From The Center for Biblical Studies
A read the Bible-in-a-year course that started off in one church in the United States is now in 2,500 churches in over 40 countries with 100,000 Anglicans participating. Almost 80,000 people worldwide visited their website in the first two weeks of January.
The director of The Bible Challenge, the Revd Marek Zabriskie, said he thinks the secret to the course's success is that The Bible Challenge participants can do it whenever and wherever they like. “They can use a printed Bible or read the Bible on a mobile device or listen to the Bible being read,” he noted.
"Each step of the way, people have given us ideas to help make this work better for them or for their church or diocese," said Mr Zabriskie, "There’s an enormous hunger out there for Anglicans to engage the Bible.” Over 40 Anglican bishops are currently leading their entire diocese in The Bible Challenge.
“Our goal is to help individuals develop a life-long spiritual discipline of daily Scripture reading that will transform the entire life,” said Mr. Zabriskie. “This ministry is also having an incredible impact on entire congregations and dioceses and transforming them from a low to high level of biblical literacy, and people from occasional churchgoers to people with a daily spiritual practice of engaging the Bible.”
“Studies reveal that regular engagement with the Bible is the number one tool for helping Christians grow in their faith, but it is actually one of the great weaknesses for many Anglicans,” he noted.
Author and Church historian Diana Butler Bass has noted that Episcopalians are the number one best-educated Christian group in the United States out of almost 22,000 Christian groups and denominations. “When asked about biblical literacy, however, Episcopalians drop to almost dead last,” Zabriskie noted.
“No one wants to admit that they are illiterate. The Bible Challenge is a chance for people to tackle a challenge that many have wanted to do for years and read the entire Bible and receive some daily support without feeling that they are the only one in the class who doesn’t know the Bible,” he said.
Mr. Zabriskie started The Bible Challenge to strengthen his own spiritual life. His increased Bible reading was so stimulating that he invited members of his church to join him in reading the entire Bible in a year.
Over 180 of his church members and more than 90 friends from beyond joined him that first year in 2011. “It was incredibly successful, and I felt God nudging us to share it with others. So, I created the Center for Biblical Studies (www.thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org) to share it with other people and churches. It caught on. Many people said that it was the most powerful spiritual experience of their life,” he said.
Participants read three chapters of the Old Testament, a psalm and a chapter of the New Testament each day, which helps them to read the entire Bible in a year. There are no readings for Sunday, as participants are encouraged to hear the Scriptures read aloud in church.
Unlike the Lectionary, The Bible Challenges helps participants read the entire Bible and each book in the order that they are found in the Bible. “Participants learn to value having a daily spiritual practice that centers them with God each day. They really learn their way around the Bible and are also challenged to read the difficult texts in the Bible, which provoke some great theological questions and discussions,” Mr. Zabriskie noted.
The current and former Archbishops of Canterbury have joined our Center for Biblical Studies’ Advisory Board along with over 60 bishops from around the Anglican Communion. Bible Challenge materials have been translated into Spanish, Swahili and French and are being translated into Mandarin and Russian in 2014.
Each day, the Center for Biblical Studies sends out an email message from Mr. Zabriskie commentating on the Bible readings for the day and relating them to everyday life. “We have reached all of these folks for less than $50,000,” noted Mr. Zabriskie.
“It’s hard to grow a church with Christians who do not know the Bible,” said Mr. Zabriskie, who edited a book called The Bible Challenge, published by Forward Movement Publishers and CMS Canterbury. It is a collection of meditations, questions and prayers to accompany The Bible Challenge’s Read the Bible in a Year Reading Plan. Over 100 archbishops, bishops, cathedral and seminary deans, biblical scholars, theologians and priests from around the Anglican Communion contributed meditations, questions and prayers to accompany each day of The Bible Challenge.
When it appeared, it had meditations by the then Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, who had just been named Archbishop of Canterbury. They were his only writings in print at the time.
Mr. Zabriskie’s new book will come out in September called "Doing the Bible Better: Unleashing the Bible for Transformation in the Episcopal Church."
To participate in The Bible Challenge visit www.thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org