New Course: Introduction to Revelation with Wayne Whitney

Wayne WhitneyWhat may be the most complex, confusing, and controversial book in the Bible may also have the simplest message. In this insightful overview of the Book of Revelation, Wayne Whitney tells us that it’s all about encouragement and standing firm in tough times – which is a message we need for today. Click here to learn more about, and register for this course.

Given its vibrant and imaginative imagery and constant reference to an age and time so far removed from our own, many people set aside the Book of Revelation as too complicated and confusing to read. And those who have read it seem to have wide and varied interpretations that can be dark, judgmental, and downright scary.

However, the Rev. Dr. Wayne Whitney believes Revelation held a simple and profound message to its earliest readers, and continues to do so today, for you and me.  In this class, Wayne tells us:

  • Who Wrote Revelation and Why
  • Themes in Revelation
  • Interpreting Revelation
  • Reading Revelation

This course is perfect for people who have never read Revelation and are curious about it, as well as those who are familiar with its main themes and are looking or a refresher.

The Rev. Dr. Wayne Whitney is an Episcopal priest who holds a Ph.D in New Testament Studies from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. You can follow his blog atSingularDistinction.blogspot.com.

New Course: Introducing the Baptist Tradition with Amy Butler

A ButlerPerhaps no other denomination has impacted the spirituality of the United States more than the Baptist tradition. From mega churches to tiny country congregations, the rich Baptist diversity is both simple and complex. In this course, pastor and speaker Amy Butler gives us a powerful lay of the land.

Born and raised in the United States, the Baptist tradition has shaped our culture more than any other religion.

In this course, Dr. Butler offers a compelling and humorous overview of the Baptist tradition. Topics she covers include:

  • Baptist Beginnings
  • Baptist Diversity
  • What Baptists Believe
  • Why I’m a Baptist

This course is a colorful and gracious introduction, suitable to the newcomer as well as the seasoned Baptist. Click here to find out more, or register for this class.

 

Encouraging Learning in Our Congregations

When my oldest child gets to first grade there are certain competencies he is expected to master. He will need to spell his name, color within the lines, and exhibit a modicum of good manners. When he gets to second grade the ante will go up, and so on, and so on.

And when he comes grows into an adult and comes to church he can forget about all that, because at church we only expect people to show up when they feel like it – once a month seems about right. And we thank them for doing so – which sometimes has followed a form of begging them to do so.

It is becoming clear that this is not a helpful strategy.

The Church possesses an educational heritage that has seen more rigorous times when it comes to the formation of its members. And it is high time we re-claim it.  In a day and age when people are no longer pressured to join a faith community like they once were – and many, if not most, are coming to church figure this ‘God thing’ out – we do well to  not only meet them with a well-reasoned understanding of what it means to be a Christian, but to offer them a logical and practical way to grow in their faith.

Let me be clear at the start that what I’m commending is not a rule-based, Class A Christian vs. Class B Christian – in fact I don’t even like this word ‘competency.’ What I’m suggesting is that this whole idea be framed in the notion of gracious invitation – that wherever someone is on their spiritual journey, their faith community is poised to aid in ways that go further than, ‘you figure it out on your own.’  Instead, what would it be like to have in place a framework, using mentors, small groups, and competencies and expectations set by the student – though the congregation would have some suggestions and, again, a gracious invitation to help them along?

The Anglican Communion is onto something with their establishment, and continued work on something called Ministry Grids. These are essentially recommended core competencies that meet people where they are in their journey with God and God’s Church – from baptism to maturity and renewal. As local church leaders we need to do some noodling around this document and look for ways we might encourage learning in our congregations.

In my parish, St. David’s Episcopal Church in Southfield, MI, we are thinking and praying about launching something like St. David’s 101, 201 and 301 in the fall of 2014. We are thinking about a blended learning model for the congregation – a combination of online courses from ChurchNext and small group discussions that come about as students self-identify areas of interest and pursuits that keep with their understanding of how the Spirit is leading them.  Should we ask learners to come up with their own curriculum (what do you want to learn?) or should we set the curriculum? We’ll probably do both.

What would it look like for the Church to get more involved in the spiritual development of each individual parishioner, and can you help us think along these lines with what you’re doing in your community?  Suggestions welcome!

Just Launched: Gift Certificates from ChurchNext

Gift Subscription

Gift Subscription 2

We’re really excited about this new offering – that allows people to give the gift of online Christian learning.

Once a gift-giver goes through the purchase process, a gift card is created and a certificate is generated, which includes redemption instructions. This can be printed up and hand delivered to the recipient, or it can be emailed.

Once a recipient receives the gift certificate, it’s easy to create an account and redeem the certificate. Redemption starts when the student signs in, not when the certificate is purchased.

New Course: Who is Jesus?

Jason FoutJesus wrote no books, built no empires, nor left us so much as an image of himself – yet his life has impacted the world more than any other.

Who is Jesus? Ask ten people and you may get 11 answers… In this thought-provoking course theologian and seminary instructor Jason Fout persuasively argues that the best way to begin is through the resurrection.

Who was this man and how can we best get to know him?

In this course author, priest, and teacher Jason Fout suggests four helpful lenses in which to view Christ:

  • Resurrection
  • Teaching
  • Atonement
  • Incarnation

This class is appropriate for people who are new to the Christian faith as well as seasoned believers who are looking for new insights into this engaging topic.

Find out more about this course, Who is Jesus.

How Online Learning Is Working in a Lutheran Congregation

Pastor Paul Walters, who shepherds the flock at Lutheran Church of the Master (ELCA) in Troy, MI says online learning has really invigorated Christian formation program.

“We started with just a few people, but over the months it’s really caught on.” Walters, who also teaches one of our courses, Introduction to Christian Marriage, says a few of his older parishioners had trouble figuring out the platform, but eventually worked it out. In this four-minute interview, Pr. Walters describes how his congregation has embraced online learning.

New Course: How to Deal with Difficult People with Peter Steinke

Peter SteinkeDealing well with difficult people is often an ability that comes with maturity – ours and others. In this course Peter Steinke, an expert in Family Systems Theory, goes over basic dynamics of healthy relationships at home and in church.

Dealing with difficult people, whether in at home or in a congregation, is something we all must do.Understanding the issues at play are integral to properly handling the difficulties that routinely crop up in our home and work lives. In this class Peter introduces us to Bowen Family Systems Theory and the ways it is used to help us better get along with people.

Click here to learn more about this class.

The Rev. Dr. Peter L. Steinke is an internationally respected congregational systems consultant who has also served as a parish pastor, an educator, and a therapist for clergy. He is the author of several best-selling books including How Your Church Family Works and Healthy Congregations and Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times.