USA (IBS) — While 80% of churchgoers struggle to read the Bible daily (source: Lifeway, 2012), the Wesleyan Church denomination is helping its 1,700 churches across North America to reverse the trend of diminishing Bible engagement. This February, The Wesleyan Church is launching Community Bible Experience, a campaign to read the entire New Testament together cover-to-cover in 40 days.
The Wesleyan Church is partnering with Biblica, publisher of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, to hold its Bible reading campaign during the eight weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, starting February 23. Participants will meet in thousands of small groups designed to be more like a book club than a traditional Bible study.
“I am delighted for us to read the entire New Testament as a denomination this spring,” said Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church. “Community Bible Experience is going to draw us together as a church, and it’s going to root us even more deeply in the Bible, which is central to our faith.”
The Wesleyan Church is the first denomination in North America to officially adopt Community Bible Experience, but a handful of Wesleyan congregations have already participated.
“I couldn’t believe how many people in our church had never read the New Testament straight through,” said John Wood, Community Life Pastor at The Wesleyan Church in Hamburg, a 2,000-member congregation in upstate New York. “The book-club format, allowing just about anyone to join in, generated an enthusiasm for Bible reading that I’ve never seen before.”
Spring Lake Wesleyan Church, a 1,400-member congregation, recently led a 40-day Community Bible Experience in Western Michigan. Reflecting on the campaign, lead pastor Peter Yoshonis said, “Reading whole books of the Bible–instead of just little snippets or verses like we usually do–helped people to see the epic narrative of Scripture. Once they saw the Bible as a story instead of a rulebook, they were hooked.”
Community Bible Experience was created to address declining engagement with the Bible, both in and outside the church. Only 1 in 5 adults have read the Bible from start to finish. Yet, interest in the Bible remains strong, with 6 in 10 Americans saying they want to read the Bible more (source: Barna, 2013). To date, over 200,000 people in more than a dozen countries have completed the Community Bible Experience together.
“The key to this program is reading together with others at the same time,” said Paul Caminiti, Vice President of Bible Engagement for Biblica, the creator of Community Bible Experience. “Reading the Bible in community allows everyone to ask questions or reflect on surprises and truths found in the experience.”
“We’re honored to partner with our friends in the Wesleyan Church as they lead thousands of local churches in engaging the Bible,” said Doug Lockhart, CEO of Biblica. “We all know it’s not enough to just hand out Bibles and tell people to read them. This is about helping people engage deeply with the Bible in community.”
The Wesleyan Church’s reading campaign starts February 23, 2014 and ends on Easter Sunday, April 20. To learn more about the Community Bible Experience campaign, click here.
Can other churches, that are not Wesleyan, join in on the Community Bible Experience and if so, how?