On the last Sunday of June, we finished the Essential 100 Bible Reading Challenge. Over the course of five months, about two thirds of our worshipping congregation—and a handful of folks from outside the church—read 100 passages of scripture, five per week, from Genesis to Revelation. There’s a whole lot of scripture that we didn’t cover, but we definitely got a solid “big picture” view of what the Bible is all about.
And we didn’t just read the Bible. There were six small groups, five meeting in homes and at church, and one “online” group, in which people shared weekly fellowship with one another around what they were reading and what they were hearing God say to them in the scriptures. Then at the conclusion of each week, our worship services focused in on a theme or concept that had been highlighted in the readings.
I’m so grateful for the blessings God has bestowed on us through this simple process. My faith, my confidence in Jesus Christ, has been deepened and strengthened by sharing this journey with you, and I believe that’s true for many of you, too. I know it is, because many of you have told me so.
I think it’s fair to say that Hope United Methodist Church has “tasted and seen” that the Bible is precisely what Whitney Kuniholm told us that it was in the introduction to The Essential 100: “The 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament were written by many authors over a fifteen-hundred-year time span. Yet each author was uniquely inspired by God. As the apostle Paul said, ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true’ (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT). The apostle Peter said, ‘For prophecy (the Bible) never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’ (2 Peter 1:21). And Jesus emphasized this truth when he quoted from Deuteronomy, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”’ (Matthew 4:4 RSV).What distinguishes the Bible from any other book is its divine origin. That’s why people refer to it as God’s Word; it records what he’s said, what he’s done, and what he wants from us.”
So as we wrap up the Essential 100 Bible Reading Challenge, I want to ask you: What does God want from Hope United Methodist Church?
I don’t pretend to know the answer to that question in any detail, but I do know this: God has done something significant among us, and it feels to me like He’s just getting started. As we’ve deepened our fellowship with God in reading the Word and our fellowship with one another in small groups, God is changing us.
Both Jesus and Peter speak of the Word of God as a seed—an “imperishable” seed, according to Peter—that, when sown in good soil—soil that’s been prepared by the grace of God—brings forth a harvest. The Word of God is a seed that produces new life—Jesus’ life, Kingdom life, eternal life, heavenly life—HERE, ON EARTH—in the lives of those who, upon hearing God’s Word, “hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). We’re seeing signs of new life in almost every aspect of Hope’s life. It’s beautiful. One long-time member told me recently, “I’m excited to come to church on Sunday!” Me, too!
That’s why I’m happy to tell you that we’re going to continue to fellowship with God and one another through the Word of God this fall. Starting in the end of September, we’ll be starting Whitney Kuniholm’s Essential Jesus. It has a similar format to E100—25 passages from the Old Testament, and 75 passages from the New Testament with daily prayers, reflections and opportunities for application—but all of the passages focus on Jesus: who He is, why He’s significant, how He transforms our lives. We’ll be organizing new Essential Jesus Bible Discussion Groups, ordering books, and gearing up for theme-focused, team-led worship this month.
Also coming this month: A special OUTDOOR MORNING WORHSHIP SERVICE and picnic on August 11. (Parents, bring sunscreen and bathing suits…water balloons and slip and slide alert!) And MUSIC CAMP for kids with Mary Wagner and Kristen Modesitt-Dukes! Don’t miss it!
 Whitney Kunihom, The Essential 100 (Valley Forge: Scripture Union Press, 2003), p. 8