Taking Up the bible Anew

Marek Zabriskie

With a little help from the far-flung world of social media, our church invited members of our parish this year to join me in reading the entire Bible in 2011. And what an adventure it launched.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions in hopes of becoming a better person or obtaining self- improvement. The number one resolution is to lose weight. The second most common resolution is to exercise more. Within six days, most Americans have given up, because they have no one to hold them accountable.

We decided to capitalize on New Year’s resolutions by inviting people to make a spiritual resolution and read the entire Bible in a year. Our plan was to provide the support of our church and create mechanisms to help hold them accountable to their resolution.

Issuing email invitations, we had hoped to have perhaps fifteen church members participate and were astonished when, in six weeks’ time, we had 180 participants and 85 friends beyond the church who had joined our Bible Challenge. The number continues to grow.

I found that sending the email invitation was like fishing in a stocked pond. Many men responded, “I have always wanted to do this. Count me in.” I discovered that reading the entire Bible was a lifetime goal that many wanted to accomplish, but they needed someone to challenge them to do it and help them reach their goal.

We provided free Bibles, but a turning point came early when we suggested that they could download the Bible and read it on their iPad, iPhone, Kindle, or Nook, or listen to it on CDs. The overall effect has been remarkable. We now have husbands and wives passing the Bible back and forth across the bed stand at night. A married couple who are both physicians and commute forty minutes each way to work are listening to the Bible on CD as they drive. YDS Dean Harold Attridge, a personal friend, has joined us,

reading the Bible each day on his iPhone. Lawyers and executives in our parish who commute by train into Philadelphia each day are reading the Bible on their iPads or Kindles.

We use Constant Contact email to communicate regularly with participants. Our email messages encourage them to continue their daily reading and offer ideas for comprehending the Bible and reading it devotionally.

The experience has been so well received that our church decided to create The Center for Biblical Studies (CBS) to promote The Bible Challenge across the United States and the world.

The communications offices of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are now promoting the CBS and The Bible Challenge to more than 5,000 Episcopal churches and Anglicans in 168 countries around the world. They along with St. Thomas Church are using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to promote

The Bible Challenge nationally and globally.
Our CBS website (www.thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org) was inexpensive to create and can have enormous impact. We stumbled onto a simple, good idea and let the Holy Spirit guide us to use technology to spread its impact from one community to almost every country around the world. We believe The Bible Challenge can energize countless churches and transform millions of lives. We are thrilled with how tech- nology has allowed us to further this ministry.

If your parish or you would like to join The Bible Challenge or help us launch The Center for Biblical Stuides, please contact me at mzabriskie@stthomaswhitemarsh.org or 215-233-3970 ext. 120. We welcome your participation. You can also find us on Facebook or at www.stthomaswhitemarsh.org or www. TheCenterforBiblicalStudies.org 

The Rev. Marek P. Zabriskie is rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Fort Washington, PA.