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What is the Christian Life Trilogy, Anyway? (part 2)

This post is the second in a two-part series on the basic tenets of The Christian Life Trilogy for those who wonder about, or want to share information about the Trilogy with their friends, neighbors, or church leaders. See part one here: What is the Christian Life Trilogy, Anyway? (part 1)

The first series of the trilogy, The Crucified Life, begins the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and calls the corporate body back to the central purpose of Lent, to pick up our cross and follow Jesus as His disciples. The teaching and reflections invite us into the daily process of dying to self in order that we might fellowship in His sufferings of Good Friday and thereby attain the joy of Easter–unity with the Christ in His glorious resurrection.

But our new life doesn’t end there. In many churches, Easter Day is a glorious celebration of worship; yet mysteriously the church goes right back to the normal routine just as things are about to get exciting! Easter is meant to be more than one day–it is meant to be an entire season of hope and renewal. That’s why the second book in the series, The Resurrected Life, explores how everything changes in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

The activating and energizing power behind both the Crucified and Resurrected Life is the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit-Filled Life, the third in The Christian Life Trilogy, explores the activity of the Holy Spirit calling us to Christ, gifting us for service, and pouring out the love of God in our hearts that we might carry that love to the world. Discover what it means to “walk in the Spirit” on a daily basis.

Our hope and prayer for you and your congregation is that these materials would be used by God to bring the life of Christ to your church in an exciting new way. As you gather in small groups and in corporate worship, may the dynamism of the living God stir your hearts with His truth, fill you with hope, and equip you with power. We invite you on this unique walk through the Christian journey, from Crucified to Resurrected to Spirit-Filled Life!

Take the first step and preview the Trilogy today.

 

What is the Christian Life Trilogy, Anyway? (part 1)

This post is the first in a two-part series on the basic tenets of The Christian Life Trilogy for those who wonder about, or want to share information about the Trilogy with their friends, neighbors, or church leaders. 

The ebb and flow of the Christian life is a rhythm of God’s people moving back and forth from small group gatherings of fellowship, prayer, and study to larger group gatherings of corporate worship and celebration. All of the great missionary expansions of the Gospel involved just such movement–from small groups of Christians meeting together for mutual support, learning, and prayer to the larger corporate gatherings of praise and exhortation. Consider the example of the early church, recorded in Acts 2:42-47:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Notice the spiritual and numberical growth the early church experienced as a result of their mutual support and devotion. When Christians share their lives together with one another, the Lord Jesus manifests His presence among them–God is glorified.

In many ways, the small group meeting and the large gatherings on Sunday are interdependent, mutually beneficial to one another. The small group held in isolation from larger corporate worship can become isolated, unholy in its pursuits, and misguided by personalities and the whims of a few. In the same way, the large group gathering gains its passion and dynamism from the energy, accountability, and love fueled by small groups.

Bring the two together in a congregation and the Lord will add day by day those who are being saved–new life, new creation!

The Christian Life Trilogy seeks to foster the small group life of a congregation, but always with the aim and end of gathering the whole family back together in larger corporate worship and celebration. In this way, the series hopes to encourage a return to the things of first importance in the church–communal life and the heart of the message of the Church: Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. Therefore, we undertake this journey, following His command together to “remember His death, proclaim His resurrection, and await His coming in glory.”

The structure of the series reflects the pattern and heart of the Christian life. Every year, we calendar our lives around Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost, recognizing that Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension form the heart of Christian belief and reveal the heartbeat of God for the people of God.

Preview the Christian Life Trilogy today!

Read Part 2 here.

 

The Crucified Life Quick Launch: A Crash Course to a Holy Lent

The Crucified Life

The Crucified Life is a seven week study focusing on the Seven Last Words of Jesus. The study is intended to begin a process that leads to surrender to the Lord, leading to a closer relationship with the Lord. The Crucified Life is meant to bring forward and answer questions of the importance of Lent. As you navigate through The Crucified Life, you will gain more insight into why we go through the practice of Lent and how Lent brings us closer to the Lord, by celebrating His death and resurrection. Find out what it means to walk in The Crucified Life this Lenten Season, and watch the below video to learn how to lead your congregation through this study together.
In this post we are sharing a summary of the webinar video below on quick launching a church-wide small group Bible study. The Rev. Charlie Holt, along with The Rev. Allen White and Theresa Summerlin, walked through everything you need to know about launching a church-wide campaign, specifically with using The Crucified Life materials for Lent. In the webinar the team talked with people who are starting a small group, answering questions that arise from experience and planning.  If you have questions about starting your small group and preparing your congregation for a transformational Lent, start by checking out the video!

Watch the video below:

The role of the Senior Pastor in The Crucified Life is to align the congregation to the Holy Season. If your Senior Pastor is not on board with the alignment, reach out to Fr. Holt here and he will gladly speak with you and your pastor on the increased congregational engagement and other benefits of church-wide study.

Applying The Crucified Life as a Church-Wide Study

The Sunday before Ash Wednesday, also known as Forgiveness Sunday, is when to launch The Crucified Life. This is the first time your small groups meet for this study. On this Sunday, as a church-wide study, the sermon should focus on forgiveness. Then, the following Sunday would be Salvation Sunday, focusing on the Thief on the Cross passage, and the sermon will be on the theme of salvation. Each theme from the Daily Devotional books could be a theme for a sermon. Reinforcing a theme from the video teaching could be another source of inspiration. Or even preaching on a topic that you feel was missing from the teaching, to broaden the discussion and truly connect with each week’s study.

Make Good Friday the culmination of The Crucified Life study—end with a powerful transition into the resurrection and The Resurrected Life.

Good Friday Sin Box:

Make a box with a slot in the top out of cardboard. Setup a large cross and beneath it place the Sin Box. Have the congregation write down the things that were stirred up through the course of The Crucified Life and put them in the Sin Box. In this way we give our sins to Jesus and lay them at the Foot of the Cross. Then burn the box as the new fire for the Easter Vigil Service.

Recruiting the Hosts

We all have a small group! If your congregation is uncomfortable hosting and inviting people they don’t really know into their home, then have them start with family and friends. Getting to know the Lord with family and friends will create deeper more meaningful bonds with each other. Another great way of supporting groups is rotating hosting locations, whether in different host homes or going to a coffee shop. This will help remove some burden from a single person, and create opportunities for more hosts to discover themselves.

For the next two Sundays, work hard on recruiting hosts, then the two Sundays before Ash Wednesday should have a focus on recruiting participants. Help connect hosts and participants that are missing that connection or don’t know as many people in the congregation. One fun and different way to make new groups, from The Rev. Allen White, would be to challenge the people of previous small groups to give up their group for Lent to form new groups. As he says, it’s not a typical thing to give up, but it is a great way to create new connections in your congregation.

The church staff and leadership might often want to be in a group together, but have them break out and create groups as mentorships. Using church staff to get groups started is another great way to find hosts to get small groups off the ground, and from there groups can grow.

Host Sign-Up Form

Have ushers hand out this sign-up form and pick them up during offering. This direct ask is a fast and successful way to collect interested hosts!

Goals are Great!

The key is having a goal! If you don’t make a goal, you won’t hit one. Set a goal for the number of hosts and the number of participants. Even if you don’t hit the goal, you might get close and you will have something to aim for in the future.

The Crucified Life small group study can be a powerful tool for making Lent meaningful in your congregation, and this is the outline of how you can get it done. For more help launching your small group study, check out our blogs on Small Group Bible Study and It’s Importance in Early Christianity and TodayAligning Your Church and Planning for Small Group Study, and Let’s Do Lent: Transforming Lives with Small Group Ministry.

 

The Things of First Importance

We recently held the first webinar of this season’s series, “The Keys to a Successful Small Group Campaign.” The first webinar is titled, “What is a Christian Life Trilogy Campaign & What Does Small Group Bible Study Look Like?” In the webinar, The Rev. Charlie Holt, author of the Christian Life Trilogy, discussed the importance of small group Bible study and how The Christian Life Trilogy will aid in transformation, growth and friendship. To check out the video of the webinar, click here!

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

small group Bible study

The things of first importance are the foundation of The Christian Life Trilogy, following the Heart of the Gospel. Paul tells us that the most important news is the death of Jesus Christ and His rising to new life. The pattern of the Christian life is one of dying to self with Jesus, in order that we might be raised by him and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Christian Life Trilogy is a transformational process focusing on the things of most importance.

The Heart of the Gospel:
  • Jesus Crucified
  • Jesus Resurrected
  • Jesus Ascension and Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Small Group Bible Study

The Crucified Life

Luke 9:23

small group Bible study

Our call to discipleship is to walk the way of the Cross, which means dying to self. This is the place it must begin, as dark as it might seem. You cannot be reborn until you have taken up the cross and died to self with Jesus.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We resist change, because it involves losing something, but change also brings growth and new beginning. “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort,” Dr. Brené Brown says. “You cannot have both.” The Christian life is not going to be a comfortable life, it will involve change and aspects of ourselves that will be lost. But we will work to become the new thing that God would have us to become.

7 Words from the Cross

The seven last words of Jesus are the process that leads us to surrendering our lives to Jesus. Through the seven weeks of The Crucified Life you will better understand this process. Beginning with forgiveness, we will study through salvation, the relationships we all have, the distress of temptations of our flesh nature, with abandonment we think about external problems, challenges and suffering in life. Ultimately, we move to a place where we are working toward surrendering our lives to God, leading to the finish line of triumph.

Forgiveness
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
Salvation
Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
Relationship
Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.
Distress
I thirst.
Abandonment
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Reunion
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
Triumph
It is finished.

 

The Resurrected Life

Revelation 21:5

small group Bible study

The other side of transformation is the Lord making all things new. The Risen Lord can make all things new once we have surrendered our lives to God, as he did for us. To surrender, we must overcome our worldly doubts and fears. We must let go and allow God to lead us in this new life.

Making All Things New

What becomes new with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? He wants to give us a new life, a new temple, a new body, a new covenant, a new creation, a new day. We experience these themes as we work through the scripture study each week. Gaining understanding of what becomes new and how this newness applies to our lives as we follow Jesus in The Resurrected Life.

All Things New
Overcome Doubt and Fear
New Life
Letting Go and Letting God
New Temple
Inviting God’s Presence
New Body
Manifesting Jesus
New Covenant
Experiencing Resurrection Power
New Creation
Stewarding the Good News
New Day
Living in the “Now” but “Not Yet”

 

The Spirit-Filled Life

Ephesians 3:14-19

small group Bible study

All the Fullness of God

Ultimately, the plan of God is that we might be filled with the fullness of God through the Holy Spirit. So, what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? This begins with the baptism through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, after which we are adopted as children of God. The Holy Spirit works in our lives and our hearts to transform us internally, like a butterfly from a caterpillar. Manifesting the fruit of God through love, joy, peace, patience and kindness. The Holy Spirit equips us with the gifts we use in the service of God’s kingdom. The Spirit of God empowers us to do amazing things, with more power than we have on our own. And through this learning and growth we become God’s anointed Christian people.

We have had over 200 congregations in 8 different countries go through these studies. One thing we hear the most is that The Spirit-Filled Life is their favorite study, of course it is! This is the study in which we are fully engaging in the Christian Life and closest to the fullness of God. But you cannot get to The Spirit-Filled Life unless you walk the way of the cross and experience that ever important death of self.

Baptized
The Outpouring of the Spirit
Adopted
The Calling of the Spirit
Transformed
The Fruit of the Spirit
Equipped
The Gift of the Spirit
Empowered
The Work of the Spirit
Anointed
The Mission of the Spirit

If you want to be part of the upcoming webinars of this series, please register here:


small group Bible study webinar series

Now that you have learned more about the themes of The Christian Life Trilogy, try a free sample to get a taste of the transformation. If you haven’t already, check out our recent post about small group study in early Christianity and the benefits of developing small groups: here. Next, we will go over the importance of church-wide study and how to plan your small group campaign. If you have more questions about The Christian Life Trilogy, please get in touch.

small group Bible study

 

Quiz: Are You Cut Out To Be a Small Group Host?

One of the top comments Church Leaders hear when encouraging church members to be small group leaders is: “Are you sure I’m who you want? I don’t think I’d be good at this at all.” The answer lies within the results of this simple quiz you can take (or send to your parishioners) to help potential Small Group Leaders discern if they’d be successful in the role.

So… are you cut out to be a Small Group host? Take this quiz to find out:

  1. Do you care about others?
  2. Do you have/know of a space where a group of people could meet in front of a television?
  3. Do you have access to water and snacks?
  4. Can you turn on a DVD player and press ‘play’?

If you answered “yes” to these questions… then you meet the four HOST qualifications:

H – Heart for others
O – Open your home
S – Serve basic refreshments
T – Turn on your DVD player

Many potential hosts are concerned about the things that Martha would’ve been concerned about in Luke 1o:

“My home isn’t tidy enough!”
“I’ll need to make a big meal for everyone!”
“I won’t have enough help!”

Jesus answers all of those fears: My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her(Luke 10:41-42, NLT).

As a Small Group Host, your ultimate job is the same as the one the Lord designed for both Mary and Martha: humbly provide a place for all (yourself included) to sit at the feet of Jesus in a spirit of worship and learning.

If you’re still not sure, consider this: Jesus entered the world in a barn. He sat upon a donkey as He entered Jerusalem. He always valued relational communion with God and community over pomp and grandeur. Why should your Small Group be any different?

Knowing all this, here’s your Pop Quiz Bonus Question: Is He calling you?

If you’ve decided to host a Small Group, but aren’t sure where to go next, check out our library of Small Group Leader Webinars, or see if The Christian Life Trilogy might be the perfect study to begin with your Small Group!

Small Group Host Webinar Series

Whether you’ve been a Small Group Leader for years or are still considering whether or not hosting a Small Group is right for you, our Webinar Series on hosting small groups will have something that will make you look at the role in a new way. Below, find links to summaries and videos of all the webinars we conducted last year in order to help hosts and leaders make the most of their groups.

Topic 1: Why are Small Groups Important? How Can I be a Great Leader?

Topic 2: Growing Your Small Group

Topic 3: 8 Goals to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Small Group

Topic 4: 5 Key Elements of a Healthy Small Group

Topic 5: Top 5 Small Group Challenges (And How to Solve Them)

Topic 6: Divide to Multiply: How to Turn One Powerful Group Into Many

What’s next? 
Looking for a study to keep your group members engaged? The Christian Life Trilogy has 20 weeks of consecutive studies and Small Group material to help members connect with each other and grow deeper in relationship with the Lord. 

How An All-Inclusive Study Benefits Your Church

It happens in every church—different ministries send members in different directions over time. While the youth may have one focus during Sunday school and another on Wednesday evenings, the adults could be deep in a sermon series as well as their own small group studies throughout the week. On the surface, we accept that this is “just the way it is” …but what if the routine was disrupted? An all-inclusive church-wide study might be just how God plans to bring your congregation closer together—here’s how:

1. It helps the congregation focus.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12

As members of the Body of Christ, we’re all pulled in different directions, as our God-given gifts lead us. It’s wonderful, but just as we each need to allow our physical bodies to come to complete peace and healing from time to time, the Body of Christ needs to do the same. An all-inclusive church-wide study provides just such an opportunity—each spiritual gift can have a place in the planning and execution of the study, but each member of a church ought to participate, as well, providing a spiritually reviving experience for the entire church family.

2. It brings the entire church into a discussion of faith.

Cross-generational spiritual conversation is often lost in today’s culture. The advent of technology has been a blessing (providing the ability to reading the Bible from an app and then sharing the Word with thousands of people across social media channels), but it’s also led to a tendency to draw inward instead of connecting with those (physically) around us. This phenomenon isn’t isolated to younger generations, either—we all feel the pull of the smartphone glow from time to time—but an all-inclusive church-wide study helps to provide the foundation for intergenerational reconnection. The opportunity for children and adults to study the same topics (at levels that match their maturity) is one that fosters discussion, bonding, and spiritual growth among the entire Body of Christ.

3. It concentrates energy and time around key learnings.

While there is a time for multiple studies to take place within a church, a continuous segmentation can lead to a church body that is not fully connected or focused. Multiple competing efforts can diffuse enthusiasm (instead of inspiring it). An all-inclusive church-wide study provides an opportunity for the entire congregation to be on the same page and can lead to more overall support, participation, and excitement for the study.

See how you can engage your entire church with an all-inclusive study today–preview The Crucified Life and The Cross Walk to learn how they can be the right fit for your congregation!

The Power of Alignment: Preparing for an Unforgettable Lent

This blog series explores the impact and long-term growth your church can experience through an intentionally aligned, church-wide small group study. Today’s post focuses on the impact of aligning every part of a church’s Lenten programming to engage a congregation in every way. This is the first post from the series: The Power of Alignment in Your Church.

The goal of alignment is simple: engage a flock of growing parishioners to do more than just attend services, instead energizing the church through their deepening spiritual passion and unity. By aligning your congregation with Individual, Group, and Service participation, you encourage different levels of connection that lead your church closer to the throne of Grace.

But what, exactly, does that alignment look like? Here’s a sample of a Day in the Life of an aligned church:

Daily Devotion: If each member is reading The Crucified Life as a personal daily devotional, they’re already engaging on a personal level with the idea of picking up their Cross and following Christ. Here’s an example: Day 8 of The Crucified Life

Small Groups: Each weekly meeting of a Small Group will act as a hub for discussion and engagement regarding the daily devotions. As the small groups are meeting, God will be doing amazing work in the lives of the members of your congregation; that work must find expression and manifest corporately in word and sacrament, in spirit and truth. Ultimately, this campaign is about transitioning people–getting them connected to God through connection with each other. This transition is accomplished through the use of small groups following the model of Acts 2:46-47:

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Youth Engagement: This plan is one that engages every member of your congregation, including young people. With The Cross Walk, the youth of your church can connect with their family members and friends as they, too, learn to walk in the way of the Cross with lessons that mirror the adult ministry. Take a look at the second week’s lessons to see the similarities across the board with the other content: Week 2 of The Cross Walk.

Weekend Services: The worship services during the campaign are powerful times that can harmonize the many elements of the campign and underscore the curriculum in a memorable manner. Through the use of several tools designed specifically for The Crucified Life campaign, your services will become the time when the power of alignment is on full display, synthesizing the entire campaign for your congregation.

Bury the Hatchet

It is the prayer of everyone at Bible Study Media that relationships are reconciled and hearts return to the foot of the Cross in the post-election season. In the coming days and weeks, we will be sharing thoughts and devotions that we pray will facilitate that goal. Today’s devotion on reconciliation is an excerpt from week three of The Cruficied Life

We’ve all heard of the famous Hatfields and McCoys, the iconic feuding families of West Virginia and Kentucky. Consider that almost every war on this planet ultimately goes back to identity found in family of origin. For example, the clash between the Muslim Arabs and the Jewish people goes back to their ancestors, Ishmael and Isaac. The fighting in Ireland between Roman Catholics and Protestants stems more directly from tribal and family feuds than anything pertaining to the Christian faith.

When humans go to war, it is often because they find their identities in their natural families or human ancestry. Family divides people into factions and parties. The worst factions of any on earth are factions in and among families.

Blood is thicker than anything else, and bad blood is more dangerous than anything else. It is what often separates Caucasians from African-Americans, Greeks from Turks, Jews from non-Jews, and fuels countless other divisions around the world.

God is calling believers to be one family under one head, to share one Lord, one baptism, one Spirit. To fulfill that call, we must die, in a sense, to our families of origin and to our “tribes,” so that we can be raised up into the restored family of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, those are strong words. Here is an interesting phrase we sometimes use: “Bury the hatchet.” The origin of the phrase is uniquely American; it is derived from the Native Americans. When a tribe would come to a point of declaring peace with another tribe, they would literally dig a hole and bury their weapons of war in the ground, thus burying the bloody hatchet for the cause of peace.

Listen to how Paul describes a similar feat accomplished on the cross:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Ephesians 2:13-16

Now, Paul was originally speaking of Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles). God’s plan is not that there should be separate Jewish and Gentile tribes divided by ethnicities and patrimonies, but that there should be one new man from the two, in Jesus Christ, where the dividing wall of hostility is abolished in His flesh. The two sides bury the bloody hatchet at the foot of the cross–creating peace between them.

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:17-18

When Jesus said to John and to Mary, “Woman, behold your son…behold your mother,” Jesus began an incredible peace process between all families, tribes, and nations by starting this new family of God. In Jesus, people are united by common faith and spiritual adoption rather than by blood. John writes of this new family: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

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You can sample more of The Crucified Life today–click here for a free preview!

A Hope and a Future in the Christian Life

It is the prayer of everyone at Bible Study Media that relationships are reconciled and hearts return to the foot of the Cross in the post-election season. In the coming days and weeks, we will be sharing thoughts and devotions that we pray will facilitate that goal. Today’s post is written by the author of the Christian Life Trilogy, Rev. Charlie Holt.

Several weeks ago, our church read an excerpt from Jeremiah’s letter from God to the exiled Israelites in Babylon. It struck me as I was hearing Jeremiah’s words read out loud that they were just as prescient for our day as they were then.

A People Deaf to Warnings

In 597 BC, the Babylonian armies invaded Israel and the Judah and eventually conquered the capital city of the Jewish people in 586 BC. The Fall of Jerusalem to Babylon is one of the great tragedies of the Bible. For, the walls and buildings of the city of Jerusalem was literally disassembled and the Temple built by King Solomon was destroyed to its foundations.  Many people were deported into exile, including the entire royal court.

All of the destruction and deportation was anticipated and foretold through the writings and preaching of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was not a particularly popular person in his day with the ruling class. Truth tellers are often difficult to hear.

False prophets rose up. Prior to the exile, they preached a message of denial. After the exile, they preached a “quick fix” approach, promising the exile would be a short few years, and that God would restore things back to the “good ole’ days” quickly. The truth was more severe.

The problems with the nation were deep and they went all the way to the top. Corruption existed at the highest levels—with the king’s themselves, Ahab and Zedekiah. These men would ultimately be judged by God unto death for their spiritual adultery with foreign powers and gods, for their rebellion against God’s commands and for their lies.

Hope, But Not False Hope

One of the most cherished parts of Jeremiah’s writings are his promises of hope to the people of God in the midst of their exile. As severe and devastating the Babylonian exile was, it was not the end of the story. All hope was not lost. However, such hope should not be falsely understood; restoration would not come quickly. There would be no quick fix. The exiled Jews in Babylon needed to take a long, multigenerational view. It would take 70 long years to turn things around and for Israel to be ready to return to Jerusalem. Here is a portion of God’s letter to the exiles. It said:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

The letter encourages the people that they need to take a long view. It is critically important that they live and even thrive in the midst of the exile. In other words, it was incumbent upon them to thrive even though the culture around them was foreign to them—not their home. They should even seek the welfare of the city in which they live so that they can thrive for the long term with the city’s good favor.

Restoration would come eventually. God promised to give them “a hope and a future”, to prosper them with good plans. But, it would take a good long while to see such blessing. By adopting a long view mindset, the Israelites would stay strong for the long haul and stay faithful to God for generations.

Our Day…

The writers of the New Testament considered the secular Roman Empire in which they lived a type of Babylon. The church is the exiled people of God. Peter called the church in the world, “scattered exiles” (1 Peter 1:1). This world is not our home. Even though we are citizens of the United States from an earthly perspective, our true and lasting citizenship is in heaven in a city whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10).  We are destined for the New Jerusalem and the heavenly city prepared for the new earth after the consummation of all things. In the meantime, what are the faithful people of God to do?

Some false voices suggest that the problems are not that severe. That one day soon, we can get things turned around. Beloved, if the election of 2016 has taught us anything, I hope that we have learned that there is not a messianic presidential figure in the offing who will lead the United States of America back to the promised land that it once was.

The faithful need to be disillusioned with the pundits and the politicians who preach a message of false hope and quick fix. The problems that this nation has are deep and intractable. The truth is that it will take generations for this nation to be restored. They will not be solved in the short run with government solutions. On the contrary, national restoration of the United States will come from many generations of faithful consistent witness to the Christian life, as well as discipleship by the church.

If the Foundations Be Destroyed…

In Psalm 11, David asks: “If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do?” There are times when it seems as if the very ground underneath our feet is coming out from under us. This political season may have shaken our confidence in the very institutions which we rely on for stability. However, David knows that if your trust is not in earthly foundations but in the Lord’s sovereign rule, all is secure.

The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.

God remains firmly in control of all events happening in the United States of America. He is sovereign over all. So what will the righteous do?

Go on Being Righteous.

No matter how bleak the circumstances are in this land of exile, our hopeful confidence is ultimately not in the government of the United States of America or its elected leaders. As beautiful and wonderful as our nation is, God has truly shed his grace on thee, our hope and help is in the promised restoration that will only come by the sovereign hand of God and in his sovereign timing.

In the meantime, we take the long view. We go on being righteous, in season or out of season. We proclaim the good news. We plant and build churches, we do good deeds that build up the kingdom of God. We build houses and raise families. We study the scriptures together in community, and we seek the things of first importance, Jesus Christ and him crucified and raised.

The Lord is in his Holy Temple and he calls us to live and thrive in the midst of exile. We should always seek the welfare of the nation and cities in which we live as that will be for our welfare and blessing. By getting involved in the affairs of our community and being the salt and light of Jesus Christ, we manifest the kingdom of God on earth as in heaven. Elections do matter, and we are called to engage in the affairs of our communities and nation so that the place where we live will be strong and good.

But for God’s sake take the long view, do not be discouraged or lose hope by the affairs of this world. We will remain in exile a good long while. As the Lord promised the people of God of old, his words continue to ring true:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

The Power of Alignment in Your Church

This blog series explores the impact and long-term growth your church can experience through an intentionally aligned, church-wide small group study. Today’s post focuses on the three ways the power of alignment will influence your congregation’s participation and experience.

Coordinating and aligning the elements of the Christian Life Trilogy will impact and produce the kind of spiritual growth that will move your congregation from spectators to active participators in the Body of Christ. Imagine for a moment the impact on your church if every person lived in alignment with God’s will in the areas of serving, growing, and even giving. What if your congregation–leadership to occasional worshipper–lived in powerful community with their small group or Sunday School class? What is, as groups, people began to experience the power of God in their lives as an entire congregation? By making the most of the following three campaign components, you will see the power of God working in your church. These components build from micro to macro, from a narrow scope to the broadest.

1. Individual Participation

This is the real heart of the campaign, and it is the element that will produce the greatest spiritual growth among the members of your congregation. The goal is to get people to read a daily devotional and reflect on God’s Word and consider His will for their lives daily throughout the bampign. By participating in this campaign, each person will be challenged to grow spiritually and experience God’s plan for living a transformed life.

2. Group Participation

A powerful element of the campign is getting people to explore and experience God’s will and their Christian faith in true biblical community. We provide you with curriculum to be used in small groups or Sunday School classes for adults. Individuals bonded to a smaller community of believers within your congregation will enjoy the benefits of sharing life, spiritual growth, and accountability for that growth. These small group experiences are vital to ensuring the greatest personal spiritual growth as well as a commitment to ongoing growth as a community within your congregation.

3. Service Participation

The services that take place during The Christian Life Trilogy journey include Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. These services offer opportunities for the Senior Pastor and worship planning team to further explore the lessons of the small group curriculum for your congregation.

Are you ready to see how the power of alignment can provide an opportunity to experience God moving in your church? Preview The Christian Life Trilogy or Get your Campaign Kit today and start being intentional in seeking God’s will in 2017 and beyond!

The Christian Life Trilogy author Rev. Charlie Holt with Charisma Magazine

See what The Christian Life Trilogy author Rev. Charlie Holt had to say about the series in a radio/podcast interview with Charisma Magazine!

 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Church-Wide Impact

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

I really hope you’ve gotten a better sense of how you want to implement The Christian Life Trilogy for your own congregation this Lent! The last video in this series is quite possibly the most impactful:

Ready to take your next steps? Order your Church-Wide Study Campaign Kit right here! It’s worth it to start planning today. To see the rest of the videos in this training series, click on the links below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Training Hosts

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

After you find your hosts, they need some support before they step out as leaders on their leg of the campaign! This video is all about getting them ready:

We have amazing resources to pass along to your hosts, as well, from our Small Group Host Webinar Series.

A reminder: it’s definitely helpful to have The Christian Life Trilogy campaign materials in hand as you prepare. You can order a Church-Wide Study Campaign Kit right here! It’s worth it to start planning today. To see the rest of the videos in this training series, click on the links below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Plan The Campaign

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

Once you have the leadership team God ordains, it’s time to plan out the campaign! Here’s how you and your team can begin to plan and prepare for a Lenten study series that is unforgettable:

A reminder: it’s definitely helpful to have The Christian Life Trilogy campaign materials in hand as you prepare. You can order a Church-Wide Study Campaign Kit right here! It’s worth it to start planning today. To see the rest of the videos in this training series, click on the links below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Recruit Hosts

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous post in the series below the video.

Are these videos fanning a flame in you to make the most of the season of Lent? Next up, author and pastor Rev. Charlie Holt shares how to spark that same desire in others as you find hosts for your small groups:

If you’re feeling less-than-confident about this step, take a look at some of our Small Group resources! 

Implement a Small Group Study on The Christian Life – Build a Team

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

Are you ready to grow your congregation in size and Spirit? The next step is to build a strong team. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, explains how:

See the other training videos in the series below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Exponential Thinking

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous post in the series below the video.

You’ve made the choice to align your vision with the heart of the Lord for your church. Where do you go from here? Do you “go big?” See how to take the next step into exponential thinking in the next piece of this series:

Ready to take the next step? See where we’ve been and where to go from here with all the videos in this series:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement A Small Group Study On Christian Life – First Things First

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series! 

Learn how to energize your congregation and leverage their spiritual gifts for a church-wide study that is life-changing and faith-affirming!

What do you think? Have anything to add? Tell us in the Comments!

To see the rest of the series, check out the links below!

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

 

4 Ways to Use the Summer Slowdown to Your Advantage!

Not five minutes ago I heard from yet another Pastor: “It is impossible to get ahold of people or work with them during the summer!” We’ve all been on both sides of the issue: either our summers are filled with activities and we can’t find a spare moment to respond to an email or return a phone call, or we’re sitting patiently behind a screen, hoping that an empty inbox will suddenly fill with responses we’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for.

Church leaders tend to be in the latter category during the summer months, and it offers a unique opportunity to prepare for the year ahead. Here are some of the best things that one can to do set your church up for success as the summer winds down and your congregation blasts into autumn full steam ahead:

  1. Plan for the next school year calendar.
    Sit down with your Education Directors to brainstorm and think through a plan for the Fall. How can you use the back-to-school season to increase numbers—are your youth programs encouraging students to bring new friends and their families? Consider and plan to create some ideal solutions that will help you leverage Christmas and the New Year to accelerate into the spring (Lent and Easter Seasons). Does your attendance tend to wax or wane during those months? How can you plan ahead to keep numbers steadily increasing this season?
  1. Plan for your autumn church-wide study.
    The fall is an ideal time to do a church-wide program, as well. To implement a program with success, you have to plan now. Begin thinking about strategy and budget, and create a leadership team. Build the overall launch team over the course of the summer and start to build a communication plan toward a fall launch. The Spirit-Filled Life is a perfect fall church-wide study!
  1. Minister to your key leaders.
    You’re probably not the only leader in your church experiencing a Summer Slowdown. Now is the perfect time to schedule some one-on-ones with your leadership team. Take stock of what is working, what isn’t, and what you both want to work on for the next year. Set goals, strategize, and give them time to feel valued and refreshed.
  1. Schedule in some fun!
    Have a social event to strengthen your leadership team. The summer shouldn’t simply be a time for planning and introspection. Be sure that everyone relaxes a bit before you all go back to work in the fall.

How are you using the Summer Slowdown to your advantage? Tell us in the comments!

The Cross Walk: The Companion to The Crucified Life – For Kids!

Coming Soon…The Cross Walk!

We are very excited to announce the upcoming release of The Cross Walk: the companion curriculum to The Crucified Life – for kids in grades K-5! This project is still in design, but we are planning to have it ready for release in January, so that churches can do this curriculum with their children at the same time the adults of the congregation are doing The Crucified Life for Lent.

 

Click the image to sign up for a free preview of this curriculum.

 

We are so excited about involving children in church-wide Crucified Life campaigns, and we think the families of your congregations will be blessed by it!

Sustaining Small Groups Through Multiple Seasons

Now that you have gotten a small group ministry launched during the season of Lent, there is an uncertain time approaching when the first small group Bible study series ends. You need to be intentional and strategic with a plan for how to continue your groups into the next season. On Tuesday, March 8, 2016 The Rev. Charlie Holt, with guest speakers Allen White and Theresa Summerlin, shared best practices for intentionally sustaining groups from one season to the next with new study materials and fresh inspiration. Watch a recording of the session above.

To download a copy of the PowerPoint used for the webinar here.

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