Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System: Interview with Tom Shelton and Rick Doctor, pt. 1

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A couple of days I ago I posted about the increasingly popular Bible-reading system pioneered by Professor Grant Horner of The Master’s College. Today I want to post the results of an interview with two of my friends who are currently using this system to guide them through the daily Bible reading.

Tom Shelton is a friend of mine from Tennessee. He and his wife, Angela, have three kids. In addition to being a diligent reader of God’s Word, he is an active participant in a theological reading group. Rick Doctor, also a friend, is a student at the University of North Florida and attends Harvest Bible Chapel of Jacksonville, where I pastor. Rick was saved a few years ago after hearing open-air preaching on the college campus. He is recently engaged to Daizzee and they plan to marry in early 2010. Of course, I am Pastor Brett (PB).

PB: How did you find out about Professor Horner’s Bible reading plan?

Tom: I had begun to be convicted of the fact that I was not reading my Bible except when I was preparing to teach my lessons.  I was reading from many sources about what the Bible says but not actually reading the Bible.  During that time, Nathan Bingham wrote a post on his blog discussing how he had begun to use the system. At some point later, he posted again sharing his impressions of the system after he had been using it for a while. I decided to check it out.

Rick: Heard about it from you, Pastor Brett. But then I also heard about it on WretchedRadio with Todd Friel.  He interviewed Professor Horner and I got to hear his story, how he was hired at The Master’s Seminary and about his reading program.  I got the recommendation from two respected sources so I checked it out.

PB: What were your initial thoughts about it?

Tom: At first, I was not sure if this system would work for me. I had tried other bible reading plans and had not stuck with them. I also was worried about the time commitment required to read 10 chapters per day. Dr. Horner says that most people can easily read the 10 chapters in 35-40 minutes per day but I know that I am a slow reader so I expected it to me 15-20 minutes longer. I was not sure if I would be willing or able to commit an hour a day to the reading. The other thing that I was unsure about was only reading one chapter each day from ten different books. It seemed it would be hard to get the flow of each book this way.

Rick: I was looking for another reading plan.

PB: What was your previous approach to reading the Bible?

Rick: John MacArthur’s plan of reading the same 7 chapters every night for a month.  After John MacArthur’s plan I kind fell off and read just a couple chapters a day for a while until I had finally finished the entire Bible (after being a Christian for about 2 years).

Tom: Sadly, I did not have any systematic approach to reading the Bible.  I had tried some in the past.  Read the Bible through in a year, MacArthur’s suggested reading plan, concentrating on the Psalms and Proverbs, and reading through the books that my Sunday School class was studying but I did not stick to any of these.  I had gotten to the point that I was only reading the Bible passages that I was studying to teach.  I got convicted of this shortly before I read the posts about Dr. Horner’s system.

PB: Describe your first few days on the plan.

Rick: It was a shock to the system.  A lot of reading and constantly changing your perspective as a reader.  You go from Matthew describing to Jesus’ life, to Moses describing creation, to Paul writing 2 different epistles, to the Psalms, and so on and so on.

It was also a long time to devote to reading the bible. But I guess there is never too much time to devote to the bible, but again, this much time each day was another shock to the system.

Tom: For me, the first few days were not too bad.  I found that I did have the time to do the reading because I was wasting a lot of time on things like watching TV or spending time on the internet.  I did realize that it was hard for me to sit down for 45-60 minutes and do the reading.  I decided that it was necessary for me to split the reading into 2 sessions.

In the first few days I did have a few problems.  I had a hard time only reading one chapter and then going to another book.  I often found myself wanting to continue reading.  I also found that I was not remembering much of what I read.  Dr. Horner mentions that this is normal but will change with a little time.

PB: Was there a point in time that you had a breakthrough with the program?

Rick: After about 2 weeks you begin to get acclimated to it and I think you begin to benefit.

Tom: I originally committed to trying the system for one week.  I was then going to re-evaluate and see how it was going.  After the first week I kept going.  Sometime around the 2nd or 3rd week I had the breakthrough moment.  I am not really sure when it happened but at some point I realized that I really liked this Bible reading system and that I would be using it for a while.

PB: How long have you been on the plan now?  Have you ever missed a day?

Rick: I have been on the plan for about 70 days.  I think I am on Psalm 70 today.  I have never completed missed a day.  Maybe I read a couple chapters, not all 10, but I always made up for the next day.  Some days I read 18 chapters…

Tom: I completed my 100th day on 8/25/09.  During the first month or two I probably averaged reading 5 days a week.  The longer I have been on the system the more consistent I have been.  I have not missed any days in the last 2 or 3 weeks.  I have come to the point that the daily reading is a habit for me but I have also come to the realization that missing a day once in a while is not a big deal as long as I get back to it the next day.

PB: What Bible are you using?

Tom: My Bible of choice is the ESV Study Bible.  Mine is the burgundy bonded leather edition.

Rick: I am using the black hardback ESV Journaling Bible.

PB: How long have you been using an ESV and how do you like it?  What version did you use previously in Bible reading?

Tom: I began using the ESV in May of 2006.  I previously used a Ryrie NASB Study Bible.  I had been thinking about making the switch to the ESV for a while.  When I started teaching my Sunday school class in May 2006 I decided the time was right to make the change.  Bef (ore I made the switch I thoroughly investigated the ESV.  It has the accuracy of the NASB and the readability of the NIV.  It is now my preferred translation.  I believe in it so strongly that I have switched my children to the ESV also.

Rick: I used to read the NASB and the MacArthur Study Bible NASB.

PB: Where and when do you do your Bible reading?  Do you do it all in one setting or do you break it up?  What is your routine?

On days when I can (off days) I read it towards the beginning of my day.  All in one setting.  On work days I read after I get some free time.  It is usually different all the time.

Tom: It took a while to find a routine that worked well for me but I finally got it.  During the week, I usually take my Bible with me to work and read during my lunch break.  After I eat, I usually have about 30 minutes (sometimes a little longer).  I don’t usually finish all 10 chapters during this time.  I usually get 6 or 7 chapter read during lunch, less if they are long chapter.  The rest I finish that night, usually after my children go to bed.   On Saturday, I usually do all my reading in one sitting before my family gets up.  Sunday is usually the hardest day to get my reading done.  I don’t have a set time on Sunday.  I usually try to work it in sometime on Sunday afternoon or evening.  After I complete my reading I mark it on my spreadsheet.

PB: Reading 10 chapters of the Bible a day is a lot compared to most people. How long does it take you?

Tom: It normally takes me anywhere from 40 minutes to 1 hour to complete the 10 chapters.  Several factors that determine this…the length of the chapters, my focus that day, and my ability to find a quite time and place to do it.

Rick: At first, it took me an hour.  At times I have finished in about 30 minutes.  I think on the norm it takes about 40-45 minutes, but I think it will cut down over time.

PB: This takes a considerable amount of discipline, doesn’t it? Do you consider yourself a fairly disciplined person?

Tom: I think is does require a considerable amount of discipline to maintain this plan.  In most things I would consider myself to be a disciplined person.  I would like to point out that someone should not be intimidated by the discipline required in this plan.  It is the same discipline required to maintain any reading plan.  The only difference is in the number of chapters to be read.

Rick: God has blessed me with discipline and a conviction to read my bible daily.  I wish I were more disciplined in prayer.  But to answer the question, I consider myself disciplined in the area of bible reading.

Tomorrow I will finish my interview with Tom and Rick.

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