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Daniel Harrell: The 30-Day Leviticus Challenge


Daniel Harrell, “The 30-Day Leviticus Challenge: One church’s experiment in living the most arcane book of the Bible” Christianity Today (August 2008), pages 30-33.

Many years ago I had the rich experience of visiting the historic Park Street Congregational Church in Boston, Massachusetts. I was amazed to sit in one of America’s early churches with such a sense of legacy. The cemetery outside—the final resting place for such notables as Benjamin Franklin, Mother Goose, and other names—would make the pages of high school civics class come to life.

Two decades later I find myself writing about another historic civics lesson: this time about God’s constitution with his people, Israel—or more specifically—the book of Leviticus. What does a church in Boston have to do with Moses’ Leviticus?

Curiously, they intersect at something called the “The 30-Day Leviticus Challenge” as Pastor Daniel Harrell and Park Street Congregational attempted to spiritually touch what the ancient Israelites lived.

Fundamentally, to better grasp the realities of such everyday Christian themes as “sacrifice, atonement, holiness,” and more—the very essence of the book of Leviticus—Harrell challenged the members of his church to not merely read the words of this book of the Pentateuch, but to become engaged in living its pages, to participate in what he refers to as an “interpretive challenge.”

Could Daniel Harrell convince his congregation that the Book of Leviticus was good news?

The results are quite fascinating, as a small group of the willing began to examine this often dull and tedious book of the Bible with a fresh, living, and applicable perspective. Would they find harmony between the text and their tenants? Or would there be disparity with their doctrines?

As New Testament believers, there were some givens: namely that the sacrifices and high priestly duties were “fulfilled” by the Messiah’s atoning work on the cross. Other than that, the congregants were at liberty to live Leviticus as they saw fit. In the article you’ll read some interesting stories of how they interpreted what Moses had written and how to apply it literally, symbolically, and more importantly—spiritually—all these thousands of years later.

These brave few volunteers, about 21 in all, lived Leviticus for the rest of the church to see, and opened a social network account to support one another, bounce ideas around, and form a community. This began to spread the Word—and its practice—all around the world as other Facebook members read and experienced this 30-Day Challenge through the eyes of those participating.

A natural concern is that “all this Leviticus going on” would lead people down the path toward legalism. Apparently that was not the case. Approaching the book with a clearly held belief in Jesus only served to enrich the living-text experience, drew the men and woman engaged in the challenge closer to God and His Word, and had the unexpected result of drawing out curious onlookers. In short, their faith became more vivid and their organic opportunities to witness increased.

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Category: Living the Faith, Winter 2009

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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