By Shawn Hendricks
Contributing writer, B&R
SPRING HILL — After Pastor Jay Strother announced to the congregation at The Church at Station Hill his challenge for them to read the entire Bible through in one year, Helen Tyler wanted to be the first to “sign up.”
The 99-year-“young” woman, also known as “Miss Helen,” told Pastor Strother at the Spring Hill, campus of Brentwood Baptist Church it would be her 61st time to study through the Bible in a year. He also learned she’d be turning 100 in March.
Strother recalled her telling him, “I’ve been through the Bible 60 times and I might as well make it 61.” After announcing “The Whole Church in the Whole Word” challenge, Strother later followed up with Miss Helen for an “extended conversation” on the phone about her love for God’s Word.
Strother described the “Senior Saint,” who frequently attends the 8 a.m. service with her granddaughter and lives with her daughter’s family, as a “hero” and someone who is a “great example of faithfulness.”
Strother asked her, “Miss Helen, why do you still do it?” She replied, “God shows me something new every time.”
“She said you’d think I’ve heard these stories, but every time I read it or hear it being read, I catch something new,” Strother recalled her saying. It’s a reminder, he noted, that God’s Word “intersects our lives” in different seasons and in different ways with the timelessness of Scripture.
Strother also learned that Miss Helen was married to a pastor and that her husband began pastoring a church in Vermont the first year of their marriage.
“She has some pretty hilarious stories about their payment back then,” he said. “A quart of milk a day, a pound of butter a week, and whatever’s in the offering plate. That’s what the payment was.” She told him it was usually $1.50, and on “a good day” it was $2. The first time she read the Bible through, the challenge that year was “Read the Bible through in ’42.”
“My how times have changed,” he told the church, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. “But God’s Word hasn’t.”
Because of poor eyesight, Strother noted, Miss Helen has needed to listen to Scripture being read to her for the last 10 years.
“I love that resolve to find a way to get the Word of God into your heart and into your life again and again,” Strother said.
“Just like she learns something new every time she reads it,” he shared with his congregation, “we learn something new every time we come to it.
“In the same way on the road to Emaus,” Strother added, “Jesus revealed to His disciples something new and fresh that they needed to see and that we need to see today, and it’s that the whole counsel of Scripture points to Him.”
Strother doesn’t buy the argument that people are too busy to read the Bible through in a year. He described it coming down to a “matter of priority.” In one week, he said, “the average American now consumes 35.7 hours of televised content.”
“You could read the entire Bible through out loud in about 72 hours,” he said. “So in just a little more in the time that people usually watch TV – the typical American in two weeks – you could read the Bible through.”
“So, it’s not that we don’t have the time, it’s that we don’t choose the time,” he said.
And after Miss Helen signed up for the church’s Bible challenge, Strother noted, 560 other individuals and families “got in line behind her” to make the same commitment. “I love the idea that our senior saints can lead the way in setting that example for us,” he said. B&R — Hendricks is a writer, editor and communications strategist in the Nashville area.