×
‘Experiencing God’: 20 years, 45 languages
Sam House, Baptist Press
July 27, 2010

‘Experiencing God’: 20 years, 45 languages

‘Experiencing God’: 20 years, 45 languages
Sam House, Baptist Press
July 27, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Join God

where He is working.

That simple premise hasn’t changed during the two-decade history of

Experiencing God, an interactive Bible study first published in 1990 that

taught a radically God-centered way of life.

Initially written by Henry

Blackaby and Claude King, the material was revised and expanded in 2007 by

Richard Blackaby, Henry Blackaby’s son.

Now, 20 years since its debut, the workbook is available in more than 45

languages and has sold 7 million copies. Internationally, reader testimonials

describe deeper and more intimate understandings of God’s desire for

relationships with them that will change their lives forever.

On a larger scale, Experiencing God has affected entire organizations, many of

which credit the study with helping turn bad situations into good and bringing

hope to tragic circumstances.

In prison

In 1995, Burl Cain became the new warden at Louisiana State Penitentiary at

Angola, arguably the most violent and dangerous prison in America. Knowing how

God had used Experiencing God in his own life and believing that real change

takes place in the heart, Cain soon introduced the workbook to the 5,200

inmates at Angola prison.

Over time, more and more inmates responded to the message. Some felt called to

serve as Christian ministers and began meeting with other inmates for worship

and prayer. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary later opened an extension

center at the prison, and more than 150 men have earned bachelor’s or associate’s

degrees. Inmate volunteers built chapels on the prison grounds. To this day,

inmate congregations continue to use Experiencing God to lead others to deeper

relationships with Christ.

Cain said that since inmates began studying Experiencing God, acts of violence

have dropped 70 percent. Inmates have requested to be sent to other prisons

where they can begin new ministries. Each year, 500 children get to spend a day

with their incarcerated dads at a carnival, and an annual rodeo and craft show

draws 15,000 people from the community to spend time with the inmates. Hospice

care is available for dying inmates, and cardboard coffins have been replaced

with polished wooden ones built by inmate carpenters.

A sign at the prison gate paraphrases Philippians 3:13 and summarizes the

thoughts of Cain and the men who have experienced God: “I don’t look to the

past, I press on to the future.”

In hospitals

A January 2007 news story about an 18-year-old patient at Wolfson’s Children’s

Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., led businessman Carldon Lahey to make a

contribution to the hospital. His step led to the start of Christ’s Starfish

Foundation, a program committed to helping non-cancer patients in pediatric

hospitals and their families.

Lahey traces the inspiration for the foundation to his Sunday School class’

study of Experiencing God. For him, the study became a spiritual marker — a

time of transition, decision or direction — to which God had clearly guided

him.

“I learned that God initiates everything and everything came from Him,” Lahey

said, noting that the concept changed his life. “I know that when God puts

something in your hand, you run with it.”

The program has expanded to children’s hospitals in other Florida cities. “We

are trying to make a difference, one hurting family at a time, helping hurting

children and their families in the name of Jesus Christ,” Lahey said.

Join God where He is working

Since its beginning in 1956, Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington, N.M., has

been known as a church with a heart for missions.

When Emmanuel studied Experiencing God as a congregation, one line in the

material — “You cannot be in relationship with God and not be on mission” —

convinced church members they should determine where God is working and join

Him.

Emmanuel supports a school, the local crisis pregnancy center and the crisis

closet of the San Juan Baptist Association. The church also is known for

helping people with their utility and rent bills, giving aid to victims of

Hurricane Katrina and ministering to AIDS orphans and prisoners.

The congregation has started five mission churches, one of which has grown to

start a mission of its own. “There is just a lot our members are involved in,

and they want to be,” Kirby Kennedy, a former pastor, said. “They want to give —

of their finances, of their gifts, of themselves — because God is the greatest

giver.”

Revised but unchanged

Through the years, LifeWay Christian Resources has published an entire family

of Experiencing God resources, including an Experiencing the Word New Testament

and the Experiencing God musical.

The 2007 revision, adding Richard Blackaby as a co-author, offers DVD messages

and new applications and stories.

The vehicles carrying the message have changed, but the message remains the

same.

Experiencing God leads believers to know God intimately and encourages

them to faithfully step out and join Him in His work — with miraculous results.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — House writes for LifeWay Christian Resources. For more

information on “Experiencing God” materials, go to

www.lifeway.com/experiencinggod.)