Published Thursday, January 24, 2013
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
The youth at New Lebanon Baptist Church are going to be cooking up something delicious.
The youth earned kitchen duties by losing out to the older folks in a competition at their western Coweta church – a contest that pitted two groups in reading the Bible within a year. Reading the entire Bible in a year is a focus, a goal and a competition at the church on Wagers Mill Road.
During 2012, the youth and college group in the church formed one team and the other adults formed another. Charts were used to keep track of who had read how much of the Bible. When Dec. 31 arrived, more adults had completed all of their reading for the year.
The rules of the contest called for the group with fewer who completed the Bible-reading challenge to prepare a meal for the other group.
Jimmy Fleming, pastor of the church, praised Debbie Argo, the member who makes sure the Bible-reading project keeps going from year-to-year.
"Debbie's the one who initiates this and promotes it," he said.
"We've been doing this for several years. Last year, we started doing a contest with it," Argo said.
Argo worked with the youth and young adults. Her mother, Lorene McKenzie, is proud that she was cheerleading the other team.
"We won," she said with a big smile.
The Bible-reading project got its start when Argo heard a sermon by Charles Stanley, a noted Atlanta pastor. Stanley said that 90 percent of Christians had never read the entire Bible.
McKenzie said she believes it is the responsibility of Christians – particularly Christians in America who can read and have access to the Bible – to read. She quoted a passage from Luke 6, in which Jesus said to some Pharisees, "Have ye not read so much as this..."
Her quoting that passage is not a new habit.
"She's asked us that all of our lives," Argo noted.
While the competition is a fun aspect of the project and the charts provide a Sunday-to-Sunday reminder that the reading needs to continue, Argo said it is not the contest or the meal for the winners that is the point.
"The reading is the thing. Even if it takes two years to start with – it's getting them to commit to do it," Argo said.
McKenzie said having the charts and the contest do keep people moving forward.
"It hurts their conscience if they haven't kept their commitment," she stated.
McKenzie has loved reading the Bible for decades – and still enjoys turning the pages of her personal Bible.
"It's so engrossing. He gives you light," she said. She added that reading regularly and repeatedly shows the reader "things you never thought you'd see."
"In the end, Scripture does what none of us can do," Argo reflected. "It changes your life. It's God speaking to you. When you read it, you're receiving your instructions from above."
The read-the-Bible-through-in-a-year movement is growing.
"We contacted several other churches and got them to do contests within their churches. It's really gotten people within our church involved," Argo said.
The contest gets people to read parts of the Bible they might otherwise not investigate.
The competition has had some interesting facets. The youngest member at New Lebanon to read the whole Bible in a year was Macie Fleming, who finished her journey when she was only 12 years old.
During the past year, the competition included at least one set of three generations – McKenzie, Argo and Argo's son, Jonathan.
The 2013 competition is already under way. On a recent Wednesday night, members of the church youth group neatly wrote their names on a chart to record their progress.
Argo remarked on the concept of the Bible as spiritual food. Spending a day without taking time to read the Bible, she said, is "like missing a meal" since she started reading the Bible through each year.
There are guides that set out what to read each day to get through the entire text in a year. Argo said reading between three and four chapters a day will also get a reader through all 66 books in 12 months.
Argo and McKenzie are both passionate about getting people to read the Bible. Argo marveled at her mother's dedication to the effort.
"She signed up a lady in the shoe store," she said.
Reading the Bible through – and seeing other people discover the treasures in its pages – energizes the members at New Lebanon and their friends who are catching the Bible-reading passion.
"It's awesome," Lorene McKenzie said.