One of the early Church Fathers wrote, “As the bishop goes, so goes the diocese.” A bishop’s stature and example can inspire thousands of people towards spiritual growth.
Studies show that the number one way by far to develop spiritual maturity as Christians is daily Scripture reading. Hearing the Bible read in church is like sitting in the passenger seat of a car. It does not teach us how to drive a car or learn the roads to our destination.
The CBS encourages each bishop to invite the clergy and laity of their diocese to join the bishop in reading the entire Bible in a year with the ultimate goal of helping thousands of individuals to develop a life-long spiritual practice of daily Bible reading.
Studies reveal that if a person reads the Bible for 21 days in a row they have an 80% chance of developing a lifetime discipline of daily Bible reading and that reading Scripture four times or more a week has a positive measurable impact on moral behavior.
In order to assist bishops, we recommend the following practices:
- Your diocese and you can start The Bible Challenge at any time of the year.
- We have found that some ideal times include:
- Starting on January 1, when many people make New Year’s Resolutions. Encourage your diocese to join you in making a spiritual resolution and read the entire Bible together in a year.
- Starting in Lent and use The Bible Challenge as a Lenten discipline that continues throughout the year.
- Starting at the beginning of the summer when many people experience a slower pace of life and have more time to read.
- Starting in the fall and go from September to August.
- Starting in Advent to read the Scriptures during the Church Year.
Translation, Reading Pace and Technology
- We recommend reading the New Oxford Annotated Edition of the Bible.
- We encourage you to invite your clergy and laity to: 1) read three chapters of the Old Testament 2) one psalm and 3) one chapter of the New Testament each day. This will get you through the Bible in a year.
- We recommend encouraging clergy and lay members of your diocese to consider downloading the Bible on their iPad, iPhone, Kindle or Nook or listening to it on CDs. The NIV Bible is readily available on CDs.
Reaching Out and Communicating the Transforming Experience
- We encourage bishops to reach out to friends and acquaintances in their diocese and beyond to join them in reading the Bible in a year, including seminarians from your diocese and all those seeking ordination.
- You are your diocese’s number one evangelist. We encourage you to lead by example and encourage your clergy to do the same in their parish.
- Share testimonials in your diocesan newsletter, parish visits and diocesan convention about how The Bible Challenge is transforming you and others.
Recommended Strategies for Reading
- Give permission to those participating in The Bible Challenge to skip or skim over genealogies and dietary codes, so they do not become mired down but complete their goal of reading the entire Bible.
- We advocate using a devotional approach to reading the Bible as opposed to a purely intellectual or academic reading of the Bible. Each reader should put him or herself in God’s presence before reading.
How to Promote The Bible Challenge and Enjoy Free Publicity
- We recommend that bishops write their clergy and also place an article in your newsletter inviting the diocese to join you in reading the entire Bible in a year.
- Ask each rector to promote your invitation to join you in The Bible Challenge in their parish newsletter and Sunday announcements.
- We encourage letting the media know that you and your diocese are participating in The Bible Challenge.
Reaching All Ages
- We recommend parents read The Big Picture Story Bible by Scripture Union with children ages 2-7, The Spark Bible by NRSV or the DK Bible for older children.
- For more information visit the CBS website for “Resources for Children, Youth and Families.” We encourage diocesan teenagers with a mature faith to join The Bible Challenge using the NIV Teen Study Bible.
Providing Ongoing Support and Creating Accountability
- It is vital to offer ongoing support, to hold people accountable and to assist them especially during the first three months of The Bible Challenge. Those who meet with success in the first 90 days are likely to read the entire Bible.
- We recommend printing in your diocesan newsletter the names of everyone in your diocese who participate in The Bible Challenge. This lets others know who and how many are participating. It also celebrates their spiritual commitment and holds them accountable to their commitment.
- We suggest collecting the names and e-mail addresses of those participating in The Bible Challenge so that you as their bishop can use Constant Contact or other means to send out regular messages of support and wisdom to participants.
- E-mail will allow you to offer special insights about the Bible. By sharing how reading the Bible strengthens your faith, you can inspire others.
- Encourage participating churches to pray each Sunday for the spiritual transformation of those participating in The Bible Challenge.
Celebrating Your Diocesan Achievement
- At year end, bishops are encouraged to hold a celebratory banquet for those who have participated in The Bible Challenge. Clergy and laity can offer brief testimonials about how reading the Bible has transformed their lives.
- Award a certificate to everyone who has been a faithful Bible reader for a year and a special award to those who have read the entire Bible.
Re-launching The Bible Challenge in Your Diocese and Providing Options
- Encourage participating churches to offer follow up classes for those who read the entire Bible and those who have struggled and did not finish.
- Invite those who read the entire Bible to become parish mentors for those who participate in Year Two.
- Re-launch The Bible Challenge each year in order to get more members of the diocese to read the entire Bible. In Year Two provide more options to participants: (see the brochure)
- Invite those who have read the Bible with you in one translation to re-read it with you in Year Two using a different translation. Re-launching The Bible Challenge affirms that the goal is to become a life-long daily reader of the Bible.
Long after you have retired, the most important thing that you will have done for your diocese is to have shared God’s Word, implanted it deep within their hearts and inspired them to read the Bible each day for the rest of their lives.
With gratitude for your leadership,
The Rev. Marek P. Zabriskie
Rector of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church. Fort Washington, Pennsylvania
Founder and Executive Director of The Bible Challenge and The Center for Biblical Studies