Christianity Explored at CTKE
How Christ the King Edmonton is using this program, developed at John Stott’s church, for evangelism and discipleship.
As a family of churches seeking to be Biblically faithful and Gospel sharing, we’re always on the lookout for resources to help in that goal. One such resource, which some of our churches are utilizing for discipleship and evangelism, is called Christianity Explored.
Christianity Explored (CE) was produced originally in the late 1990s under the ministry of John Stott and Richard Bewes at All Souls Church, Langham Place in Central London by Rico Tice, along with Barry Cooper and Sam Shammas.
It’s comprised of a series of 7 videos based on the book of Mark and is designed to be used in small groups or one-on-one settings. The series has been redesigned and updated over the years and now has versions for kids, youth, young adults, prison ministries and its been translated into other languages. They’ve also developed two other complimentary series called Life Explored and Discipleship Explored.
Here’s how they describe themselves:
We publish a range of materials to introduce Jesus Christ to those unfamiliar with his message. Our aim is to support the local church in:
• reaching those who don't yet believe
• training believers in sharing their faith
• strengthening leaders' confidence in the Bible as the Holy Spirit brings it to life
Our mission here at Christianity Explored Ministries is to equip the church to: LOVE the good news, so they are captivated by Christ and what he has done, LIVE the good news, so they live lives that glorify God, and to TELL the good news, so they communicate their faith in Jesus clearly and relevantly from the Bible.
To learn more about Christianity Explored and how our churches are utilizing their resources we connected with Rev. Lars Nowen at Christ the King, Edmonton where they’ve been using CE for some time.
Lars, how did you hear about CE?
I first encountered Christianity Explored while ministering as a chaplain and teacher at a private school in England. I used the youth version which was excellent.
What need in your church were you hoping CE might meet?
There is a need in every church for basic discipleship as well as simple and unintimidating ways to evangelize. CE ticks both boxes. It touches on the basics of the Christian faith in a way which serves as a good introduction for Christians who haven't been adequately catechized or who need to be reminded of the basics.
Also, similar to Alpha, it is accessible to people desiring more information about Christianity. The offering of Christianity Explored, and Life Explored (which approaches things in a more contemplative and alternative way) gives even greater flexibility in evangelism. Crucially, both Christianity and Life Explored are well integrated with the Discipleship Explored program, which is one of the best packaged discipleship courses I've seen. Christianity Explored and Discipleship Explored have served both purposes well in Christ the King.
How are you utilizing CE?
We utilize the courses in the library attached to where we gather on Sundays, as well as in home groups. We have run Alpha courses in local cafes and pubs, and this course would be fine in that setting also.
What are some aspects of CE you especially appreciate?
There are three key aspects which I especially appreciate.
The first is that it is evangelism and discipleship through the Scriptures. Christianity Explored involves encountering Jesus through the Gospel of Mark and the basic tenets of the Christian faith are referenced within the Gospel narrative. This means that if individuals do the basic readings they will read through the entire Gospel of Mark during the course.
If they haven't been adequately catechized, or if they become Christians, they will have the groundwork set for faith founded upon the Scriptures. Discipleship Explored deepens this foundation by basing the course upon Paul's letter to the Philippians. Topical courses struggle to bridge the gap between the topics explored and a coherent sustained reading of Scripture. We fairly recently switched from Alpha to CE, and have noticed this difference clearly.
The second aspect is the integration of Christianity and Life Explored with Discipleship Explored. Following Alpha there is often a 'now what?' After Christianity Explored and Discipleship Explored people will have little problem adjusting to any sort of in-depth Bible study.
The third thing I appreciate is the willingness to address the reality of sin directly and without apology.
What are some of the benefits you’ve seen for your church since using CE?
We have seen the benefits primarily in the area of catechesis and discipleship, though we have had non-Christians attend the course and gain benefit from it. Discipleship Explored has so far been outstanding in helping us establish a benchmark for church discipleship. It does a good job at pitching questions and exercises which are accessible to brand new or poorly catechized Christians as well as serving as a basis for a deeper discussion of many perennial questions which benefit mature and well-catechized Christians also.
How does it differ from Alpha? And could it be used in addition to Alpha?
The primary difference is the coherent use of Scripture. Christianity and Discipleship Explored are based upon a sustained and ordered reading of Scripture whereas Alpha's topical sessions are not. Certainly these courses can be used in addition to Alpha. Life Explored is a different approach to Christian evangelism also, and is very well done. Christianity and Life Explored appeal to different sorts of people, and Discipleship Explored builds on both well.
It differs from Alpha also in terms of its candour regarding the controversial subject of sin. It seems to me that Alpha is softening its language for strategic reasons, but I'm not convinced this will benefit the church in the long run. We should resist the temptation to water down our evangelism and discipleship out of a fear of causing offence. Rather, we should be direct with people (hopefully not at the expense of whimsy and attraction) and allow the Holy Spirit to work as he wills. I think Christianity Explored does a better job in terms of clarity and candour than does Alpha.
Would you recommend CE to other ANiC churches? And if so, would you have any advice about utilizing it effectively?
I certainly recommend CE, Life Explored, and Discipleship Explored to other churches. In terms of utilizing it effectively, this varies from church to church because our assets vary. I would say that it's flexible enough to use one on one, in church settings, pub/cafe settings, as well as home groups. The youth version is excellent also.
You can contact the Canadian Regional Director for Christianity Explored Ministries, John Kivell, here: firstname.lastname@example.org