What We’ve Seen While Reading the Bible Publicly
The following is a guest post, written by Mike McMahon, Pastor at Fellowship Church in Arlington Texas.
In 2001 a lady in our church came to me with an idea she heard about in Colorado. There was a monthly publication called “Bible Pathways” that had been brought to her attention, and she was very interested in one of its ministries. It was called the International Bible Reading Marathon, and Bible Pathways sponsored readings across the U.S. Members of Congress even participate and read the Bible from the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington D. C. every year to coincide with the National Day of Prayer. A gentleman named John Hash, a Minister of the Gospel headed up the ministry and its parent organization.
The Marathon was based on an event that originally occurred in Beaumont, TX during WWII. A group of women decided it would be a good thing if they read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation to protect and preserve the U.S. Military. I do not have the original dates of the reading, but it seems that during the reading of the Bible, the crime rate in Beaumont dropped to zero. Armed with my wife’s and my desire to serve the Lord, plus our church member’s enthusiasm, we made the decision to do the reading in Granbury.
The Washington D.C. reading was a continuous day and night affair on the Capitol steps beginning 90 hours before noon on the National Day of Prayer. Since Granbury was a small town we agreed we didn’t want to read at night and perhaps keep the people who lived across the street from the County Courthouse awake. So we did the calculations and came up with the starting time being the Friday morning the week before the National Day of Prayer festivities occurred. Bible Pathways had figured the 90 hours would break down to manageable 15-minute reading slots which in turn would roll out to 360 time slots.
In the first few years it was difficult to nearly impossible to determine how many volunteer readers we would wind up with, but the Lord was always faithful. The first several years 3 of us read several hours every day. Then the volunteer recruiting began to pick up steam, and we found ourselves reading less and less as people discovered how much fun and satisfaction was they gained when reading the Bible aloud in public. For 2 years prior to this year we had 316 out of 360 time slots filled before the marathon even started. This year with Covid19 we had only about 215 slots filled, but God stepped in and we wound up having only about 4 hours of the 90 total hours being read by my wife or me.
This year was our 19th reading and the 18th anniversary of our Bible reading marathon. We have had the Bible read in French, German, Spanish, and High English when a ranking member of the Church of England read. This year we had the Bible read in Swahili, also in Spanish, American Sign Language interpretation, by phone from Africa, Montana, the Rio Grande Valley, the suburbs of Dallas, and Benbrook. We’ve had folks saved while reading, people who didn’t want to read or had never read the Bible out loud read and weep, and they did it in public.
Some people have moved to Granbury because they had the chance to read, others have found answers to their prayers while reading, and so much more. I had the privilege of bringing a hardened military veteran back to the Lord 4 days before he died unexpectedly. All kinds of public officials read every year, including last year Pastor Rafael Cruz closed the marathon for us. We’ve also had kids of all ages read, hundreds of them. Some of the very best memories in 18 years of reading come when a Momma or Daddy has a little bitty kiddo sitting on the stool we provide readers, and I hear the parents dictate to their children what the reading says, “And Jesus said” they say, then this tiny little voice that can’t even be heard by the microphone says, “And Jesus said…”
We ran a test of the crime rate in Granbury for the last 5 years during the Bible reading marathon, and 4 of the last 5 years the crime rate dropped about 16 %.
If anyone wants to start a Bible Reading Marathon in your community, or church, or wherever, we are willing and happy to help in whatever way we can. Just let me know and I will do my best to make my schedule fit yours. Just understand, after you have prayed about it I’m going to ask you if God has absolutely told you to do it. If that is the case, then we’ll begin.