Germantown, TN-- Twenty three members of the Grace Assembly congregation, comprising about 40% of Sunday morning attendees, plan to complete the Bible by Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at midnight. Their journey began back on January 1, 2008 when 25 members agreed to undertake the Read Through the Bible program established by Pastor Johnson.
In a formal dedication ceremony, all 25 members were given a gift certificate to Lifeway for $50 toward the purchase of a new Bible of their choice. Each member was also given a 1-Year Bible Plan which detailed the amount of reading that needed to be performed each day in order to complete the entire Bible in 1 year.
"I did it! I did it!" said Sally Winthrop, 28. "I'm glad I made the commitment."
Sally and 22 others from Grace Assembly have remained on track the entire year-- well, almost on track. "But I couldn't have done it if it weren't for Pastor Johnson's techniques and incentives," said Sally.
"I had a few tricks up my sleeve," said Pastor Johnson. "If anyone got behind, we had methods to help them back on track."
For example, Pastor Johnson had monthly Ketchup Days where anyone who was behind on their readings by the last Sunday of each month had to walk the aisle during the morning service, sit in a chair facing the congregation, and receive a squirt of ketchup to the face. The first squirting episode in January is the reason Dawn Gaspard and her husband left the church and became the only two participants to drop out of the program.
"I worked very hard to keep the people on schedule," explained Pastor Johnson. "I sent reminder emails each day, made phone calls each week, and visited each person monthly. My main goal for the last year has been to get these people to read the Bible. I'm proud to say that it looks like I'm accomplishing this goal for 23 people."
TBNN asked several of The 23 what they learned most while reading the Bible this year. James Barton, 35, answered. "I learned that if I set my mind to do something, I can get it done."
"I learned that it takes a team to complete a task like this," answered Milley Baxter, 67. "The support from the other team members helped me through."
Marla Krystal was thankful for good leadership. "I learned that you can't do something like this without a great encourager like Pastor Johnson. He was always there for me when I was down and I didn't want to read. He understood."
Others were very pleased with the daily plan. "Reading through the Bible in a year has taught me to pace myself in other things. There are several tasks that I've been wanting to get done for years. The Bible has been an example I can follow to pace myself in 2009 and make sure to get these other tasks done," explained Walter Bowen, 42.
"I've grown so much through this experience," Sheila Bowen, 41. "It's such a good feeling to close the Bible each day and know I'm exactly where God wants me to be in the plan."
"I think the best thing in our family has been the improvement in our daughter's reading skills," said Jennifer Blackwell whose 14 year old daughter Kaylie is the youngest member of The 23 who is scheduled to finish on time.