The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the American Bible Society have teamed up to fight Bible illiteracy among Hispanics by promoting September as Mes de la Biblia, the Month of the Bible.
The initiative was recently launched during the NHCLC Annual Board Convention. The three-year effort comes in response to a study conducted by Barna Hispanics that revealed 87 percent of Hispanics own a Bible, but only eight percent read it regularly or allow it to inform their worldview.
In comparison, ABS' "State of the Bible in 2013" report shows 21 percent of all Americans are "engaged" with the Bible, which means they read it at least four times each week and believe it is the "actual Word of God" or inspired Word without error.
"The biggest concern was that Hispanics have the reputation of being religious people, of being committed Christ-followers, but when we did the study we were not aware that such a low percentage of Spanish speakers in the U.S. were not engaging with the Word of God," said Emilio Reyes, executive director of Multi-Language Ministries for ABS, in an interview with The Christian Post.
Unfortunately, he says, many Hispanic believers only read their Bibles on Sundays during church services. While church attendance is important, he says, "transformation really happens when a person engages with the Bible on a consistent basis."
There are more than 50 million Hispanics in the U.S. today, and both NHCLC and ABS leaders believe if Hispanics would read their Bibles regularly they could play a key role in shaping American society for the better.
"The ultimate goal is that God's Word affect people's lives, cause transformation, and that transformation, because of the volume of Hispanic people in America, could have a phenomenal impact," NHCLC Chief Operating Officer Gus Reyes told CP.
Starting with an increase in Bible reading, Gus says he hopes to see a spiritual revival in the U.S., though he also hopes Hispanics will seek to learn what the Bible says about topics such as marriage, education, immigration and other issues facing Americans today.
While pastors already encourage their congregations to regularly read the Bible to some extent, Gus says the initiative is designed to help them draw greater attention to the importance of it. The organizations want Hispanic Christians to get into the habit of reading the scriptures daily throughout the year, starting with each of the 30 days in September.
"So it's really kind of a taking it to the next level kind of opportunity," said Gus. "Now, you know that pastors have a multitude of issues and agenda items that they give attention to. They preach. A large percentage across the country are bi-vocational. So the potential of putting resources and sermons and emphasis into their hands in kind of a user-friendly, turn-key approach makes a big difference."
NHCLC, the largest Latino Christian organization in the U.S., leads over 40,000 evangelical member churches representing millions of Hispanic believers. ABS, founded in 1816, seeks to make the Bible available to everyone so they can experience its transforming message. Gus says the partnership between the two groups is a "strategic opportunity" because of each of their unique strengths.
"Our strength is media, communication and mobilization with churches and pastors across the country. That's our strength. The American Bible Society has a history of providing resources and scripture messaging, whether it be low-tech or high-tech, or whether it be digital or print resources, to the community," he said.
Among the resources that will be provided to participating churches for Mes de la Biblia is a kit for pastors that includes five sermons about the Bible, says Emilio. The organizations are also offering posters, Bible reading guides and other free resources to help churches promote the event.
The verse that coincides with this year's event is Psalm 119:103, which describes the Word of God as "sweeter than honey." Pastors and church leaders interested in participating in the Mes de la Biblia can access free resources by registering through the event website.