Going on A hundred Years...
In a sense, The 3x5 Club goes back to a dinner table in Sioux City, Iowa in 1934.
A traveling Presbyterian evangelist named Gene Palmer was holding special services in Sioux City, and various church members hosted him in their homes during his time there. One evening, John and Minnie Kalas had Mr. Palmer in their home for dinner.
During the dinner conversation, Minnie proudly mentioned that her young son, Ellsworth, had felt a calling to the ministry.
Ellsworth was my father, and as he tells the story, what unfolded next went like this...
Mr. Palmer excused himself from adult conversation so he could talk with this eleven-year-old about the ministry. I remember only one part of the conversation.
"Have you read the Bible through yet?"
"Uh-huh, I read the Bible."
"No, I asked if you've read it through."
"All the way?"
"All the way! How can you hope to be a preacher if you haven't read the Bible through?"
Then he gave me his formula, which was so simple yet so difficult. If I would read three chapters every weekday and five chapters every Sunday, I would finish the Bible in a year.
Young and earnest as I was, I believed him, and I did it. I've done it any number of times since then, and have recommended it to each of the congregations I've served in my thirty-eight years of pastoral ministry."
I grew up with my father's Bible reading example before my eyes each day, year after year. Eventually, the daily discipline of Bible reading became part of my life, as well. And I, too, found that reading three chapters a day and five chapters on Sundays was a helpful, manageable way to read the Bible from cover to cover.
Now I have been serving in local church ministry for more than thirty years, and I have also encouraged my people wherever I've been to read the Bible for themselves. And I have handed the baton of Gene Palmer's simple method to hundreds of other people through the years.
In the 1990s, when I was serving Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Appleton, I decided to make Gene Palmer's method into a community experience. Rather than just encouraging folks to do that reading on their own, why don't we commit to doing it together? And why not help each other in our reading by meeting regularly to review, to look at maps and time lines, to discuss what we are reading, and to ask and answer questions? And so I proposed that anyone in my congregation who was interested in being part of such a year-long Bible study join "The 3x5 Club."
I offered the same opportunity to the folks I served at First United Methodist Church in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and then again to the folks at First United Methodist Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
At the church in Green Bay, the method -- and the resources that I offered to accompany it -- were so well-received that some folks wanted to do it again the next year. And so I decided to put all of those resources online -- the teachings, the memory devices, the introductions to books and characters, the overview of history and geography. etc.. That way, any individual, family, or small group could be part of The 3x5 Club whenever they chose, without depending on me and my schedule.
And thus The3x5Club.com was born.
I am constantly working to expand and improve the resources on this website. But the goal is not the website -- it is helping people read, learn, and live the Bible, day-by-day, and cover-to-cover.