By Michelle Sanchez
CHICAGO, IL (September 28, 2016) — Covenant Community Bible Experience officially begins this week, and the response to the landmark initiative has been thrilling. At our last count, we have delivered more than 18,700 Bibles to 225 Covenant churches and ministries who are embarking on the fall edition journey of reading the New Testament together! We also know that many more are planning to launch Covenant Community Bible Experience in the spring.
Covenanters are now gathering in churches, homes, and retirement communities. We are engaging as single-gender groups, intergenerational groups, families, and more. We are reading the Bible, listening to the Bible, and talking about the Bible. We are preaching the awesome narrative of the New Testament each Sunday. We are inviting our unchurched friends to read with us and meet Jesus for the first time.
Some Covenant churches are gathering hundreds of participants and putting up billboards in town. Others are supplementing this initiative with creative artwork. Still others are enjoying a simple and quiet journey through God’s story. The beautiful thing is that we are in it together. In all the precious diversity of the Covenant, we are also celebrating the perfect unity that we can find in the Word of God.
When I began my new role as executive minister of Make and Deepen Disciples about one year ago, our team had some difficult decisions to make about where to begin. Over time, the Lord made the answer abundantly clear. The best place to begin is at our foundation—the word of God.
I served as a Christian formation pastor for a number of years and know that there are a variety of creative and life-giving spiritual practices that can take us deeper in discipleship. I have experienced many of these myself.
However, the longer I walk the Christian journey, the more I find myself drawn back to the basics. Leading the MDD mission priority may sound quite sophisticated, but I am realizing that my job is basically to bring us back to this simple truth in an ever-deepening way: “Jesus loves me, this is I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
In this new and demanding role, I have started a habit of meditating on the word of God during walks. The Lord has reminded me that the only way for me to bear fruit for the long haul of ministry is to make sure that my roots go down deeper and deeper into his word. And I have found that as I recommit myself to meditating on “familiar” Scriptures, God is using them to bring the fresh life and vitality that I need to persevere and thrive.
We know that there is no more powerful discipleship tool than the Word of God, and recent research has also shown this be true in a fascinating way. For example, in the Willow Creek REVEAL study, researchers compared the impact of a variety of spiritual practices on believers in more than 1,500 churches over a period of four years. The authors of the study concluded this:
But of all the personal spiritual practices—prayer, confession, tithing, journaling, solitude, serving or worship we find that one stands out…Scripture reflection—more than any other practice—moves people forward in their love for God and love for others…Scripture reflection is twice as catalytic as any other factor. This means it has twice the power of any other spiritual practice to accelerate growth in spiritually mature people.
As we anticipate the future of deepening Covenant disciples who make disciples, our starting point is the word of God. Of course, this is nothing new for us. As Covenanters, we call ourselves “People of the Book” and have always known the power of the Bible to bring vitality to our people and our churches. The Make and Deepen Disciples team is excited to help us live into our identity together.
A final word. At the end of the day, this is not about pulling off a successful program. This is about seeing disciples deepened and lives transformed! As you dive into the New Testament together in your own community, would you share transformation stories with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Would you post your photos on Facebook using the hashtag #HowWeCBE?
In the year ahead, let us freshly engage the scriptures and commit to being “People of the Book” who go deeper in Christ and further in mission—together!