A youth group’s Bible-reading project

I was driving down Main Street and saw a tent pitched outside of a residence that was next to the downtown business district.  A bunch of teenagers were milling about.  There was a podium, and it looked like someone was reading from it.  A sign said, “I ate them.com.”

Of course that aroused my curiosity, so I went to the site and saw that the reference was to Jeremiah 15:16, about “eating” the Word of God.  What was going on downtown was a Bible reading marathon!

The website, designed I assume by the group, featured a video, produced I assume by the group, which gave two different perspectives on the Bible from atheists as well as believers, and then challenged people to read the Bible for themselves to form their own opinion.

The site also included evangelistic and apologetic material, with links to other sites on these topics, as well as Bible-reading resources.

In a day of stupid youth group tricks, I thought, this was an ingenious, fun, and meaningful project!

Imagine my surprise yesterday to learn that the inspiration came from this blog!   Rich Shipe, pastor of Blue Ridge Bible Church and frequent commenter here, wrote me yesterday saying he got the idea from this post.

Rich said it took them 70 hours and 34 minutes to read the whole Bible.  They were able to share the Gospel with about a dozen passersby.  And reading the Bible in shifts was a devotional experience.  He said he himself realized how helpful it is to read the Bible in big chunks, so as to get the contexts and continuity, as opposed to the verse sampling that has become more common.  They went on to make a time-lapse video of the three-day event (see below).

So I salute those of you who participated in the “I ate them” project.  (Rich invites other churches to do the same and said that they could use their website.)

iatethem.com | Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart -Jer. 15:16.

I ATE THEM Promo Video from Kylene Arnold on Vimeo.

i ate them 2012 from Rich Shipe on Vimeo.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    That’s very cool. Now.. it has to shift from a gimmick (and I use that term charitably here) to a regular way of life.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    That’s very cool. Now.. it has to shift from a gimmick (and I use that term charitably here) to a regular way of life.

  • DonS

    Wow, that’s great! And I didn’t realize that Rich was pastor at Blue Ridge now. That’s awesome as well.

  • DonS

    Wow, that’s great! And I didn’t realize that Rich was pastor at Blue Ridge now. That’s awesome as well.

  • CRB

    Reading the Scriptures is certainly beneficial to those who see and believe that Jesus Christ is in them from the Alpha to the Omega! (from Genesis to Revelation). As Todd Wilken says on Issues, Etc. “It’s not about you, it’s about Jesus FOR YOU!

  • CRB

    Reading the Scriptures is certainly beneficial to those who see and believe that Jesus Christ is in them from the Alpha to the Omega! (from Genesis to Revelation). As Todd Wilken says on Issues, Etc. “It’s not about you, it’s about Jesus FOR YOU!

  • Gabriel Borlean

    Wow, so cool! Could this be imported to Denmark? Is it trademarked, or what can be learned about the logistics and setup needed for it (was microphone/speakers used?, etc.).

  • Gabriel Borlean

    Wow, so cool! Could this be imported to Denmark? Is it trademarked, or what can be learned about the logistics and setup needed for it (was microphone/speakers used?, etc.).

  • Rich Shipe

    Hi Gabriel,

    To answer your questions. Feel free to use any of what we did. I can send you the art work we created for the tshirts. If you have changes or additions to the website I can do that as well. But I assume you’d want a website in Danish though?

    Also a point of clarification, I’m the associate pastor at Blue Ridge, not the senior pastor. Senior pastors don’t have the time to do fun stuff like this. :)

    Couple of logistics points for consideration…

    1. We did it in a prominent place in town but not on public property. I didn’t want the community to debate state vs. religion issues but rather the questions we raise about the Bible.

    2. We didn’t use a microphone because I didn’t want it to seem forced on to the public or like a protest. I wanted to just be seen and allow the domain name to grab interest and draw them to the website. That part worked because we had around 800 people visit our website during those three days. For our small town I consider that amount to be pretty good.

    3. We asked people to sign up for two hour shifts. During their shift they would take turns reading and then being available to talk to people that walk up. Because it was mainly youth it became somewhat of a hang out which was fun. The downside was we got one complaint from a neighbor about late night noise. We need to do better in that area next year. I always had adults on site but it is easy to get out of hand.

    4. We also timed it so that we ended just before our town’s Fourth of July parade. You can see in the video there were lots of people on the street at the end, that is the parade crowd.

    5. Another major lesson learned was during the week most of our web traffic was from mobile devices. To make this much better for next time we need to have a site completely geared toward mobile devices. Also needs to do better at grabbing the person and hooking them into the site. My hope was to really confront them with the claims that the Bible makes and to not allow them to easily wiggle out without personally confronting those issues. I’m not sure we really achieved that. I’m sure others could contribute better in those ways.

    6. I bought a large print Bible that everyone used. We wrote our names in it where each person started and ended. It will be a momento for us. And I hope to use the same Bible each year.

    7. The camera was easier than I thought it would be. We used a GoPro camera that we borrowed. That camera has a setting for taking a picture every so many seconds. We set it to take a shot every 60 seconds. Ended up with over 5500 shots. The challenge was that the water-proof casing doesn’t have a hole for a power cord and the battery will only last about 3 hours. So we drilled a hole in the case and put tape around it and hoped it would stay dry. We also put an umbrella over it to protect it from sun glare and rain. I don’t think the umbrella was necessary though. Next year I’ll not use the umbrella and just do a better job and sealing it around the power cord. Regrettably one of the youth turned it off at the start of the third day and we lost about 4 hours of shots. I then found a cheap mac program in the apple store for making time lapse movies. I set it to 24 frames per second and then it builds the time-lapse. I then used iMovie to make the rest of the video. Really very easy. If I had someone with the skills and time I think a much better video could be made. There are a number of great shots among the 5500 that could be highlighted in some way.

    Anyway, I’m honored that so many like it and pray that God uses it. I think we sowed some seeds and God will cause them to grow as he sees fit.

  • Rich Shipe

    Hi Gabriel,

    To answer your questions. Feel free to use any of what we did. I can send you the art work we created for the tshirts. If you have changes or additions to the website I can do that as well. But I assume you’d want a website in Danish though?

    Also a point of clarification, I’m the associate pastor at Blue Ridge, not the senior pastor. Senior pastors don’t have the time to do fun stuff like this. :)

    Couple of logistics points for consideration…

    1. We did it in a prominent place in town but not on public property. I didn’t want the community to debate state vs. religion issues but rather the questions we raise about the Bible.

    2. We didn’t use a microphone because I didn’t want it to seem forced on to the public or like a protest. I wanted to just be seen and allow the domain name to grab interest and draw them to the website. That part worked because we had around 800 people visit our website during those three days. For our small town I consider that amount to be pretty good.

    3. We asked people to sign up for two hour shifts. During their shift they would take turns reading and then being available to talk to people that walk up. Because it was mainly youth it became somewhat of a hang out which was fun. The downside was we got one complaint from a neighbor about late night noise. We need to do better in that area next year. I always had adults on site but it is easy to get out of hand.

    4. We also timed it so that we ended just before our town’s Fourth of July parade. You can see in the video there were lots of people on the street at the end, that is the parade crowd.

    5. Another major lesson learned was during the week most of our web traffic was from mobile devices. To make this much better for next time we need to have a site completely geared toward mobile devices. Also needs to do better at grabbing the person and hooking them into the site. My hope was to really confront them with the claims that the Bible makes and to not allow them to easily wiggle out without personally confronting those issues. I’m not sure we really achieved that. I’m sure others could contribute better in those ways.

    6. I bought a large print Bible that everyone used. We wrote our names in it where each person started and ended. It will be a momento for us. And I hope to use the same Bible each year.

    7. The camera was easier than I thought it would be. We used a GoPro camera that we borrowed. That camera has a setting for taking a picture every so many seconds. We set it to take a shot every 60 seconds. Ended up with over 5500 shots. The challenge was that the water-proof casing doesn’t have a hole for a power cord and the battery will only last about 3 hours. So we drilled a hole in the case and put tape around it and hoped it would stay dry. We also put an umbrella over it to protect it from sun glare and rain. I don’t think the umbrella was necessary though. Next year I’ll not use the umbrella and just do a better job and sealing it around the power cord. Regrettably one of the youth turned it off at the start of the third day and we lost about 4 hours of shots. I then found a cheap mac program in the apple store for making time lapse movies. I set it to 24 frames per second and then it builds the time-lapse. I then used iMovie to make the rest of the video. Really very easy. If I had someone with the skills and time I think a much better video could be made. There are a number of great shots among the 5500 that could be highlighted in some way.

    Anyway, I’m honored that so many like it and pray that God uses it. I think we sowed some seeds and God will cause them to grow as he sees fit.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Rich, thanks for your notes here. Somehow, I’d gotten it into my head that you were a Lutheran, though. Ah, well.

    I like your approach in the first two points (@5). The message of the Bible will necessarily cause offense, but we should do our best to make sure that we’re not the cause of offense when spreading that Word!

    As to point #5, Web analytics will not tell you how the Holy Spirit is working! You did your part, He’ll do His. (And, of course, “your part” was the Spirit’s work, as well, so don’t worry.)

    I wonder, though, if you solely viewed this as an outreach activity, or was it a combination of outreach and personal devotion?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Rich, thanks for your notes here. Somehow, I’d gotten it into my head that you were a Lutheran, though. Ah, well.

    I like your approach in the first two points (@5). The message of the Bible will necessarily cause offense, but we should do our best to make sure that we’re not the cause of offense when spreading that Word!

    As to point #5, Web analytics will not tell you how the Holy Spirit is working! You did your part, He’ll do His. (And, of course, “your part” was the Spirit’s work, as well, so don’t worry.)

    I wonder, though, if you solely viewed this as an outreach activity, or was it a combination of outreach and personal devotion?

  • Rich Shipe

    I love Lutherans! I went to a Lutheran church for a few years as a kid and also to a Lutheran private school for grades 4 and 5. I love especially their gospel-centered approach. They (at least the ones that are still true to their beliefs) were gospel centered before it became cool. It would seem that what some are rediscovering the Lutherans never lost.

    As to your question, I wanted it to be a challenge to the church as much as to the lost. I wanted our youth to get this experience and to discover how easy it is to read through the Bible. I had iatethem.com bracelets made up (kind of like the livestrong bracelets) and they wear them and I hope are eating the word everyday for themselves. It didn’t occur to me in advance that the actual act would be devotional. But that surprised me at how meaningful it was to me as a reader. I was only able to read twice but my second reading was Jeremiah 1-30. I think it was about 90 minutes. I had never read that much in one sitting, let alone out loud. It was incredible.

    Another thing we did that I would recommend to others is to have a log book. People used it to write down observations or prayer requests or stories about conversations they had with people on the street.

  • Rich Shipe

    I love Lutherans! I went to a Lutheran church for a few years as a kid and also to a Lutheran private school for grades 4 and 5. I love especially their gospel-centered approach. They (at least the ones that are still true to their beliefs) were gospel centered before it became cool. It would seem that what some are rediscovering the Lutherans never lost.

    As to your question, I wanted it to be a challenge to the church as much as to the lost. I wanted our youth to get this experience and to discover how easy it is to read through the Bible. I had iatethem.com bracelets made up (kind of like the livestrong bracelets) and they wear them and I hope are eating the word everyday for themselves. It didn’t occur to me in advance that the actual act would be devotional. But that surprised me at how meaningful it was to me as a reader. I was only able to read twice but my second reading was Jeremiah 1-30. I think it was about 90 minutes. I had never read that much in one sitting, let alone out loud. It was incredible.

    Another thing we did that I would recommend to others is to have a log book. People used it to write down observations or prayer requests or stories about conversations they had with people on the street.

  • Rich Shipe

    Oh, and great point about Analytics. Thanks for that reminder and encouragement!

  • Rich Shipe

    Oh, and great point about Analytics. Thanks for that reminder and encouragement!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I would just add that this post has been picked up by the megablogger Tim Challies, as well as some other folks, so we are getting THOUSANDS of extra visits. I suspect more youth groups are going to be doing something like this. We may have sparked a movement!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I would just add that this post has been picked up by the megablogger Tim Challies, as well as some other folks, so we are getting THOUSANDS of extra visits. I suspect more youth groups are going to be doing something like this. We may have sparked a movement!

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    : – ) Both videos and the text brought a muck needed smile-Thank you-
    and – of course- reading the Bible – esp aloud- several times- cover to cover will bring great insight into the heart of our Creator-=GOD!
    My favorite is the OKJV- as it is rather like Shakespeare and thus – must be read aloud -(poetry) to be understood…
    Carol-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    : – ) Both videos and the text brought a muck needed smile-Thank you-
    and – of course- reading the Bible – esp aloud- several times- cover to cover will bring great insight into the heart of our Creator-=GOD!
    My favorite is the OKJV- as it is rather like Shakespeare and thus – must be read aloud -(poetry) to be understood…
    Carol-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    much (-: not muck-
    C-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    much (-: not muck-
    C-CS

  • David

    I had the privilege of being able to read through Judges 1-15 out loud during this event and I have to mimic what Rich said about really getting a lot out of reading the Bible out loud. I had the 2am to 4am shift and I sincerely enjoyed it. I was actually a little bit disappointed when the next person came and got to take over right in the middle of Samson’s awesome story!

  • David

    I had the privilege of being able to read through Judges 1-15 out loud during this event and I have to mimic what Rich said about really getting a lot out of reading the Bible out loud. I had the 2am to 4am shift and I sincerely enjoyed it. I was actually a little bit disappointed when the next person came and got to take over right in the middle of Samson’s awesome story!

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