A GREAT IDEA
Twice a year—in January and in July—the North Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, Tennessee hosts a Saturday public Bible reading event that runs from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. The program is titled “Give Attention To Reading,” and the most recent event at North Jackson featured the reading of the gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts. Reading at a normal “pulpit rate,” the entire Bible can be read out loud in 70 hours and 42 minutes. By following the above format (four hours twice a year), the entire Bible can be read out loud in a little less than nine years. This would be in addition to all of the Bible reading done in sermons and in the Bible classes of the local church.
In the book of Nehemiah, the prophet Ezra read God’s word aloud to the people “from the morning until midday” (Nehemiah 8:1-8). Paul instructed Timothy to “give attention to reading” (I Timothy 4:13). This referred to the public reading of God’s word in the gathering of the saints. God’s word, the Bible, is the sole authority in true religion. Anything not authorized by it—either by various divine statements, approved apostolic actions (examples), or necessary inferences (logical conclusions)—is not to be believed or practiced by those who wish to have the approval of God. The word of God is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). It is able to save [our] souls” (James 1:21), but only if we know and do what it says (verse 22).
In the North Jackson program good public readers are pre-selected. To insure a uniform translation that enables the hearers to follow along, the New King James Version of the Bible is used. No comments or opinions are expressed by the readers. They stick strictly to the biblical text. No talking, questions, or interruptions are permitted by the audience. In this way, respect for God’s word without human opinion is promoted and Bible knowledge (what the Bible actually says) is emphasized and advanced. People may quietly come-and-go as they need. No sign-in or registration is required. The program usually begins with a period of fellowship with coffee and doughnuts from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
What is now the North Jackson Church of Christ was established in 1898. I have been familiar with this congregation since 1955 when I was a freshman at Freed-Hardeman College and the congregation was located on Highland Avenue. Don Gardner was the minister at the time. In 1958 the congregation relocated to the corner of Allen Avenue and Edgewood Street and became known as Allen and Edgewood. Flavil Nichols followed brother Gardner in the pulpit, and in 1962 I succeeded brother Nichols as the minister of the congregation.
Throughout its history the church has been served by faithful and able preachers. In the earlier days on Highland Avenue such men as E. R. Harper (later Herald of Truth Radio & TV preacher), H. A. Dixon (later president of Freed-Hardeman College), Frank VanDyke (later Chairman of the Freed-Hardeman Bible Department), and O. D. Johns (highly respected west Tennessee preacher) served as ministers of the congregation. In the 1980s, the congregation moved to its present location on Highway 45 Bypass in Jackson. For the past twenty years, David Powell, who is also a professor in the Bible Department at Freed-Hardeman University, has ably filled the North Jackson pulpit as its regular preacher.
Through all the years of the congregation’s history it has been blessed with strong elders who know and love the truth and who are committed to leading the congregation in the paths of righteousness. Throughout the decades a dedicated corps of deacons has always served the church. Excellent, well-trained teachers have directed the Bible classes. The church is well known for its love, kindness, compassion, and soundness in the faith.
The church conducts two gospel meetings each year (spring and fall) and has done so for many years, using some of the most able preachers of the gospel for these outreach events. Over the years it has been my privilege to preach in three meetings for the congregation—two at Allen and Edgewood and one at North Jackson—and to speak during the morning worship hour at its 2001 Homecoming. The congregation conducts an extensive program of missions and is benevolent in its outreach to the local community.
Among the impressive things about the congregation is that the Sunday morning worship attendance is consistently well above 600 and the Sunday morning Bible School, Sunday evening worship, and the Wednesday evening Bible study are all well up into the 400s. It is not unusual for the Wednesday night attendance to match or to exceed the Sunday night attendance, or even the Sunday morning Bible School attendance. This sterling attendance pattern has been characteristic of the congregation for many decades.
The North Jackson church’s emphasis on the biblical mandate to “give attention to reading” is one that other congregations of Christ should seriously consider. I think it is a great idea, worthy of emulation throughout the brotherhood of Christ.
Hugh Fulford, February 25, 2020