Building a City of God

Scripture engagement tools help communities revitalize their cities.

Imagine a world where churches in cities across America engage Scripture with their congregations, who then go out into their communities to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and take care of the sick.

And imagine a world where this living out of Scripture transforms the city itself: crime rates drop, literacy rates rise, domestic violence plummets, and children receive a quality education.

This is the anatomy of a Gospel movement. And it lies at the heart of American Bible Society’s focus to transform cities through the life-changing message of the Word of God.

“Leaders catalyze gospel movements,” says Dr. John Edgar Caterson, executive director, catalytic church partnerships. “Gospel movements change cities, and cities change culture.

“Corporate spiritual disciplines and Scripture engagement are the foundation for changing cities and changing culture,” Dr. Caterson continues. “We believe that regularly engaging and living out the Bible’s message can transform hearts and lives, renewing cities in the process.”

Equipping Leaders
Scripture is the heart of American Bible Society. As such, we’re customizing biblical resources for church leaders who minister to people in cities. An engagement component invites pastors to journey through the Word with their congregations so all are empowered to address issues of justice for the common good and welfare of the city.

Determining Scripture needs starts from a posture of listening and serving, says Chris Thyberg, director, city Scripture engagement. “Through the networks and partnerships we have, we begin a conversation and explore how to equip churches in cities so all can embody the Gospel.

“We collaborate with Christian leaders to address the needs and opportunities God has stirred in their hearts for the welfare of their city,” continues Thyberg. “And we work hard to ensure that the resulting expressions of Scripture are owned by each city, will grow in that city each year and will spread to other cities.”

One such customized resource is Now Is the Time —a Scripture engagement initiative begun four years ago through a collaboration of American Bible Society, the New York City Leadership Center and Concerts of Prayer Greater New York.

Now is the Time examines God’s Word, his love for cities and his passion for justice. Four different versions of this print and digital resource have been created since 2011. Each year, Now is the Time, focuses on different books of the Bible, all with the goal of encouraging renewal in cities.

Now is the Time: Nehemiah, for example, explores the themes of restoration and revival found in the Book of Nehemiah. Now is the Time: Acts examines the Book of Acts and the need for Christians to serve the community in the name of Jesus Christ. With a youth and children’s track, Now is the Time: Acts encourage Christians of all ages to serve the needs of the people in their communities—whether it be their classrooms, the playground or the soccer field.

Since the inception of Now is the Time four years ago, up to 240,000 participants in more than 2,000 churches have journeyed through Now is the Time.

“These numbers only show part of the picture,” says Caterson. “The leaders who helped write Now is the Time are amazing. They work in small churches with 80 people to mega churches with 35,000 members, all of whom have journeyed through this interconfessional resource. That means Catholics and Protestants have taken this journey together, uniting all of us in the name of Christ for the welfare of cities.”

The next iteration of Now is the Time will focus on Luke’s Gospel and is slated to debut in October.

Major Multipliers
American Bible Society serves Latino pastors, who minister to thriving communities in cities across the United States. However, research has shown that only 8 percent of the Hispanic community regularly engages with the Bible, says Rev. Emilio Reyes, executive director for church relations at American Bible Society.

“Studies also suggest that people of the cloth aren’t interacting with the Scriptures,” continues Dr. Reyes. “They only do so when they’re preparing a sermon. Many Latino pastors are bi-vocational; they work outside the church and don’t have the time or the resources to learn how to engage their people with the life-changing message of the Bible. We’re hoping to change this reality with Descubre La Biblia.”

Descubre is a series of full-day seminars for inner city pastors who are equipped with information about American Bible Society’s Scripture engagement resources.

Church leaders are major multipliers, says Dr. Reyes. They reach their congregations with the message of God’s Word. And their congregations then go out and serve as the hands and feet of Christ in their communities.

Seminars have been held in cities around the country—from New York to Miami to Chicago to Los Angeles. Last year alone, 32,555 people were impacted by Descubre seminars.

“At American Bible Society, we want to remove obstacles that prevent people from experiencing the life-changing message of the Bible,” says Dr. Reyes. “God is at work in major cities just by the mere fact that Christian leaders are uniting. We are part of the Gospel movement by providing the Scripture engagement component. What happens after that is work of the Holy Spirit.”

You can help share God’s Word in our nation’s cities! Visit: ABSRecord.com/cityreach

Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.

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