In a couple of weeks, our church will be presenting a course called Christianity Explored, a seven-session opportunity to—surprise, surprise—explore Christianity. In many respects, Christianity Explored (CE) resembles Alpha, a course much better known in North America than CE. Like Alpha, CE is intended to be an introduction to the Christian faith for those who have questions about it. And also like Alpha, CE comes from a London church, All Souls Langham Place, where John Stott ministered for several decades.
Unlike Alpha, CE is based around a single Bible book, the Gospel of Mark. This is one of the things that attracts me to the course. Although it draws in texts from all over the Bible, its basic structure around one book makes it a great way to learn better how to read and understand the themes of a single book. It reminds participants that the Bible is not just a collection of old sayings that can be read (or misread) however we like. For those who are not yet Christians, this may be a helpful and surprising reminder; the Bible seems less daunting once you realize that it is filled with smaller sections, including narratives that can be read and understood fairly straightforwardly. For those who are Christians, it’s a healthy summons to the centrality of good Bible reading for Christian life.
The choice of the Gospel of Mark is a good one too. Reading one of the gospels—the four narratives that are roughly equivalent to biographies of Jesus—makes it easier to remember that Christianity is not fundamentally a set of ideas but rather is intimately tied to the person of Jesus. It’s not wrong to say, as some have, “Christianity is Christ.” As we go through CE together, we will be walking with and listening to Jesus, who is from a historical perspective the central figure of all history and from a theological perspective the revelation of God himself. So in CE we will be reading this gospel together, discovering who Jesus is, what his mission was, and what it means for us.
The format of Christianity Explored allows for genuine investigation. For some, exploring is a task undertaken by those who are curious, who would like to learn more about some subject or person but aren’t yet committed to a response. Sometimes people who are exploring just want to sit and observe and listen. CE affords just this opportunity. There is no pressure to speak or to read out loud or to declare your thoughts to the group. Participants are welcome to come and observe. For others, exploring is about probing and uncovering, about being able to question something and try to come to a grasp of the truth that way. For those with this idea of exploration, CE is also a good fit. Real questions, difficulties, objections, etc., are all allowed. So whether you explore by quiet listening or vigorous questioning, Christianity Explored is a safe space.
For all of these reasons, too, I see CE not just as a good introduction to Jesus, to the Bible, and to the Christian faith, but also as a good place for those who are already Christians to be reminded who we are and what this is all about. Familiarity easily leads to unclear vision, so that people who have been Christians a long time can forget some of the vitality and excitement of the Gospel story. It’s never a bad time to get that back, to look once again at our faith, our Scriptures, and our Lord Jesus himself.
Email me if you have questions about details or what to expect: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a trailer: