Tonight marks the first night of a new Christianity Explored course at my church in Cheltenham (although wonderfully there’s also at least two courses currently running in local homes and workplaces led by church members). If you want to find out more about our course, then do get in touch, or just turn up at Costa Coffee, on the corner of the Prom in Cheltenham at 7.45pm tonight (17th April, and any subsequent Tuesday) – anyone’s welcome, and of course it’s free. Alternatively find a course near you here. It got me thinking about why I think Christianity Explored is so great. Here’s 10 reasons…
1. It ‘lets the gospel tell the gospel’ and its all about Jesus. This is the great mantra of C.E., and it’s brilliant! Attractively and unashamedly C.E. is focused on the person of Jesus and knowing Him, and the format focuses on Jesus walking off the pages of Mark’s gospel. Its not about Christianity as a set of rules, or simply an experience, or merely a philosophical position. Chiefly Christianity is about Jesus – a person – and so C.E. seeks to help people realise that, breaking down wrong stereotypes and presenting ‘the good news of Jesus the Christ’, as Mark 1:1 puts it.
2. It is loving and faithful on sin and sin’s consequences, and thus magnifies Jesus’ cross and God’s grace. That is, the material does not shy away from the fact that each of us have rejected God, and so deserve judgment. Big and often uncomfortable truths. And my heart naturally recoils from clarity in this area, but I know they are true (and true about me), and so I know that to be truly loving I need to be clear on these matters. The writers of C.E. know that same temptation and so have produced a course that is sincere, winsome, but also unashamed about sin, and hell. As Rico Tice, who presents and co-writes the material, has said ‘Christianity Explored as an experience often stands or falls on whether an individual has grasped grace. However, to really understand grace we have first to see the horrors of our sin. We must see that sin leads to judgment, where we will experience God’s wrath and ultimately find ourselves in hell, unless we have trusted in the rescue of the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1.10).’
With everything we run as a church, we need to ask are we being faithful to the biblical gospel, but surely particularly so with our evangelistic events and courses; does this, yes attractively and winsomely, but also faithfully and clearly present what has been entrusted to us? Sin and wrath are the great pressure-points, and even when we use the term ‘sin’, the temptation is to redefine it and disconnect it from an offence against God, so that it just becomes personal problems, or relational conflict. And if the material we’re using does that then as leaders we will be also, and so the people we’re teaching will be unclear too. C.E. helps us steer clear of that error and so, I think, be both more loving friends and also more faithful stewards of the glorious gospel.
3. It teaches people to read the Bible for themselves. In my experience lots of people have the impression the Bible is ‘unreadable’. This isn’t helped by teaching, evangelistic or not, that comes across as if the Bible is some magic book that can’t be read normally and requires heaps of ‘special knowledge’. I love how C.E. takes people through Mark’s gospel, bit-by-bit, and shows people that they too can read the Bible for themselves, and encounter Christ in his word. This is much better than either proof-texting, or a presentation of “the gospel” that doesn’t seem to be based in any biblical truth. Its shows an encouraging level of confidence that God’s word, through the Spirit’s power, really is powerful.