SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP)–Pastor Ronnie Floyd recently assigned long-range homework to his congregants: In less than 365 days, they must read 1,189 chapters that span the events of several centuries.
On Nov. 28, First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., began asking church attendees to sign a card of commitment to read through the entire Bible during 2005, the year the Southern Baptist Convention has declared the Year of the Bible. To encourage people to take the challenge, the church offered a new Holman Christian Standard Bible to every northwest Arkansas resident in sixth grade and older who attended First Baptist of Springdale or its second campus, the Church at Pinnacle Hills, during a six-week period.
“I wanted everyone in the same translation and participating in the same plan,” Floyd said. “The Holman Christian Bible is new and scholastic, and I was impressed with the way [the translation] was done, and the whole process.”
In 2004, the Broadman & Holman division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention published the complete Holman Christian Standard Bible after nearly 20 years of research and translation.
The church originally purchased 5,000 red-letter edition Bibles and 500 large-print Ultrathin Holman Bibles to give away each Sunday from Nov. 28-Jan. 2. During those six weeks, the church purchased an additional 500 large-print editions, bringing the total number of available Bibles to 6,000. Along with the Bible, everyone received a bookmark printed with a year-long reading plan Floyd developed.
“I based the plan on the time of year and keeping the wind under their belts,” Floyd said.
The reading plan began in 1 John and, on Jan. 2, participants finished that book as well as 2 John and 3 John, with Floyd noting, “It should feel good to make it through three books in the first two days.”
But for Floyd, the Bible challenge is about more than making it through — it is a project he knows can “make a major difference in a person’s life.”
Floyd said he began reading through the Bible once a year several years ago. He has made that journey in different ways including straight through from Genesis to Revelation, chronologically and, most recently, by completing individual books God placed on his heart, then checking them off in the table of contents.
“Personally, it’s been a great discipline to have in my life,” he said. “I don’t know of very many things that will impact a person’s life like reading through the Bible.”
That is why he decided to challenge youth as young as sixth-graders to complete the Bible readings along with the adults in their church.
“We are really urging some of these older teenagers to get involved with us,” Floyd said. “They can be leaders among their peers.”
During January and February, youth and adult Sunday School classes at the Arkansas church are participating in a four-week curriculum adapted by the staff on the relevance and truth of the Bible, said Chris Swain, the church’s sixth- and seventh-grade minister.
“It’s good for us when we’re memorizing Scripture to have everyone feeling like they’re literally on the same page,” said Swain, adding that the layout of the Holman Christian Standard Bible appealed to him when he received his first copy several months ago.
Scotty Sappenfield, 12, is one of the seventh-graders in Swain’s youth group. Sappenfield said he looks forward to accepting his pastor’s challenge because it will give him an opportunity to become more mature in his faith.
“It will make me less ashamed and bolder in what the Word says,” Sappenfield said. “I’m going to be committed to Christ and be in His Word every day.”
Sappenfield’s excitement about the challenge encourages his mother, Candi. “It’s very encouraging as a mom to know my kids are excited about reading through the Bible,” she said.
Candi Sappenfield said she and her husband, Joel, along with their three children, will use dinnertime to support one another in the project.
“We have such busy schedules, so I doubt we’ll be able to do the readings together very often, but it will bring us together with a common topic to talk about,” she said. “To think that the church is doing this in unity is exciting.”
While the church is participating as a group, Floyd believes Bible readings have a tendency to personally affect individuals.
“God’s Word is like a diamond,” he said. “It depends what light is under it as to what each person sees. Experience changes people’s perception of the text.”
The final reading in Floyd’s plan is scheduled for Dec. 17, 2005, so people who have fallen behind the reading schedule will have time to catch up by the end of the year. At the end of 2005, Floyd hopes the challenge will have put the Word of God “in their hearts and under their feet.”
The church reported that 4,053 people accepted the pastor’s challenge throughout the six-week campaign and 5,570 people received a new Bible. Visitors to the church will receive the remaining Bibles.