Canaan Baptist Church sits in a storefront off Mike Padgett Highway. There's no pulpit or stained glass in the small, independent Baptist church. Its pastor, the Rev. Mike Andrews, speaks plainly.
That is, except when he preaches.
On Sundays, Andrews teaches from the King James Version of the Bible. He'll read lengthy, eloquent passages of Elizabethan verse, largely unchanged since their publication four centuries ago.
On Monday, the world celebrates the 400th anniversary of that Bible, revered not only as a religious work but also as a literary masterpiece that has shaped language, culture and politics.
To some, the King James Version remains beautiful, poetic and powerful, the only version worthy of reading aloud. To others, it's inaccessible, stodgy and outdated.
Andrews says he falls squarely in the first camp.
"It's the only thing we use. We believe that it's the word of God for English-speaking people," he said, adding with a laugh: "We're old sticks-in-the-mud like that."
It's the Bible that was used in the church where he was saved. There's the sentimental attachment, along with a conviction that the King James Version is superior to all other modern translations.
It's difficult to gauge the size and scope of modern King James-only devotees, said William Larkin, a professor of biblical studies who has taught at Columbia International University since 1975. The past century has brought about a proliferation of new translations, eclipsing the King James Version as the world's best-selling and most popular Bible.
"For centuries, the KJV has been the English translation. It was only until the end of the Second World War that this began to change," said Larkin, an ordained Presbyterian minister.
Though new translations abound, a recent study found the King James Version remains a mainstay in American homes.
Of the 89 percent of American adults who own a Bible, 67 percent own a King James, according to LifeWay Research, a Southern Baptist research agency that conducted a telephone poll in March in anticipation of the King James Version anniversary.
Only 27 percent of adults said they've never read the King James Version, according to the poll. Overall, 31 percent said they found the language to be beautiful, and 23 percent called it "easy to remember." The language, however, was "hard to understand," according to 27 percent of American adults, and 16 percent called it "outdated."
It's ironic, considering the King James Version was developed to become an "everyman's Bible," said Lamar Vest, the president of American Bible Society and a trustee of the King James Bible Trust. The society, one of the nation's oldest nonprofits, aims to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford.
The King James Version was birthed at a time of unrest in King James' England, Vest said.
Even before King James I ascended to the throne, Puritans clamored for a new translation that would bring about reform within the Church of England after a period of persecution.
A conference was called, bringing clergymen, Anglican leaders, Puritans and scholars together at Hampton Court in January 1604.
The objective of the conference wasn't a new translation, but the need for one was made apparent, Vest said.
Earlier English versions, such as the Bishop's Bible used in churches and the Geneva Bible common in homes, resulted in strife between Christian factions. James also opposed the Geneva Bible for its margin notes, which he declared hostile to his divine rights as king.
On July 22, 1604, James announced a new translation would be produced.
"He was facing serious religious divisions," Vest said. "Something needed to be done to bring about unity and heal religious divisions."
Forty-seven scholars and theologians worked on the Bible for seven years. It is, perhaps, the most beautiful example of any work designed by a committee, Vest said with a laugh.
The Bible that resulted -- the Authorized Version, popularly known as the King James Version -- is commonly hailed as the finest literary achievement in the English language.
"Amazingly, it not only spoke to the time it was translated in, but it speaks very much to our culture today," Vest said.
The King James Version isn't commonly used in today's Episcopal churches, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, born out of the Church of England, for which the King James Version was first written. But in anticipation of the 400th anniversary, the Rev. Robert Fain, the pastor of The Church of the Good Shepherd in Augusta, has been reading selections from the King James Version.
"I was reading about the impact of the King James on the English language," Fain said. "This seemed an appropriate way to pay homage to our history."
The translation was produced in the golden age of Elizabethan drama, poetry and art, the same period in which the works of English playwrights such as William Shakespeare flourished.
The way the translators rendered biblical Greek and Hebrew into English has left an undeniable impact on our speech, Larkin said.
The King James Version is the source of common idioms in the English language, such as "a wolf in sheep's clothing," which comes from Matthew 7:15, and the "blind leading the blind," from Matthew 15:14.
There are entire passages "embedded into our cultural consciousness," Larkin added. "Psalm 23, 1st Corinthians 13. We hear them and we hear the King James. It is the text above all texts."
It is not enough, however, to simply celebrate the literary impact of the King James Version, Vest said.
"We love to talk about the history, but this book is still very much a part of what's going on in our lives, cultures and nations today," he said.
It has been predicted the King James is going to lose its value, but Vest doesn't think it will.
"I think it's important to keep making new translations. A Bible applicable to the people is the goal. That's what the KJV was 400 years ago." he said. "This isn't some dusty, old historical rulebook we're talking about. We celebrate it as a book that is full of life. It's introduced untold numbers to the person of Jesus."