There is no shortage of Bibles in America. Four copies of the Scriptures can be found in the typical U.S. household, according to a study published earlier this year by American Bible Society and the Barna Group.
One in six people polled said he or she had purchased a Bible in the past year. Yet many don't bother to read it. Respondents ages 18-29 reported opening the Bible on average fewer than three times a year or never.
|Jesse, Josh and Daniel Wagner (left to right) of Owasso (Oklahoma) AG appear with Jeff Foxworthy on The American Bible Challenge.|
Against this backdrop, Bible Quiz stands in stark contrast. A discipleship ministry of the Assemblies of God, Bible Quiz encourages teens not only to study the Scriptures but also to commit entire books of the New Testament to memory. And every year, students across the nation take up the challenge.
Daniel Wagner, a high school senior who attends Owasso (Oklahoma) Assembly of God, is among them. In his seven years of quizzing, Wagner has memorized 14 books of the Bible. He and his three brothers, along with their teammates, have collectively won four national championships since 2008.
Wagner is passionate about the gospel. He travels the globe preaching with his parents, who serve as independent missionary evangelists. But Wagner admits it's the competitive aspect of Bible Quiz that motivates him to spend hours each week memorizing, quoting and poring over Scripture.
"I love the competition," says Wagner, who garnered the Male Quizzer of the Year Award at last year's national tournament in Columbus, Ohio. "I don't want to walk away thinking I could have done a better job if I had worked harder. The possibility of winning drives me."
Bernie Elliot, national Bible Quiz coordinator, estimates about 3,000 students participate in the ministry nationwide. With an academic quiz bowl format and all the intensity of a high school sporting event, Bible Quiz appeals to the youthful compulsion to strive for perfection.
"If it weren't for the Bible Quiz ministry, many of the students would not have dug as deep as they did in studying and memorizing God's Word," Elliot says. "I constantly hear the competition helps initially motivate them to memorize as they realize they will be held accountable at a Bible Quiz match. The quizzers are then challenged to go even deeper in the Word and in their relationship with the Lord."
Each year, Bible Quiz focuses on one or more books of the New Testament. The quiz season begins in the fall and culminates with the top 40 teams competing at National Finals in early July. This year's national competition took place June 29-July 4, in Chicago. Students answered questions drawn from the 1,068 verses of Matthew, one of the longest books in the New Testament.
The more difficult queries could ask students to quote five different verses scattered throughout the Gospel or rattle off a list of 47 individuals - all in 30 seconds. Scholarships are awarded to top individuals and teams.
Rod Whitlock, who oversees Bible Quiz for Assemblies of God National Youth Ministries, says the ministry's focus on memorizing Scripture makes Bible Quiz a uniquely powerful discipleship tool.
"Imagine the endless possibilities with a generation of students having hidden God's Word deep within their hearts," Whitlock says. "Bible Quiz affords students the opportunity to learn Scripture, and then live it, so they can lead from it. What could happen if individuals were equipped with His Word in every workplace and community in America?"
|Abby Rogers competes at a 2011 tournament.|
At 16 years of age, Abby Rogers has an impressive Bible Quiz résumé. She led her Wesley Chapel (Florida) Victorious Life Church (AG) team to a national championship in 2010 and has been both the Female Quizzer of the Year and the top-ranked national quizzer by points the past three years. But Rogers says she has garnered more than just trophies and titles.
"I absolutely love competition of any kind, so the quiz aspect really appeals to me," says Rogers, who now quizzes at Cedar Park Assembly of God in Bothell, Washington. "However, becoming so well-versed in the Bible is what ultimately makes Bible Quiz worthwhile for me. Life doesn't always permit you to pull out a Bible on the spot, but when God's Word is locked into your mind, it's always with you. This means you have constant access to the very words of God, which are free to guide, inspire, reassure and instruct you at any time."
The skills and knowledge fostered in Bible Quiz have helped participants achieve success in other competitive venues as well. Isaac Ward, a recent high school graduate who quizzed multiple years at First Assembly of God in Binghamton, New York, won the Junior Division of the National Bible Bee in 2009, earning a $50,000 scholarship. The National Bible Bee is a nondenominational contest unrelated to Bible Quiz.
Owasso's Daniel Wagner and his two older brothers, Josh and Jesse, were contestants this year on The American Bible Challenge, a television program on the Game Show Network hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy and featuring musical co-host Kirk Franklin. Contestants compete for more than $100,000 in cash for their favorite charities.
Kevin Wagner, the brothers' father, coaches the Owasso Bible Quiz team and says developing a habit of Scripture memorization has benefited his entire family.
"I never did any legitimate memorization until I was in my 40s and started memorizing with my boys in Bible Quiz," says Wagner, who has committed nine books of the New Testament to memory. "Bible Quiz is the best thing any family can be involved in. It's the best hobby you can have. It deepens your relationship with the Lord and keeps your heart and mind filled with the Word of God."
Many former Bible quizzers now serve in ministry, including James T. Bradford, general secretary of the Assemblies of God.
"Bible Quiz got me memorizing and studying God's Word an hour a day as a teenager," Bradford says. "It laid a substantial foundation for a life of ministry at a time when I was not headed for vocational ministry."
Scott Berkey, national director of the Children's Ministries Agency for the Assemblies of God, competed in Bible Quiz from 1992 to 1997 at Faith Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida.
"The verses I memorized and the friendships I formed while quizzing have had a tremendous impact on my life," Berkey says. "I am so thankful for my time and experience with quizzing."
Bible Quiz is open to students in sixth through 12th grades. The season beginning this fall will include eight books of the Bible: 1 and 2 Timothy, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Titus and John's three epistles.
Author: Christina Quick, Pentecostal Evangel