Forward Today: Making disciples in your congregation

Dear friends in Christ,

Lately, it seems that all I do is talk about discipleship. This is a good thing. Jesus himself said that making disciples was the main job for his followers. Just this week, I wrote a blog post called “What is a disciple, and why does it matter?” If you want to read about discipleship, have a look over there.

At Forward Movement, we have research data from RenewalWorks that tells us that congregations which prioritize disciple-making are healthier and they’re more likely to be growing. Lots of others have studied this question, too. We have to move our churches, ensuring that we’re not running museums of the status quo or preservation societies. Sure, we can and should guard our traditions and our faith. But we also have to be ready to change. After all, the Gospel itself is all about transformation.

Rooted in Jesus - January 21-24, 2019 in AtlantaIf you’re not sure how to be a disciple—or if you’re not sure how to get your church to move in this direction—I have some good news. Forward Movement is offering a Discipleship Intensive two-day event this January. It’s a pre-conference gathering before the Rooted in Jesus conference in Atlanta. Our pre-conference is January 21-22, and the Rooted in Jesus conference is January 22-24. It promises to be a major conference, and the speaker line-up is exciting.

I hope to see you there. You can register online, and the early bird discount ends tomorrow, October 31.

If you can’t make it to the conference, there are plenty of ways to become a more committed disciple of Jesus Christ and to lead your congregation in this direction. This is our work at Forward Movement, and we’ll keep sharing stories and resources. Above all, we’ll keep sharing the Good News of God in Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Meet the Saints

Meet the Saints: Family Storybook is part of the Living Discipleships series of offerings, an all-ages curriculum to encourage each of us to follow Jesus more fully in the company of fellow disciples. Using this printed, full-color version of the Meet the Saints: Family Storybook families can together unveil how Christ’s light has shone brightly in the lives of men and women through centuries. Join a journey with the saints and your family, learning more about the monks, missionaries, prophets, doctors, evangelists, and more who have led us on our way.

The Meet the Saints: Family Storybook provides twenty-four stories of saints for families to read together, colorful child-friendly illustrations, thoughtful questions for family conversations, prayers to pray together, and coloring pages for children to enjoy.

Meet the Saints pairs well with other Celebrating the Saints curriculum, and can be used as a standalone study, or in conjunction with the other Living Discipleship series of offerings including Practicing our Faith and Exploring the Bible.

Regular: $12
Today: $9

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Join us at Rooted in Jesus

This January 21-24, join Forward Movement in Atlanta for Rooted in Jesus, a church-wide gathering to talk about discipleship, leadership, formation, communications, preaching, and much more.

Rooted in Jesus - January 21-24, 2019 in Atlanta

The Forward Movement team is leading an optional Discipleship Intensive pre-conference track, schedule below. Download and print the schedule here.

We hope to see you in Atlanta! Register here.

DISCIPLESHIP INTENSIVE

TUESDAY, JANUARY 21
8:00 Registration
9:00 Prayer and scripture reflection
9:30 Plenary I with Jay Sidebotham
10:30 Break
11:00-noon Workshops*
12:15-1:30 Lunch
1:30 Panel discussion
2:30-3:30 Workshops*
3:30 Break
4:00 Plenary II with Lisa Kimball
5:00 Evening Prayer
5:30 Gracious hour
6:30 Dinner

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22
8:00 Breakfast
8:30 Prayer
9:00 Plenary III with Miriam McKenney
10:00 Break
10:30-11:30 Workshops*
11:45 Wrap up
12:00 Peace – lunch on own

Workshop Sessions (more details coming soon):

  • Celebrate with Love, Live with Meaning; with Furman Buchanan
  • The Ministry of Intentional Small Groups on the Way of Love; with Jerusalem Greer
  • Revive and equip lay leaders to be spiritual leaders; with Dawn Davis
  • Building Empowering Diocesan Discipleship Plans; Claire Woodley
  • Baptismal Leadership in Today’s Church; with Albert Cutié

 

Learn more and register at rootedinjesus.church

Forward Today: Being church in your community, social media style

Dear friends in Christ,

If you’ve been around young children much lately, you know about the “Baby Shark” global phenomenon, the song that has almost four billion views on YouTube. Charming circumstances led to “Baby Shark” becoming an unofficial anthem for the Washington Nationals baseball team and their postseason adventure.

Well, the Washington National Cathedral saw an opportunity. Or two or three. First, they outfitted some of their statues and grotesques in the home team colors. Then they released a now-viral video of the cathedral organists having a grand time with the massive national cathedral pipe organ and “Baby Shark.” People in DC are getting a fun reminder of the cathedral’s presence, and the sensation is spreading around the world.

Now, playing a popular song on a church organ is NOT evangelism. Sharing the Good News of what God has done in Jesus Christ is evangelism. But making connections with secular, popular culture can pave the way to evangelism. We can show that we take Jesus Christ very seriously, but we don’t need to take ourselves too seriously.

What I love about the Washington National Cathedral’s work here is that it doesn’t cheapen the core mission or value of the cathedral, but rather adds a bit of fun in ways that might attract interest from folks who otherwise wouldn’t pay much attention to church. And that’s worth something.

I know from eleven years of involvement with Lent Madness that humor can draw people into the church. Plenty of people have told Lent Madness creator Fr. Tim Schenck or me that they hadn’t really practiced a Lenten devotion until the whacky race for the Golden Halo drew them in. I wonder if people will Google the cathedral or even show up for services because of a bit of Washington Nationals fun?

We should never replace the proclamation of the Good News with a few laughs. But we in the church can show our fun side, perhaps helping people see that we Christians are fundamentally joyful people rather than the dour some people might believe. Has your church found fun ways to engage your community? Have you laughed at yourself lately?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo by the Washington National Cathedral


Today’s Flash Sale: Social Justice Bible Challenge

The Social Justice Bible ChallengeFeaturing forty days of reflections by spiritual leaders and writers from around the world, The Social Justice Bible Challenge is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with scripture and an exploration of the Word of God. Disciples wishing to spend more time engaging the Bible on topics from poverty, hunger, displacement, and the care of widows and orphans will have their cups filled over and over again by the words of Scripture and meditations from people across the Church who engage with these realities each and every day.

Bridging the gap between knowing the Bible and living it, The Social Justice Bible Challenge is for those seeking to deeply engaged in scripture, and connect their compassion to God’s Word.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

New Resources

We’ve been BUSY this fall! We invite you to take a look at our new resources, published this month!


Angels of the Bible: Finding Grace, Beauty, and Meaning
Angels appear in the greatest of biblical moments: at the gates of the Garden of Eden, at the birth of Christ, and at the tomb of the resurrection. But modern-day Christians tend to either dismiss angels as fantasy or caricaturize them as one-dimensional cherubs.

Episcopal priest Kate Moorehead invites us into a more dynamic understanding of the realm of the angels. Her devotions recount fifty key appearances of angels in the Old and New Testaments as she shares stirring theological reflections on the presence of angels and our life of faith.

In addition, the book features 56 full-color pages with depictions of angels throughout history. Art professor and scholar P. Scott Brown offers historical and theological context for these paintings of pivotal angelic appearances, including the Annunciation, the Celestial Hierarchy, and the Final Battle from Revelation.

 

Faith and Courage: Praying with Mandela
In a world riven by poverty, prejudice, and power struggles, the faith and courage of activist Nelson Mandela remains a beacon of hope. South African Archbishop Thabo Makgoba recounts his ministry of prayer and presence in the final years of Mandela’s life—and how, time and again, the politician taught the pastor about ministry.

In this powerful and poignant memoir, Archbishop Makgoba explores how the struggles of his ancestors shape his life today, how growing up in apartheid South Africa fuels his desire for justice, and how faith compels him to champion the difficult work of reconciliation. These lessons of faith and courage provide insight for audiences around the world, for all people who care about Jesus’ commandment to love one another.

 

Sing to the Lord and Old Song: Meditations on Classic Hymns
Some hymns simply have an extra sprinkling of divine magic. The first notes thrill from the organ, and we are home. There’s little wonder that we refer to the majestic sound of choirs of angels: Surely the kingdom of God is full of the sound of singing.

Author Richard H. Schmidt offers a homecoming of sorts in his newest book, Sing to the Lord an Old Song. His meditations on forty classic hymns remind us of a shared faith—by generations before and with generations to come. Though the words and tunes may be entrenched in memory, Schmidt sheds new light on these hymns, inviting us to think about the texts through various lenses of scripture, faith, and personal experience. His reflections are painstakingly honest about how and when he has come up short as a follower of Christ—as well as how each time, he finds notes of forgiveness, love, and hope in these familiar songs.

 

A Way to the Manger: Devotions for Advent and Christmas
Explore Christ’s birth as recounted in the Gospel of Luke through the lens of the Way of Love and the seven practices of turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go, and rest. With daily devotions of personal stories, modern examples, art, and invitations to prayer and journaling, the authors challenge you to discover and incorporate these practices into your own life. During Advent and Christmas, walk with the shepherds and the angels, Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and Anna and Simeon. All of their paths—as well as yours—lead to the same destination: the humble manger where Love was born.

 

Slow Down. Quiet. It’s Advent.
Shrink wrapped in packs of 25, posters are 17″ x 22″, folded to 8.5″ x 11″. Created by Susan Elliott with drawings and text by Jay Sidebotham, this 2019 calendar poster suggests ways to mark the days through the Advent season. The calendar offers ideas for prayer, helping others, and being thoughtful about the true meaning of Christmas. Take our advice to your hearts and to your walls: Slow down. Quiet. It’s Advent! Perfect for the whole congregation!

Forward Today: Discipleship is the thing

Dear friends in Christ,

This is the time of year when I do a fair amount of traveling around the church. Sometimes the travel is exhausting, but the reward is a wonderful view of the life, health, and challenges of our beloved church.

A few days ago, I attended a conference for clergy from all over North America. While it wasn’t quite the official conference theme, I noticed a distinct pattern. Nearly everyone is interested in discipleship. Church leaders at all levels are looking for ways to equip followers of Jesus in their journey.

I find it very encouraging that there are no gimmicks here. Discipleship is about, among other things, studying God’s word in the Bible, cultivating a habit of daily prayer, serving those in need, attending worship regularly, and sharing the Good News of God in Jesus Christ. These practices don’t require a big budget line or a fancy program. They just require commitment and focus.

Congregations where discipleship becomes the top priority are thriving. It’s true for small and large churches, in rural and urban areas, both high church and low church. It’s not surprising that when we do the thing that Jesus commanded us to do in Matthew 28, we thrive. Our primary task is to make disciples. And we have the Holy Spirit as our guide and companion.

Forward Movement’s purpose—from 1935 to the present—has been to make disciples. We offer plenty of resources, many of which are free of charge, to support you and your congregation in this work. There are lots of others out there providing resources, too. Ultimately though, we already have what we need: the liturgy of the church, the scriptures, God’s presence among us, and a mission to carry out.

What’s the main thing at your church? Is it discipleship? If not, what’s getting in the way? If we at Forward Movement can help, please do let us know. And pray for the renewal of our church as people discover the joy and the freedom of following Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Bible Women

Bible WomenWomen of the Bible have been trapped in dry and dusty literary caskets for centuries. While a few women, such as Mary, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Mary Magdalene, are familiar, many of the women who speak in the Bible have long been ignored. Yet their words are part of God’s Word, the Bible, for a reason. Through these women, God spoke, intervened, changed, illustrated, and proclaimed the story of redemption.

In this groundbreaking book named best Bible study of 2015 by Illumination Book Awards, Episcopal priest Lindsay Hardin Freeman identifies every woman who speaks in the Bible, providing their words, context, and historical background. We learn which women speak the most (hint: it’s not Mary!) and which books of the Bible have the fewest words from women.

We hear the only conversation in the Bible between a mother and daughter (and it’s not pretty), the words of a woman who eats her own child, and the triumphant exclamation of a woman telling the world about the risen Christ.

Questions at the end of each chapter encourage individual or small-group reflection about what we might learn from each of these women and how God is speaking through them to us.

Step into God’s sacred circle of mothers, grandmothers, warriors, prophets, prostitutes, and murderers. You won’t come out the same.

Regular: $22
Today: $16.50

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Who should lead Revive?

Typically, the facilitator of the program is a ministry leader of the congregation, such as the rector, lead pastor, senior minister or another clergyperson. This is not a requirement, since anyone can lead Revive. We have purposefully used the word minister to signal that the facilitator can be ordained or lay.

However, our feedback surveys say that Revive has greatest impact in changing culture and equipping spiritual leadership when the facilitator is the senior minister and the participants hold leadership positions within the congregation.

Our surveys also indicate that the strongest reason why people were willing to participate in Revive was because their ministry leader personally invited them. If you want further evidence of the effectiveness of this model of discipleship you may want to examine Jesus’ call and spiritual formation of his disciples.

By the way, facilitators do not have to be advanced masters of spiritual direction, but they should be intentional about their own spiritual growth and open to a relational connection with God.

-Dawn Davis, Revive creator


Read more guest posts from Revive here.

To learn more, visit the Revive website.

The downloadable program materials may be purchased here.

Pre-printed Participant Guides are available here.

Forward Today: It takes a village to praise the Lord!

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming weekend, I’m heading over to Washington National Cathedral for their annual National Acolyte Festival. No, I’m not planning to vest and try out my torch-bearing skills. Those days are mostly past for me.

I’m looking forward to what promises to be a glorious celebration of Holy Eucharist in the cathedral, but I’m also looking forward to connecting with lots of people after the service. Forward Movement will be there, along with other exhibitors, to tell acolytes and others what we’re doing to support discipleship and evangelism.

Being an acolyte was very important in my own spiritual journey. Learning not only how to handle various objects for worship, but why we use them was formative. Lining up in the procession before mass, one sees how many people it takes to conduct services. And that doesn’t include the altar guild, the ushers, the lectors, the sexton, the organist, admin staff, and all the others!

It takes a village, it seems, to praise the Lord in our Sunday worship.

Each person has their own part to play, whether we work in the office, sit in the chancel, or occupy a pew. It’s glorious. When we offer our best, we glorify God. It feels great to do that, too.

If you’re in Washington this Saturday, stop by and say hello. If not, thank an acolyte or a choir member or a lector or an altar guild member or someone else who works so that we can offer our very best in worship.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. Last week, we published a new book, Sing to the Lord an Old Song. It’s a set of meditations on beloved hymns. Surely singing these venerable hymns is an important part of worship, too.


Today’s Flash Sale: O Wisdom

Songs of thanks and praise, of lament and longing, of restoration and return have been on our lips for millennia. The verses of the ancient hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, explore and celebrate the many names of Jesus. Drawn from the book of Isaiah, the O Antiphons have been sung in churches and monastic communities since at least the eighth century. These beautiful and awe-inspiring phrases present a way for us to sing along with the story of God, to ponder and praise the many names of our Lord.

Through meditations, art, poems, and photos created by people from across the church, this book offers space and time to embrace Jesus’ presence among us now—and await his coming in glory. Enjoy these prayers and praises throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Rejoice!

Regular: $7
Today: $5.25

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

October Staff Picks

Here are our staff picks for this month! All of these are great books for group studies or solo reads. Order today–October 3rd–for 10% off your purchase.

Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter

Bible Women“An interesting and empowering book. Love to hear these stories…many of which were left out of my Bible studies growing up!”

 

 


For the Beauty of the Earth: Daily Devotions Exploring Creation

“The gorgeous watercolor paintings by Kathrin Burleson make this book special. And I enjoy reading devotions based on something I so adore and connect with: nature.”

 

 

 


The Bible Challenge: Read the Bible in a Year

The Bible Challenge“Reading the Bible can be really intimidating, but The Bible Challenge makes it accessible. Can be started at any time, but I started in January, because I wanted to commit to reading more scripture this year.”

Forward Today: Christmas in October?!

Dear friends in Christ,

This is about the time of year when I notice people online complaining about Christmas decorations appearing in stores and malls. I have even been known to join in these complaints.

The last few years, I haven’t actually minded. I’ve had a bit of an attitude change, and I want to invite you to reconsider your reaction if you see red when you see the red & green.

As I read in someone’s post several years ago, “It isn’t the job of commerce to keep the feasts. That’s what church is for.” In other words, we shouldn’t expect the mall to put up and take down their Christmas decorations according to the liturgical calendar. We do that in our churches and homes.

If I wanted to take a cynical view, I could get upset that people at the mall are trying to commercialize Jesus’ birth. Outrageous! But is it? Their job is to sell stuff. It’s our choice whether or not we buy. It’s our choice how we practice our Christmas faith. It’s our choice how we teach our children about presents and Christmas.

I try to take a more generous view now, though I confess I’m not always successful. Seeing Christmas decorations—even completely secular ones—in public offers us an occasion to talk about Jesus. “Jesus is the reason for the season” is a cliché, but it’s not wrong.

You won’t find a Christmas tree at our house until Christmas—but you will see an “Advent shrub” for most of December. You won’t find me playing Christmas music in the car before Christmastide. But when I’m out and around, I’m glad to hum along and enjoy some holiday festivity. Maybe I’ll even try to find a way to have a conversation or two about why we celebrate Christmas. And if we can manage that, isn’t it a blessing?

I’m not wishing people a merry Christmas yet, but I’m trying not to be the Grinch. How about you?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image by Scott Gunn


Today’s Flash Sale: I Witness

I WitnesMany of us have heard the story of Jesus’ birth, but have we lived inside it? Episcopal priest Kate Moorehead invites us to enter the story of salvation with our hearts and minds wide open, experiencing the miracle of Jesus through the eyes of witnesses: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and others. And Moorehead encourages us to bear witness ourselves—both then and now—to the marvel and majesty of a babe born in a manger, of Christ our King. These daily devotionals offer a companion through the seasons of Advent and Christmas and urge us to keep reading, keep listening, keep learning. The story of Christ’s birth can be both familiar and new in each re-telling. Come and see.

Regular: $7
Today: $5.25

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

What do you receive when you download Revive?

Dawn Davis, creator of Revive


Revive is a one-time purchase that gives you access to all the materials you need to run the program. The only restrictions are that you not share the materials and passwords with others, and not use the program as a “consultant” with many churches and institutions.

When you purchase Revive you will receive an email with a link to download the program materials.

That download includes:

  • Introductory Letter
  • Facilitator Guide
  • Participant Guide
  • Revive Promotional Flyer

 

Within the Introductory Letter you will find the link and password which enables you to access the 30 videos presentations. We recommend you download each video to your local device, to avoid streaming challenges during a session.

The Facilitator and Participant Guides are both in the form of a PDF that you can download, print, and copy. If you’d like to avoid the copy machine, we do sell pre-printed participant guides, but those are optional since you already have all the materials.

You also have access to this blog, other resources and a community of Revive facilitators and participants who share their experiences and insights about Revive and spiritual growth.

Ultimately, what you get from Revive is a community of leaders that are excited, confident and spiritually growing in their love for God and others. Here are a few comments from former Revive participants:

“Revive gave me the yearned for opportunity to share my spiritual experiences, my doubts, to question and to listen. It challenged me out of my comfort zone and helped me be open to new experiences. It gave me a deepened spiritual relationship with God. I now seek to recognize God in the everyday stuff of life.”

“Revive has given me the confidence to share my faith with others. I now feel I’m better equipped to learn, engage, teach and lead in my church community as well as in the community at large. Thank you!”


Read more guest posts from Revive here.

To learn more, visit the Revive website.

The downloadable program materials may be purchased here.

Pre-printed Participant Guides are available here.