What I learned from professor horner's bible reading system
Your greatest source of being equipped as a worship leader is not YouTube, Multitracks, SongSelect, PlanningCenter, or [insert your favorite tool here].
It’s your trusty old leather-bound that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.
I have a confession…
More than I want to yield a guitar, I want to yield a sword.
Maybe this is a manly thing. What guy doesn’t want to yield a sword?
Hear me out...
Just like you get more comfortable and familiar with your instrument the more you play it, you get more comfortable and familiar with the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) the more you read and study it. Or perhaps you get more uncomfortable as the Word teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains you (2 Timothy 3:16). More on this later…
What if I told you it is possible to read through 10 chapters of the Bible every day and take in the entire counsel of the Scriptures (some books being read through multiple times) in a matter of 8 months?
I can already hear the objections. I can hear the objections because over 8 months ago I was the one screaming the objections.
I don’t have time…
I’m not much of a reader...
I can’t retain that much input at one time…
Before you shrug this off, pat me on my back and say “Great that it worked for you but there is no way I could do that," let’s debunk these 3 objections that stand in the way of you trying this out for yourself.
It’s easier than you think.
The obstacle of time.
If time is your obstacle, you might have to reject binge-watching your favorite Netflix show. Reading through 10 chapters will only take you about 30-40 minutes. That’s roughly one less episode of your favorite show.
Maybe you don’t watch Netflix but are still crunched for time. Simply take advantage of the gaps you have in time with repetitive activities like brushing your teeth. It’s very possible to make use of these lost pockets of time.
How do you read while brushing your teeth? This ties into the next objection.
I’m not a reader.
If you’re not much of a reader, or you do like to read but struggle for time, use an audio Bible. This allows you to take advantage of seemingly lost pockets of time with repetitive activities like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, folding the laundry, mowing the grass, etc.
Either pop in some headphones, or broadcast the Word of God over a Bluetooth speaker while you are carrying out some of these activities. Chances are you already take in some kind of auditory input while you commute to different places in the car. So instead of turning the radio on and taking in whatever is broadcast over the airwaves, you can listen to the Word of God as you drive.
This is too much!
If you are worried about retaining this much input at one time I suggest shifting your thinking.
It is not so much about you retaining information, but the Word of God retaining you.
The definition of retaining is:
“continue to have (something); keep possession of.”
Let the living Word of God continue to have your attention. Delight in it. Let it arrest your heart and capture your mind.
Maybe at this point, you’re at least willing to give it a try.
The way to go about this is a Bible reading plan created by Professor Grant Horner.
Professor Horner explains the reading plan this way:
Each day you will read one chapter from each of ten lists. That’s right — ten chapters per day!!! Use ten bookmarks or sticky notes with the individual lists on them to keep track of your locations.
On day one, you read Matthew 1, Genesis 1, Romans 1, and so forth. On day 2, read Matthew 2, Genesis 2, etc. On day 29, you will have just finished Matthew, so go to Mark 1 on the Gospel list; you’ll also be almost to the end of 2nd Corinthians and Proverbs, you’ll be reading Psalm 29 and Genesis 29, and so forth. When you reach the last chapter of the last book in a list – start over again. Rotate all the way through all the Scriptures constantly.
Since the lists vary in length, the readings begin interweaving in constantly changing ways. You will NEVER read the same set of ten chapters together again! Every year you’ll read through all the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters 4-5 times each, the OT wisdom literature six times, all the Psalms at least twice, all the Proverbs as well as Acts a dozen times, and all the way through the OT History and Prophetic books about 1 1⁄2 times. Since the interweaving is constantly changing, you will experience the Bible commenting on itself in constantly changing ways — the Reformer’s principle of ‘scriptura interpretans scripturam’ — ‘scripture interpreting scripture’ IN ACTION!
After you’ve read any particular book once or twice, your speed in that book usually doubles or triples because you’re familiar with it and can move quickly and confidently — because you are no longer merely decoding the text but thinking it through in the context of all of the scripture!
Even an ‘average’ reader, if focusing on moving through the text, rather than trying to figure everything out, can usually do this in about an hour a day – 5-6 minutes per chapter. Many people report moving confidently through the ten chapters in 35-40 minutes. If it is taking you longer, then you are ‘reading wrong’ – stay relaxed, focus, and just keep it moving. Moderate but consistent speed is the key. This is “gross anatomy” — looking at the whole body; you’re not closely studying organs or systems or tissues or cells — it is not microbiology. BUT — microbiology and the study or organs makes more sense when you know what the whole structure of the human body is like, and how all the parts, large and small, relate in perfect interdependence.
After just a few days the reading gets much easier; in a month it will be a habit, and in six months you’ll wonder how you ever survived before on such a slim diet of the WORD. And then — you’ll tell others to start the system!
I began in 1983 as a new Christian and have now read (most of ) the Bible hundreds and hundreds of times. You also need to get ONE Bible, keep it, and do all your reading in it, so you learn where everything is. I’ve had the same Bible since 1983 and I know it intimately. If you keep switching Bibles, you ‘lose’ this intimacy with the text. Find a translation and format you like and stick with it. THIS IS CRUCIAL.
Your Bible is the only thing on Earth that, as you wear it out, will actually work better and better.
Before I share 3 insights I gained after reading the Bible in this way, I want to share that I failed numerous times.
I started with fervent motivation and excitement which quickly waned as I got to Numbers. I gave up multiple times. I struggled to be consistent because I felt it was “less spiritual” to “read” the Bible by listening to the audio version. I thought I had to take in every single word and phrase as if there was going to be a fill in the blank test. I had all these silly excuses and made up barriers in my head.
After pushing through, forming a habit, and approaching the plan light-heartedly and not legalistically, here are 3 things I learned.
1. Your appetite morphs to what you feed it.
When you taste something good, you generally want more of it. It’s no different when it comes to God’s Word. Hunger for God’s Word develops when you feast on it.
A mentor once shared with me that discipline leads to desire which leads to delight.
When it comes to God’s Word we feel that we should automatically delight in God’s Word right away. When we don’t, we get discouraged because we think there is something wrong with us.
The longer I carried on with the plan, the easier it got and the more I found myself wanting to read more, sometimes being tempted to jump ahead.
However, there were also times, especially toward the beginning of this venture when it took sheer discipline to get through all ten chapters each day. As I moved through the plan and the habit took root, there were times when I got lost in what I was reading and was surprised when I had reached the tenth chapter for the day.
There were also times that I failed to get through all ten chapters every day. I didn’t throw up my hands and give up. I simply caught up as I could, pushed “catch me up” on YouVersion, and kept moving forward.
2. Following a plan is not less spiritual.
Following a plan is accountability. And what I have found is that true accountability doesn’t keep you in your failure, it draws you further up and further in (to borrow from C.S. Lewis).
Think of the plan as your personal trainer calling you to the gym each morning. You don’t always feel like doing it, but your trainer knows what will keep you on track and move you toward the desired goal.
When it comes to reading the Word of God I’ve had to push past the notion that each reading session is going to be accompanied by fluffy feelings, and divine audible voices. As I shared above, sometimes all that is involved is sheer discipline. However, I know that the Word of God is working in me.
Even though I don’t “feel it” in a profound way, my mind is being renewed because that is what the Word of God does. The Word of God is weaving its way into my heart and sometimes passages "speak" to me days later.
3. There is much reward with endurance.
I count those highlight moments as little rewards from God. Moments of delight that make the discipline worth it and increase my desire to stay the course. Scripture says that God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
And while reading the Bible is not the only way we seek God, it should be a central part of how we relate to God.
John Newton the famous hymn writer who penned Amazing Grace gave this counsel to a friend:
The word of God is not to be used as a lottery: nor is it designed to instruct us by shreds and scraps, which detached from their proper places, have no determinate import; but it is to furnish us with just principles, right apprehensions to regulate our judgments and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct … By treasuring up the doctrines, precepts, promises, examples, and exhortations of Scripture, in their minds … [believers] grow into a habitual frame of spiritual wisdom, and acquire a gracious taste, which enables them to judge of right and wrong with a degree of readiness and certainty, as a musical ear judges of sounds….
Are we more attuned to our musical tastes than we are to the “gracious taste” which enables us to judge between right and wrong?
It’s rewarding to be able to say with integrity, “I’ve read the whole Bible cover to cover.” A study done by LifeWay Research reveals that this is a rarity. Even though we are fond of the Bible we don’t actually read it. That is like acknowledging something looks rather tasty without actually eating and delighting in it.
However, don’t get legalistic and pharisaical here.
The word is a lamp and not a textbook. A textbook is something we read once and perhaps discard or sell at a yard sale. You don’t discard a lamp after one use. The lamp gives you light time and time again.
Don’t forget that the Bible is active. Ultimately the Living Word is a person. That person is Jesus and He wants to have a dynamic relationship with us.
As we walk in relationship with God, we walk in the good works that He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).
But what makes us competent and equipped for these good works?
The Living Word of God.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” - 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
Worship leading is good work and if we want to be thoroughly equipped, we need to read, take in, and interact with the Word of God.
Being taught, rebuked, corrected, and going through this kind of training is not always comfortable and pleasant, but it's good. It's good for us, and it's good, necessary even, for the sake of those we lead for us to be equipped in this way.
So before we get on a platform to sing the next psalm, hymn, or spiritual song, let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16). Let God’s Word take residence in your heart.
There is much reward to be found, and much delight to be experienced.
What helps you engage with the Word of God? What Bible reading plans have you used that you would recommend to others? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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