For the first seven years after my baptism, I was on the Jesus Fan Club’s official membership list, but you wouldn’t have known it to look at me.
I was a once-a-month churchgoer, I never read the Bible, I wasn’t involved in any study groups or ministries, and I didn’t even really associate with anyone from my church outside of Sunday morning – if I could help it.
Then, in the fall of 2006, my family and I joined a new church that was about to embark on a membership development program called 40 Days of Purpose. Karen and I decided that participating might be a good way to get to know people in the church (and the city, since we’d been in Calgary less than a year), so we signed up.
Five years later, pretty much all of our best friends (including each other) are all members of our church. Karen and I read the Bible together several times a week; I’m the co-leader of our church’s music team; Karen leads the children’s ministry (which, by the way, requires much more time, talent and effort than all of my ministries combined); I spent a year as the church’s board co-chairman; we both served as church camp counselors once summer; I write for our church’s newsletter and maintain the website; in a few months we’ll have participated in or served at five Christian retreat weekends between the two of us; we both belong to Bible study groups. And for the past year, we’ve both been doing all we can to share God with anyone who’ll listen through the pages of this blog and Karen’s (Fill In the Blanks).
Far more importantly, our marriage is even stronger than it was five years ago, and we’re growing closer to God every year. We don’t just know more about Him, we know Him more.
That’s what 40 Days of Purpose did for us. Or more accurately, that’s what God did for us through 40 Days of Purpose.
It’s a pretty solid curriculum – it starts at Square One, making it quite a good entry-level resource for new Christians or even seekers – but somehow, still worthwhile for longtimers. Participants read a chapter a week of a book called The Purpose-Driven Life, which begins by asking the question, ‘What on earth am I here for?’ It then answers the query by guiding readers through five purposes – worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission. At the end of six weeks, you’ve taken a pretty significant spiritual journey under the guidance of California megapastor Rick Warren.
But I don’t know if it was the curriculum itself that was so impactful for me – although it definitely played a role. It helped our pastor, Stephen Hambidge, to develop some pretty awesome sermons (check out http://holytrinitycalgary.org/downloads.htm, then scroll way down to Sept. 17, 2006 and Oct. 15-Nov. 26, 2006), and those messages were key to my awakening. But another vital factor was simple habit. For 40 Days, we all committed ourselves to studying and praying together.
- The number of days God made it rain and flooded the earth while Noah and the animals huddled in the ark.
- The amount of time Moses spent on the mountaintop with God (twice), and the number of days his face shone after the encounters.
- The duration of the time Goliath spent taunting the army of Israel before David killed him.
- The number of days God (through Jonah) gave the city of Nineveh to clean up its act. The number of days Jesus spent fasting in the Wilderness, being tempted by the devil.
- The amount of time Jesus spent on earth after his resurrection.
God seems to like the number 40.
And aside from (or perhaps not aside from) all these biblical references to 40 days, the period has a real practical significance, too. You can commit to six weeks of just about anything, and six weeks of something good can do some serious good in your life.
And for 40 Days five years ago, I met weekly with a group with a bunch of young, likable, genuine friends who enjoyed hanging out and praying together, and I wanted in. They welcomed me, and through them I got to know Jesus much better.
Jason, Joleen, Tom, Shauna, Steve, Tammy, Tricia, Scott, Megan, Jeff and Cory were absolutely instrumental in setting me on this path. Names have power, so I write their names now to express the gratitude I have for how God used them in my life.
And starting this week, just maybe, I’ll get the chance to pay that forward. Our church is embarking on 40 Days of Community – another membership development program also developed by Rick Warren and his cronies.
And I’m 40 kinds of excited.
I can’t wait to hear what God will say to us through Stephen, and what new truths we’ll explore in our small group sessions. As the name implies, this course will be all about building relationships among our church family, and I can’t wait to see what that’ll look like.
But even though this curriculum is geared towards the group, I’m more excited about what it might do for individuals.
Maybe there’s another Rob and Karen Petkau in our pews (or better yet, maybe another 10 Robs and 10 Karens), and God is going to start to transform their lives this fall the way He began that process for us in 2006.
Do your stuff, Lord! And let me know how I can help (or at least get out of your way).
Peace be with you.