Ten Years Of CE At First Baptist San Antonio
As I begin as executive director of Christianity Explored in North America, it is encouraging to realize the impact that CE has already had here. A number of churches were early adopters of CE and have seen remarkable results.
One example is First Baptist Church of San Antonio, TX. I am spotlighting this church because they have just spent five Sundays this summer celebrating the ten-year anniversary of running CE. I interviewed Dan Nystrand, who is a CE Advocate, and introduced First Baptist to CE.
Alan: How did CE get started at First Baptist?
Dan: In spring 2003, the church’s senior pastor, Don Guthrie, asked me if I knew of a Bible Study that we could investigate for use. Christianity Explored was on the top of my mind because I had been privileged to be there on the ground floor when Rico Tice was developing it at All Souls Church in London. CE is a great choice for Bible Study because if you want something evangelistic, CE does that; but if you want something to build up people in the church body, CE does that, too. After Pastor Guthrie’s team reviewed CE, it was a go.
Alan: Do you have any estimate of how many people have heard the gospel through the church’s CE courses?
Dan: Over 500 have taken the church’s course over the past ten years. Many more have heard about CE because our church services are televised live to the greater San Antonio area. Ratings indicate that at a minimum, the TV broadcast reaches 30,000 people, and some times that expands to 120,000. We use at least 4 Sunday’s per year [2 in January and 2 in August] to give live testimonies of CE class members. These are included on the TV broadcast. We have seen many come to one of our classes because of TV. Others have probably started CE courses because they heard the testimonies on TV.
Alan: What impact has CE had in your church and community?
Dan: I don’t know where to begin. Here are just a few examples:
• Our TV broadcast airs at 11 a.m. One morning at 11:22 a.m., a young lady registered online for the course after watching the service on TV.
• A nurse, who was no longer part of a church due to her own sin and due to a bad experience in church, saw our service on TV in a patient’s room as she was treating the patient. She heard someone in the CE course give their testimony, and she came to the church that very night looking for how to sign up for the CE course.
• A business executive knew that his secretary was struggling and was missing something in her life. He asked his wife to invite the secretary to a CE course. The secretary came.
• One man took the CE course four times. On the fourth time, he believed the gospel and accepted Christ.
• We are fortunate that the Lord has brought so many immigrants from other countries here to us so that we can reach them for Christ. We have translated the CE course into the Burmese language and into one of the major dialects used in Burma/Myanmar. We also have reached Spanish-speaking people through CE courses. (Click here for information about El Corazon del Cristianismo.)
• There are so many stories like this of lives that have been changed.
Alan: How have you celebrated the anniversary?
Dan: We have four very large banners hanging from Unity hall (the central hall that connects our buildings). One side of each banner says “Christianity Explored,” and the other “To God Be the Glory.” We have a table with our class materials displayed; and we have one TV that constantly plays testimonies from some of many students from the course, and another TV plays greetings from Rico from the CE founders’ weekend in April. Each Sunday, 40 of our table hosts and leaders wear a blue shirt that displays “Christianity Explored since 2003″ on the front side. In addition, on Sunday August 25 prior to the service, we showed a greeting from Rico that was filmed from his office in London.
Alan: What are some of the different contexts in which your church (or individuals from your church) has run the courses?
Dan: This material is so flexible. It can be used in any venue. We have used it in:
• A lawyers office
• A school break room/lunchroom for teachers
• College dorms
• A job training program where we have spread the lessons over 36 weeks
• A doctor’s office for his patients and staff after closing
• Used in many other venues by individuals
Alan: Do you have any advice for churches that are considering starting CE?
Dan: We use CE classes as an opportunity for folks to study Mark in a way they may not have studied Mark before. Rico has said that one of the main reasons he developed the course was because Anglicans thought everything was OK because they were born into an Anglican family, attended church faithfully, and were baptized and married in the church. But for many, everything wasn’t OK. We find this same thing is true of Baptists and every other denomination. With that in mind, we invite people to attend either as a refresher or to investigate the faith. So it is a great tool to use in any area of a church’s ministry.
Preparation is essential. Each person who is going to lead it must spend adequate time in preparation and prayer. When churches try to take a short cut in preparation and prayer, they have an unsatisfactory experience with the course.
We have had an excellent experience using CE these past ten years. I would like to see more and more churches using it.
To God be the Glory!