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02 May 2011

The evolution of Christianty Explored

The evolution of Christianty Explored

Commercial companies don't survive if they haven't researched their products. And the same is true of any Christian ministry.

However, that normal, healthy process becomes more difficult when it means evolving material, such as Christianity Explored, which is anchored in the timeless truths of the Bible and will be launching its revised edition in May. How does one update a course which has already enabled tens of thousands to embrace the Christian faith and which many people think is pretty good already?

What is Christianity Explored?

Over the past 10 years Christianity Explored, which recently joined as a member of the Alliance, has become a tried and trusted, often highly informal, method of sharing the gospel. It works by introducing people to the real Jesus from the pages of the Bible. It explores who he was, what he achieved and what it means to follow him today. The course works through Mark's gospel, with every session based around a Bible study and a short talk or DVD followed by questions.

Evangelist Rico Tice, co-author of Christianity Explored, says: "There are two wonderful moments when teaching the material. The first is when you explain to church leaders, be they elders, pastors, vicars, bishops or even archbishops - and I've seen this in them all - that Mark's Gospel can be summarised in just three words: identity, mission and call. Who is Jesus? Why did he come? What does it mean to follow him? And as you explain that and they see that summary and they see its depth, their eyes light up, literally they flare, as they get that, because they can see not only is it a summary, but it enables their people to let the gospel tell the gospel, to have such a simple summary that goes right to the heart of almost every verse of the book."

He adds: "The second notable moment is obviously when non-Christians are on the course, and this is far more wonderful. Their eyes light up as they encounter Jesus, as they hear talks from the front, as he is discussed in the material in groups, as they go home and read about him, again discovering for themselves who Jesus is, why he came and what it means to follow, but above all seeing the miracle of God opening their blind eyes to His son."

It has proved incredibly popular both in the UK and, increasingly, overseas in places such as the US, Canada and Australia. It has expanded so much that more than 5,000 courses are now being held at any one time, in 57 countries around the world. It is used in many different contexts too, not only in traditional missions but also in settings as diverse as schools and prisons.

This means it works for people of all ages, classes, races and educational achievements. And since its flexible format operates as well in small gatherings ('coffee morning evangelism') as it does in large, set-piece events, it is very easy for small groups to use it to reach out to their friends and families with the gospel. It even works well for one-to-one, personal evangelism opportunities, too.

What's changed?

Since its inception, Christianity Explored has encouraged a wealth of feedback from its users. Capturing this important information has underpinned many of the decisions taken about how best to update the course.

The most significant revision is that the new edition has been sharpened and shortened from 10 main sessions down to seven; the Weekend Away has also been altered to a single Day Away. This makes it far more streamlined and manageable. Each session now focuses on a single theme, making the course leaner, more logical and easier to understand. To that end, the session on grace has been completely rewritten, that on the resurrection completely reworked and a brand new one on the parable of the sower added.

Despite refreshing updates, some aspects of the course remain the same, so churches will recognise its evangelistic programme, which is always thoroughly grounded in Mark's gospel. And it continues to offer a crystal clear exploration of sin and its eternal consequences, in order that the sheer wonder of God's grace can be understood, appreciated and responded to.

The course has always proved incredibly popular with conservative evangelical churches. But in recent months and years, more and more churches in other traditions have started using the material. This is because the course appeals to any Christian who trusts in the Bible and wants to explore who Jesus is with those who don't know him.

And this trend is set to accelerate when the new material is launched.

The launch

Given its popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, simultaneous launch events took place in May. The main UK launch will be at the Christian Resources Exhibition at Sandown, Surrey, on 10 May. On the same day, in the US, evangelist Rico Tice will address Alastair Begg's 2011 Basics conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Christianity Explored training director Craig Dyer addressed the Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago in April, with Rico Tice speaking at New Word Alive in north Wales three days earlier.

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