Not long ago, Jo Anne Lyon, Wesleyan Church General Superintendent, had a vision. What if her entire denomination did something it had never done before: read the whole New Testament? Together? In just 8 weeks?
Wesleyans have always been big believers in the power of God’s Word. So they decided to give it a shot, becoming the first denomination to do Biblica’s Community Bible Experience as a whole group.
An unexpected Lenten journey
The experiment kicked off February 24, ten days before Lent. While most people think of Lent as a time for giving things up, this year the Wesleyan Church asked people to do the opposite: take something on.
By late February, more than 800 churches had answered the challenge. Wesleyan congregations across North America — and as far away as Albania and India — committed to reading the New Testament together in eight weeks.
“It must be music to Jesus’ ears to hear so many people excited about reading the New Testament,” said Dorothy from Oklahoma (via Facebook)
Today, Dorothy’s sentiment is reverberating across an entire denomination.
Lives made new
Several years ago, the REVEAL study found that nothing is more critical to spiritual growth than regular engagement with the Bible. The stories pouring in from Wesleyan churches doing Community Bible Experience serve to confirm the researchers’ prediction that we’ll see “great kingdom gains” if we find effective new ways to help people connect with God’s Word.
Even for lifelong Christians, the experience has been like scales falling from their eyes. Many are reading the Scriptures — really reading them — for the first time in their lives.
“This is our second week. Mature Christians [are] marveling at patterns they’d never noticed, because they’re reading whole books for the first time,” said Mark from Bay City Wesleyan Church, Michigan.
“I feel like I am right there among the people who followed [Jesus],” said a participant from Roanoke, Virginia. “I can visualize what is happening and feel like he is talking directly to me. It’s awesome.”
A Wesleyan missionary from Albania shared the story of 10-year-old Erisa, who brought her Bible and the Community Bible Experience reading plan to school. A classmate saw it and confided that she was a Christian too. “When Erisa showed her the reading plan, the friend took out a notebook and copied the whole plan so she can read along, too!” reported Matt, a missionary to the former communist country.
This deep dive into Scripture is transforming families in more lighthearted ways, too. A family from Lamont Wesleyan Church in Kansas recently posted this story on Facebook: “Thursday morning before the school bus came, Sherry was being bossy (as big sisters do to little brothers), telling David he needed to get ready for school. Instead of yelling back and having a big argument, he says, ‘Sherry, get the wood out of your own eye!’ It was over. We are enjoying this.”
For Jo Anne Lyon, these stories of transformation don’t come as a surprise. Like she told her fellow Wesleyans at the start of this journey, “This is about simply reading God’s Word and allowing it to soak in your own spirit, mind, and heart.”
To discover more about the Community Bible Experience, click here.