(Photo: Liquid Church)
More than 3,300 people have accepted a challenge from the leaders of a New Jersey church to read the New Testament from beginning to end over the course of just 40 days.
"Although the media often highlights how irrelevant the Bible seems to modern culture, there is a growing hunger among the next generation to open the Scriptures and see what God's Word says for themselves," Lucas said in a statement.
To support those participating in the challenge, Liquid Church gave away 4,800 copies of a custom New Testament published by Biblica, the publisher of the New International Version of the Bible.
The church also trained over 300 volunteers to host or facilitate approximately 200 local reading groups throughout the state, including several which will meet via the Internet using Google+ Hangout video conferencing. The groups will meet weekly for the eight weeks leading up to Easter Sunday.
The local reading groups are being presented in a "book club format," Kenny Jahng, pastor of media and innovation for the church, told The Christian Post on Thursday. In these groups, participants will be asked open-ended questions like: What surprised you about what you read? What did you learn? What bothered you about this week's reading?
"Most churches would not go down that path," Jahng said about that last question. "But yet we are relying on the Holy Spirit to do its work."
He also said people are still joining the Bible-reading movement on a daily basis.
"We have this effect that it's contagious," said Jahng. "It's on a lot of people's bucket list, and this is the time to do it. So it's a great momentum builder here for the church."
Liquid Church has made the New Testament available in print, digital and audio formats. Those participating in the 40-day challenge who are using the audio New Testament will have to listen for about 28 minutes per day – the length of one television sitcom, Jahng points out.
The ages of members participating in the challenge range from 7 to 70. Child participants are using the New International Reader's Version (NIrV) and are being encouraged by a number of incentives, including an ice cream party in April where the number of toppings they can add depends on how many days they read during the challenge.
Liquid Church, which is attended by about 2,500 people across its New Jersey campuses and Church Online, estimates that 66,000 hours of Bible reading will take place as a result of the challenge.
"So much of our faith today has been reduced to bumper stickers and bracelet slogans," said Lucas. "But God's message of love & hope is profoundly personal, and our people are hungry to experience it first-hand. It just goes to show you, when God shows up, things heat up."