exactly and forever.

    • Margaret, that’s exactly it. Good to know as well that Prof Horner doesn’t consider it “the” plan (I didn’t get that impression, that’s why I felt free to personalize it).

  6. Hey Nate,

    I am a former student of Horner, and I just thought I may be able to convey his personal sentiments on his reading plan as he conveyed them to me.

    The principle of his reading plan is to increase the breadth of scripture reading that Christians undertake. I think that one of the great pitfalls for many Christians undertaking a reading plan is that they look at it like it will deliver all of their needs. This is simply not possible. People need to do what works for them to glean the most, but a fundamental reality of western culture is that we’re not reading the scripture much…if at all. His system was developed on the basis of his reading philosophy, and trust me (if you aren’t aware), Horner is perhaps one of the three most well-read, brilliant, and incredibly faithful men I have ever known. His system is not supposed to replace depth of study, but compliment it. He would expect anyone taking up his approach to do the ten chapters of survey, followed by time for deep study of one specific area (maybe a few chapters depending on capability). This man reads more in a day than most educated people read in a month, in addition to all the other things he does. He’s a regular renaissance man, actually. As an aside, being his student is wonderful therapy for inflated egos.

    By reading the breadth of the scripture it allows believers to begin connecting fundamental concepts and facts of the scripture to assemble a backbone upon which to build a greater understanding and theology of the text. From the perspective of educational theory this also makes sense, because it has been shown that your retention and understanding of any topic is exponentially proportional to the number of previously established concepts to which you can associate it within your mind. From an exercise perspective I’d liken Horner’s system to a cardio workout, and deep study to strength training. They go hand in hand, not for one to be excluded to the other. It is hard to build strength if you lack stamina, and likewise it is hard to build a deep understanding of the theology of the scripture without the breadth of understanding of the fundamental components upon which it is constructed.

    I hope this is helpful.

    Many kind regards,
    Christian L. Dove

    • Christian,

      That is helpful, thank you for commenting. I’m not sure if it changes my overall perspective on the plan, or my on-going non-use of it. I still like my revisions of the reading plan better than the original, and I think my revisions still capture the vision of what you’re conveying to me that Horner conveyed to you. I’m glad to hear though that Horner himself supplements with his breadth reading with depth.

      As for the metaphor, I like the connection with working out. However, in my personal case, I do my strength training at a pace that makes it double as a cardio workout (circuits with minimal rests). Not sure if that applies back into the reading plans, but if it does, it would suggest that people who already have stamina built up would approach cardio differently, and that in some cases, the workouts can be combined. I think in my overall case, I already have the conceptual layout in place that the breadth of reading is meant to build up. I am mostly focused now on deepening those connections, which is why I’ve made adjustments to the plan to suit my preferences. The plan is just a tool and should be freely tweaked by people who know what they are doing to better accomplish the goals that the original developer was aiming at.

      Thanks again though for commenting, especially as it shed light on Horner’s heart behind it all.


      • Hey Nate,
        Thanks for sharing. I fully understand where you are coming from. I too did the plan and still do the plan at the request of the ministry I am in. I found the plan good and thought it was a well balanced daily diet of Old and New Testaments. I have implemented it into the daily reading requirements in my crew also but found that I needed to add another reading and studying plans along with it. Basically I needed to throw some meat and potatoes into the pot with the veggies.

  7. It’s cool. I think anybody is allowed to adjust the plan especially if the reason is because you also study the Bible in different ways. It’s not meant to be an in-depth Bible study. I am just starting. I have enjoyed in depth Bible Study with Bible Study Fellowship before. This plan gives me a new perspective and I like it because it raises my endurance to read more of God’s Word each day. And I think everybody needs both, this staple food of daily reading of actual God’s Word (instead of just 1 verse and a devotional) and also an in-depth Bible Study.

  8. I’ve just started this plan new years eve as my guide to read through the Scriptures in a year.

    Two years ago is was a front to back read. This past year the chronological.

    This comes at a time when our church body fasts, So as we fast from things in our life, taking aspects of the world out, we need to fill them with godly things, which His Word seems to fit that all to perfectly.

    That being said, someone’s manner of fasting is very personal and intimate. It is something between God and His child.

    I find the same thing when it comes to reading Scripture. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another.

    The only work of God we are to be about is to believe in the One whom the Father sent.

    It is the reason we are saved by grace through our faith, so that none can boast.

    It is the work of the Holy Spirit to impart knowledge and wisdom to the willing and obedient heart.

    I’m not saying that spiritual disciplines are not important, because I believe they are, but what I am saying is that we need to be careful about becoming legalistic about things.

    I have made one adjustment to the plan and that was to move the books of Thessalonians into the rest of the letters to the churches.

    Nate, keep up the good fight. This world needs strong godly men seeking the heart of the Lord who are willing to share with our young people.

    His peace,


    • Jim,

      Thanks for stopping by to comment, I appreciate much of what you’ve said. I hope your reading in the Word this year is very spiritually nourishing to you!


  9. I stumbled upon the Grant Horner plan yesterday. But i found, before I found this plan you can read the bIble in 240 days by reading 5 chapters a day.

  10. Titus2Homemaker July 12, 2014 at 12:43 am

    The details of the Horner plan are too much for me at this stage of life. I’m a mom of four young children, and I am interrupted more times a day than I can count. Ten chapters a day is just not sustainable right now. But I loved the principles, so I adapted it a little, too. I rearranged the readings just a little so I could get a total of seven lists, and I read from one list each day of the week – usually about 3 chapters. This saves the jumping around from place to place in any given day (thus saving a little time), but I’m still reading from all of those different parts within a single week. And the pace is a little slower so I can keep up. But I still read from a variety of sections, and use varied section lengths, because I thought those insights were quite valuable.

    Some of the previous commenters may puff themselves up as having the corner on spirituality somehow because they’re “more experienced” and doing it “right,” but I believe God is more concerned with our heart motives and would rather we choose a modified plan that will get USED than a “perfect” plan that doesn’t.

  11. I think people should have two bible reading plans.

    1. Something like the Horner Bible Reading Plan.
    2. A plan for more in depth study.

    For my in-depth study plans I try to do studies on:
    1. The seven feasts
    2. The seven dispensations
    3. Prayer and so on

  12. I was introduced to Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System last week.

    I have a very full timetable, but it struck me that spending 1 hour a day reading the Word of God is really very little time out of my day, particularly as I’ve been studying the prayer life of Jesus I’ve noted that Jesus rose in the morning before daybreak or prayed all night. The question is how much of our free-time do we spend in the Word of God and in prayer?

    As I follow the Horner Bible Reading System I’m not planning to engage in Bible study. As a Bible teacher I allocate time specifically for teaching preparation. However, I believe that Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System is uniquely structured and comprehensive and definitely worth trying as he has suggested.

    In my work as a nutrition advisor I am constantly having to challenge people who prefer to do things their own way rather than follow the tried and tested programme. Consequently, and consistently these people quit before they’ve given the programme a chance to work, and end up saying that the programme didn’t work for them.

    I am approaching Professor Horner’s programme with an open mind and am willing to follow his instructions to the letter so that I can make constructive comment at the end of 30 days. I really have no grounds for changing his system until I’ve tried it his way. I am really interested to see what the benefits are of his 10 list approach. Bearing in mind I have been a Christian for 47 years, with 7 years in full-time study in Seminary and 10 years in full-time pastoral ministry. I already have a good grasp of Scripture but I know that God speaks afresh to me every time I read His Word.

    My advice to any-one following any tried-and-tested study plan is, stick to the plan in a disciplined way for 90 days. You will then be very clear about its benefits. (90 days has been shown to be the most effective time frame for maximising results of any programme).

  13. I was given this study by my Pastor at Church and have been truly blessed. This Study truly has made the word of GOD come alive for me. It brought the whole book together and made it easy to understand the old and New Testament. It only took me 8 mos to read the whole bible just be dedicated and never take a day off. In 3 months time it will become a habit and you will be looking forward to reading it every day. I’m not much of a reader and this study made it easy.

  14. I have been using Professor Grant Horner’s reading plan but I do not use the bookmarks. Instead, I wrote a workbook that permits me to easily skip ahead and track the progress of the reading. So far, the workbook has worked exceptionally well for myself and family members so I published it on amazon.com. It’s called “Learn Your Bible” by Marcel Teleki.

    The workbook consists of tables for the readings so it’s very simple. Unfortunatley, the cost of the book goes to printing and distribution. However, I will be submitting the second edition for the kindle in an effort to get the reading plan distributed further.

    -Marcel Teleki

  15. Todd Christenson February 12, 2017 at 6:51 am

    Hi Nate, My Heart is heavy because of your post. Not that you have decided Prof Horners reading system isn’t for you but rather for the person that could have grown closer to God because of Professor Horners system but didn’t because of your negative review.

    I am 80 days into Professor Horner’s System. It’s the third time I have started after a friend kept encouraging me by his Walk with Jesus.

  16. Hi, Nate. I have been really surprised at the legalism of many of these comments. And then blessed when one brother hit the nail on the head that it is a personal / intimate issue between ourselves and the Lord. These comments have shown a major issue in the church…. God leads me to do something or something works for me, and i then feel the need to play Holy Spirit and put that on to you. Can we be free to let Holy Spirit lead each other, please. Literally, for Christ’s sake – He is the only One who shed His blood for us. That said, i did try his reading plan. (For a time, because our church was doing it.) It DID bless me so much! But, it surely isnt an end in itself, and Holy Spirit may lead us differently in our reading at different times. He is the Boss. Not a plan. Not the opinions of well meaning saints. As well, side note here, there is also something to be said for reading in “chronological” order, which this plan is not. Now that is something Im looking forward to getting to.

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