Tag Archives: Forward Today

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

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

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

Forward Today: A ministry of discipleship

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve repeated a million times, “Forward Movement is not a publishing company. We are a discipleship company.” Sure, we publish and sell books, but our mission is to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. Sales is one way we fund our mission, and publishing is one part of our mission.

We publish lots of books on topics of discipleship and evangelism. But we also offer digital resources and courses. We work, often with others, on conferences, such as Rooted in Jesus. I hope our offerings are helpful to you and your church. Do not hesitate to contact us and let us know!

Much of what we do is offered free of charge. Sometimes we subsidize the cost of resources to keep them affordable. Every year we donate more than 100,000 pieces of literature to people who are incarcerated, to people in the military, and to those who are hospitalized. Sales certainly help us, but it’s not the only way to fund our ministry.

I’d like to invite you to support the ministry of Forward Movement in two specific ways. First, if you are buying books, please consider buying them directly from us or from your local independent bookstore. Lots of Episcopal congregations and dioceses have bookstores, and your purchase there supports them and us. If you buy from us directly, that also supports our ministry. If the best thing for you is to purchase from some of the major online websites, we certainly want you to do that. But know that we see less money from those sales, which means less funding for our ministry.

Second, if you would like to see a vibrant Forward Movement continue to work in inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists in the Episcopal Church and beyond, please consider a generous gift. We have a balanced budget, but with more support, we could offer more resources. We’d love to do that.

It is a great joy to proclaim the Good News of God in Jesus Christ in our work at Forward Movement. I’m grateful for all the support you’ve already given, and I thank you in advance for all you and your church can do to help us reach more people.

Blessings to you all.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: For the Beauty of the Earth

For the Beauty of the EarthGod saw every living thing that was made, and indeed, it was very good. -Genesis 1:31

Dance along with the wind of God, be bathed in the primal waters, and look with awe and wonder on the myriad creatures God has made. Spend a day, a week, a month, or the whole year basking in the wonder of both fruit and flower, night and day, and everything thing that creeps upon the good earth. You are part and parcel of the very good creation God has made.

Join watercolor artist Kathrin Burleson and diverse voices from across The Episcopal Church in exploring the wonders of Creation and the beauty of the Creator. Burleson’s Creation-inspired watercolors offer inspiring visualizations that enhance the book’s 365 daily meditations, written by authors across the church and across the country.

Regular: $20
Today: $15

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

Forward Today: Journeys are good for the soul

Dear friends in Christ,

I’m on the other side of the world at the moment, in the midst of a vacation. When we travel for vacation, we tend to go far away. There are lots of reasons for this, but one of them is that I find the sheer difference from my usual routine to be invigorating and refreshing.

I love the stimulation of new tastes, new sites, new smells, and new sounds. Photography is a hobby of mine, and I love photographing the places and people of the world. (See my Flickr album here.)

Encountering cultures different from my own is always a blessing, though it can be challenging for me at times. I’ve loved worshiping with Anglicans around the world, seeing what bits of Anglican Christianity have been adapted to the local context. Churches around the world have without exception been welcoming, seeing me as an Anglican sibling.

Of course, one doesn’t need to go so far away to get the benefits of a journey. We can worship in a church that’s new to us. We can visit a nearby town or a part of our own city that we don’t know well. We can even invite strangers to dinner.

As I read the Gospels, it seems that Jesus and his followers were always on the move. They did not shrink back from encounters with strangers or even hostile people. Jesus’ ministry can be seen as a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Our own lives are meant to be pilgrimages too, as we grow into the full stature of Christ.

It’s lovely to be home. I certainly count on quiet time at home, as well as the company of long-time friends. I also find time away—whether it’s near or far—to be essential in my spiritual journey. Encountering what’s outside my immediate sphere is a gift in its own right, but it also helps me appreciate what is familiar.

What journeys are you taking?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: Wat Pho at sunset, photo by Scott Gunn

Today’s Flash Sale: Inwardly Digest

Have you ever wondered if there was some kind of guide to living a deeper, richer spiritual life that seamlessly incorporated scripture alongside the wisdom of the Church? There is—and you can find it in a pew rack near you! The Book of Common Prayer is more than a service book; it is a map to a deeper relationship with God, a framework for developing a more intentional and rewarding life of faith.

Scholar Derek Olsen explores liturgical spirituality and how the prayer book serves as a repository of Christian wisdom and spiritual practice stretching back to the beginnings of the Christian movement. Focusing on three key elements—the Calendar, the Daily Office, and the Eucharist—he discusses the spiritual principles behind them and provides clear, practical, easy-to-follow explanations of the services. These patterns of life laid out in The Book of Common Prayer serve as a guide to the spiritual life, so that we might connect back to the God who calls each of us by name and that we might love as God loves us.

Regular: $22
Today: $16.50

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

Forward Today: Making time for prayer

Dear friends in Christ,

This gets to be a busy time of year for lots of people, especially for those who have kids at home. School has started, along with all its activities. And these days, there are extra sports and lessons and so forth for many families. It’s hard to fit it all in to 24 hours and seven days.

Of course, it’s not just families with kids. We live and work in a world that expects us to be “on” all the time. Emails must be answered. Mobile phones are standard equipment. Retirees I know sometimes tell me they’re busier after retirement than before!

Everything pushes us to stay busy all the time. And that’s too bad. Because I think that staying busy is antithetical to our call as disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s not how we’re meant to live.

People love to point out how Jesus said the sabbath was made for us, not us for the sabbath. But do you notice something? Jesus keeps the sabbath! Jesus goes to gardens and quiet places to pray. Jesus rested, just as God the Father commanded him to do. Yes, when God issued us the Ten Commandments, one of the most important things we are to do is keep a day for rest and to honor God.

It’s not going to just happen. Rest has to be scheduled. If you want to develop a prayer life, put it on your calendar. If you want to spend time with scripture, schedule some Bible reading. Jesus famously said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I like to imagine he would also say, “Where your calendar is, there your heart will be also.”

I encourage you to set aside time for rest, time for prayer. It will probably mean saying no to a few things, and that’s OK. If you have kids at your house, the Grow Christians blog has lots of tips for ways to engage in intergenerational conversation, prayer, and learning.

As you receive this, I’m starting a vacation. Practicing what I preach, I’m looking forward to some rest. With any luck, I’ll even get bored. And that kind of rest and refreshment is essential for my journey as a follower of Jesus Christ. It’s not always easy to make this happen, but it’s always worth the effort, I’ve learned. How will you rest? When will you pray?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: Daughters of Melody Wilson Shobe color an Advent calendar.


Today’s Flash Sale: Living Reconciliation

In a world often defined by differences, Christians are called to be reconciled reconcilers. Inspired by the indaba process of deep listening and seeking common ground, this book shares stories of profound reconciliation from around the Anglican Communion. Written by staff of the Anglican Communion Office and with a foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Living Reconciliation explores how reconciliation is at the heart of mission and a guiding principle of scripture.

Regular: $12
Today: $9

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

Forward Today: Working on our spiritual fitness

Dear friends in Christ,

Attending to our spiritual well-being is a bit like attending to our physical health. Regular spiritual practices such as daily prayer and scripture study are like physical exercise. The more we do them, the easier they get and the healthier we become.

Forward Movement launched RenewalWorks several years ago as a way for congregations to learn about their own spiritual health and then create a plan to encourage spiritual growth among the members of a church. It has seen great success at changing the conversation in congregations, as they move from maintenance to mission, from complacency to discipleship.

Over the years, we’ve had quite a few requests for a tool to help individuals create a plan for their own spiritual growth. I’m very glad to say that just yesterday we launched RenewalWorks for Me. This new resources – free of charge – begins with a brief self-assessment of where you are in your spiritual growth. Based on the results of that quiz, you can sign up for a series of weekly emails to offer you specific encouragement on a path that will foster spiritual growth.

Let’s say your assessment suggests that you’d benefit from increasing your habit of daily prayer. The weekly emails will offer specific, achievable steps you can take to develop a more robust prayer life.

I encourage you to give RenewalWorks for Me a try, especially if you’re feeling stuck in your spiritual life. It might be just the thing to get you moving. And it’s free, so there’s no reason not to take it for a spin.

We’ve heard great things from our testers, and I think you’ll find this helpful, too. Let me know how it works for you!

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

Image: Jay Sidebotham


Today’s Flash Sale: Bible Women

Women 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.

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

Forward Today: Local actions with global consequences

Dear friends in Christ,

The news about Amazon rainforest fires is devastating. Damage to the environment is incalculable, and it’s particularly disturbing because these fires are almost certainly set by humans. I was thinking this is a depressing story that is happening far away until I saw a headline this week. “The Amazon is burning because the world eats so much meat.” Ouch. Even though I eat a mostly veggie diet, maybe this story involves me after all. Meat consumption may cause rainforest loss, but buying fresh peppers flown in from another country has its own costs.

The point is that my actions have global consequences. When I buy a shiny new phone, rare minerals had to be mined somewhere. There’s an environmental cost to my new phone, though I may never see the open strip mine. That same phone may be manufactured in a factory in which the working conditions are grim. Though I will never meet the factory workers, there is an impact on someone’s life from my choices. I can buy clothing that is made in a factory where conditions are poor, or I can spend a few more dollars and buy clothing made in a factory where workers are well paid and well treated.

I’m not here to castigate you, dear reader, for your life choices and spending habits. Nor am I here to wail about my own choices. But I am here to say that what I choose today in my home in Cincinnati may have repercussions in another part of the world.

Forest fire

Loving my neighbors doesn’t just mean being kind to the people who live in my neighborhood. We say in our baptismal promises that we will respect the dignity of every human being, and surely that includes human beings I will never meet.

The Gospel is lived out in many ways. I can tell someone about how Jesus Christ frees us from our sins. And I can live my life in a way that frees people from other kinds of tyranny, from the sinful consequences of endless consumption.

What is the good news here? There are lots of ways to live out our lives so that we support the quality of life of others. We can tell people that we are choosing not to eat something or to buy a particular item because of our faith, a faith that looks out for not only my own interests but the well-being of all creation.

What about you? Are you living in a way that helps others thrive? Are you willing to give up those things that might harm others? It’s not easy, but no one ever said it is easy to follow Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

Image: Pixabay


Today’s Flash Sale: Hour by Hour

Hour by HourPray without ceasing with this compact edition of the Daily Office complete with prayers and psalms for one week. This beautiful little book, excerpted from The Book of Common Prayer, will enable anyone to say the hours every day: Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline. Perfect for prayer and worship at all times and in all places. Hour by Hour is a thoughtful gift – the cover is deluxe soft leather, and it’s packaged in a small white gift box.

Regular: $20
Today: $15

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

 

Forward Today: Do you have a Bible app?

Dear friends in Christ,

Do you have a Bible app for your phone? You might, like me, prefer to read the Bible out of a paper book. But sometimes I want to look up a passage, and I don’t have my printed Bible with me. And you can’t use search in a paper book! I find it very handy—and sometimes inspiring—to have the Bible on my phone.

I’ve tried a bunch of different apps. Much of the time, I use the Logos app, because it has sophisticated study features and syncs with my desktop software. But it’s certainly not free. My current favorite free app is the YouVersion Bible app. You can get it for Android and iOS, and it includes over 1,500 versions of the Bible.

Way of Love Reading Plan

As I’ve mentioned before in Forward Today, our research through RenewalWorks tells us that daily scripture engagement is one of the most important catalysts for spiritual growth. That’s one of the reasons I was excited to think about offering daily Bible reading plans on the YouVersion Bible app, which has been downloaded almost 400 million times.

Our first plan has just gone live this week. Check out the Way of Love seven-day reading plan. It includes seven excerpts from The Way of Love Bible Challenge: A 50 Day Bible Challenge (learn more here). We hope this is the first of many plans—ways to read and be inspired by God’s word.

So often our phones are objects that get in the way of holy living. Our phones can enable us to pour hours of our lives into a tiny screen. I don’t know about you, but I for one am delighted to find ways to derive inspiration and knowledge from my phone. When the psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lantern to my feet,” I doubt he had in mind the glow of a tiny screen. But our phones can be guides to make time for scripture study.

Have you read the Bible on your phone? What was it like? If you haven’t, I hope you’ll give it a try.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Today’s Flash Sale: The Way of Love Bible Challenge

Way of Love Bible ChallengeThe Way of Love is the way of Jesus. With seven core spiritual practices, the Way of Love offers an intentional, Spirit-led path to following Jesus. And what better guidebook for the journey than the Bible? The Way of Love Bible Challenge pairs each practice with a passage of scripture as well as reflections, questions, and prayers written by a variety of faith leaders.

Come and see what God has to say about the spiritual practices of Turn – Learn – Pray – Worship – Bless – Go – Rest. Informed by scripture and inspired through prayer, these practices offer the opportunity to transform our relationship with ourselves, with our family and communities, and with our Savior. Featuring fifty days of reflections, The Way of Love 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.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

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

Forward Today: Unplugging to plug in

Dear friends in Christ,

I’m writing this from the mountains of Colorado, where I’ve come to spend a few days learning from clergy colleagues. It’s an incredibly beautiful setting, and I’m learning a great deal about how to be a leader in the missionary church.

On Monday, when we arrived, one of the first things we did was sort out the WiFi password. All of us were quick to check emails and stay connected with our families and churches and so forth. Then, late afternoon on the first day, a close lightning strike took out the internet. And because we’re in the mountains, there’s not much of a mobile phone signal.

I’m not going to lie, the prospect of being disconnected was a little unsettling.

But you know what? This has turned out to be a blessing. I think we’re all paying a bit more attention to the speakers, because it’s not so easy to be distracted. In the lodge where I’m staying there’s absolutely no signal whatsoever, so when I walked up to go to bed, there was quiet peace. Often I read for a bit, catch up on social media, or send a few emails. Last night, I went straight to sleep.

I didn’t choose to unplug, but I’m grateful for this time. Avoiding the distraction of the internet has helped me focus on the folks here in a different way than I might have otherwise. And I’m noticing the beauty of this place in ways that I might have missed.

I’ve written about this before. The internet is a great blessing, I think. We can connect with people, learn all sorts of things, and share the Good News of God in Jesus Christ. But it also has some downsides.

Maybe I’ll try unplugging a little more often. It might help me plug in to new things.

Have you tried unplugging for a bit? What was it like? Does online life bring us closer to Jesus, or does it take us away from him? Plenty to ponder.

Yours faithfully,
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

P.S. I’m grateful to my friend Emily Mellott, who suggested this topic as she walked by when I was standing near a meadow trying to think of a topic—in the one place where there’s a good signal.

Photo by Scott Gunn, taken in Colorado


Today’s Flash Sale: Faith Confirmed

Faith ConfirmedIn our journey through life, we often face big questions: What is the meaning of life? Who is God? Why do people die and what happens after death? Throughout the ages, Christians have turned to the Bible and to the Church for answers.

Faith Confirmed is an introduction to Episcopal beliefs and practices and is a perfect primer for those preparing for confirmation in the Episcopal Church and for all those who want to know more about the essentials of the faith.

Each section of the book contains:

    • a clear and accessible explanation of what Episcopalians believe
    • stories and illustrations to unpack these beliefs
    • thought-provoking questions and a Bible study
    • prayer and suggested prayer topics for the week

 

Regular: $18
Today: $13.50

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