Explore God is a program that provides credible content for people with spiritual questions and curiosities. The group publishes its content on the website exploregod.com which provides written information and videos. They also use social media, billboards and heavy signage to market the initiative. Several parishes throughout the diocese have offered Explore God programs during the last few years. Here are two vignettes from diocesan priests who participated last year.
By the Rev. Leslie Stewart, Annunciation in Lewisville
The Episcopal Church of the Annunciation had a great time with Explore God. We ran four groups. Two were at the church on Sunday mornings, one for adults and one for teens. One group was held in a member’s home on Tuesday evenings. These were all attended by church members which was an important first step in expanding our culture from being a congregation great at “welcoming” to a congregation moved to “inviting.” The videos were really well done and equipped our members to know how to have a conversation about their faith. It really is as simple as listening to and sharing our experiences.
The most exciting group was the one held in a café on Tuesday evenings. The length of the meetings, about an hour, and the Explore God series timeline of seven weeks was perfect. We started with four or five church members and the owners and staff at the café. The owners were great and let us use the large projection screen the size of a wall, and piped the video sound through the main speakers. They let us advertise on their business website, and allowed us to provide handouts, and hang a flyer on their window. We posted our group on the Explore God site and the Facebook group used by the local community. We were thrilled when someone showed up at that first meeting because they found us on the Explore God site. By week four we were up to fifteen people, five of whom had no affiliation with a church.
This group started to get sticky. By that I mean they started sharing their lives with each other. The members were connected by the Facebook group we set up for them and the group location. They were seeing each other in their own community and sharing what was happening during the week. The Facebook group was also a place where I posted links to the Explore God videos for the week. Members shared poems and prayers that were meaningful to them. By the seventh week, no one wanted the group to end. They were just norming as a solid group, so we decided to continue with the four-week follow-up discussion: Knowing God.
By the end of that time we were starting to perform mission tasks. We adopted an Angel Tree angel from the church. Several of us showed up in support when one of our members received his one-year sobriety chip. We formed a community in just a few weeks. Explore God had a powerful impact on us inside and beyond our church walls.
By the Rev. David Miller, St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas
For seven weeks beginning September 2015, St. Matthew’s Cathedral participated in Explore God. The series included seven weeks of preaching on big questions like, “Is there a God?” "Why is there pain and suffering?” and "Is the Bible Reliable?” These are questions non-Christians often ask when first beginning to explore Christianity. The sermon series included six different preachers (four clergy and three lay). Connected to the sermon series was a discussion group held each week at The Ginger Man Pub in Lakewood. The discussion group, open to non-Christians and Christians alike, served as a way of introducing people to the Explore God series through short video presentations of the topic/question for the evening. The discussion group was an excellent way of easily inviting our guests to come explore what Christianity has to say about life’s most perplexing questions. At the end of the evening, the guests were invited to come to St. Matthew’s the following Sunday to hear a sermon being preached on the same topic/question.
We also added a component to the Explore God series by inviting Carrie Boren Headington to speak to our adult Sunday School class on related questions we believe are compatible with the series. Questions like, “How do I tell my friend about Jesus?” and "Why does God, who Christians say is Love Itself, allow pain and suffering to exist?”
The Ginger Man discussion group and Sunday School presentations were well attended and received a good response. And even though no one from our Ginger Man discussion group came to hear the sermon series, we received good feed back from the congregation about the messages preached.
Explore God is a great tool for evangelism. One that St. Matthew’s is interested in using again.