Baptist Christians new to observing Lent often associate the season with giving something up, but in reality it’s a time to reclaim, restore and renew their faith.
“Every day we are journeying with Jesus on the road of discipleship, but the season of Lent is a special opportunity to enter again the mystery of the ‘fellowship of his sufferings,'” said David Coffey, president of the Baptist World Alliance.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
The BWA and <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />BaptistCenter for Ethics are partnering to produce a free Lenten Bible study curriculum for Baptists. A sample lesson for the study, due out Jan. 22, is now available for download from EthicsDaily.com.
Lent, a 40-day period of reflection beginning with Ash Wednesday, is a major part of Catholic and other liturgical churches. But Baptists by and large have traditionally more often viewed preparing for the Resurrection in terms of new clothes, Easter baskets and coloring eggs.
That is beginning to change, as more and more Baptist congregations have positive worship experiences during Advent and as a result desire a deeper appreciation for other parts of the Christian calendar as well.
“Observing Lent challenges us to reorder our priorities and change our values,” Jan Turrentine, managing editor for Acacia Resources, wrote in the lesson introduction. “It causes us to recognize and confess the sin in our lives not only as individuals, but as communities, cultures and societies.”
The eight-week study, designed for use in adult Sunday school classes, offers an introduction to the season by interweaving Bible studies with stories of the witness and work of Baptists around the world, many who live in poverty or suffer from persecution.
“The unique feature of these Lenten studies is they enable us to hear the voices of brothers and sisters representing the global family of God’s church,” Coffey said. “I warmly commend these studies for your Easter journey.”
The sample lesson, written by Carla Nelson of Canadian Baptist Ministries, for example, treats Psalm 51, a passage about cleansing from sin, with recognition that much of the world lacks adequate safe water to drink. Baptist World Aid, the relief and development agency of the BWA, provides wells, water purification and education to help those most vulnerable to disease.
“The BaptistCenter for Ethics continues to find creative ways to remind us of our ties with Baptist Christians around the world,” said Ircel Harrison of the Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. “The Lenten Bible study resource produced in cooperation with the Baptist World Alliance will not only help us to identify with fellow Baptists but guide us as pray for and support them in their witness.”
“Sunday school classes, small groups, mid-week gatherings and others will find their faith renewed and their understanding of their place in God’s global mission challenged as they allow this study guide to direct them on their journey with Jesus to the cross and beyond to the empty tomb,” said Larry Hovis of North Carolina CBF. “I recommend it to pastors, Bible study leaders and anyone seeking to experience a convergence between Scripture, Lent, spiritual formation and missional engagement.”
Lesson writers are BWA leaders and active supporters. They include: Martin Accad, dean, Arab Baptist Theological Seminary; Daniel Carro, professor of divinity, John Leland Center; Dina Carro, member of the BWA study and research executive committee; Randy Hyde, pastor, Pulaski Heights Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark.; Emmanuel McCall, vice president, BWA; Paul Montacute, director, Baptist World Aid; Carla Nelson, education consultant, Canadian Baptist Ministries; Parush Parushev, professor, International Baptist Theological Seminary; and Craig Sherouse, pastor, First Baptist Church in Griffin, Ga.
Student and leader guides will be available online at www.ethicsdaily.com by Jan. 22. The first lesson is designed to be used on Feb. 18.
Funding for the curriculum unit is made possible in part by a gift from Jersey Village Baptist Church in Houston.
Harrison, an admitted “raving fan” of BCE’s online curriculum, commended the Lenten study as a “wonderful opportunity” to introduce BCE material to churches that have never tried it.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.