“At the very time of greatest stress came the epidemic of influenza, and this was perhaps the most far-reaching hindrance to [small groups] work which has been known in a generation…
….We had anticipated that it would take many months for the [groups] to rally, but they came back in March. There flowed in a steady stream of orders, which indicated that the [group leaders] were well organized, full of purpose, and had rallied themselves. As a result, the year, which had been so trying for many months, ended full of hope and promise.”
(1919 SBC Annual, pp.449-450)
Early in the Twentieth Century (the Center for Disease Control doesn’t specify when it started nor its origin), what is now referred to as the Spanish Flu infected more than 500 million people worldwide, or about a third of the world’s population at the time. It was first diagnosed in the US in the spring of 1918. That was a different day. Travel wasn’t as easy or as common. Communities didn’t come into contact with one another as often or as intimately. Because of all of this, the Spanish Flu didn’t spread nearly as fast as COVID-19. According to the SBC Annual, quoted above, churches closed in September 1918 and remained closed through the fall and winter, most not re-opening until March 1919. In terms of modern pandemics, the Spanish Flu was unprecedented. According to the CDC, the “number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.
There are two reasons for beginning this post with this brief history lesson. First, while the effects of COVID-19 in practically every area of life—ranging from how we work to job loss to school to church practice and everything in between—has been profoundly jarring, this isn’t the first time either Lifeway or the church has faced something of this sort. In fact, given the modernization of medicine and today’s technology, one can logically deduce that leaders in 1919 had a greater challenge. Second, if the results of the Spanish Flu and the subsequent revival of discipleship is any indication, we need to be ready for what’s next and look with expectancy for a similar revival when we emerge from the immediate threat of the coronavirus. Yet, while we remain between the pre-pandemic church and what God has in store for us on the other side, it’s important to remember that discipleship must continue and that we as leaders, like those in 1918-19, continue “full of hope and promise.”
As we wait and take measures to perpetuate discipleship—encouraging group members to immerse themselves in the Bible and maintain our own discipleship and spiritual growth—we have created a handful opportunities to keep on the path God has called us to in this season. During this time when it’s such a challenge for groups to convene, whether due to municipal restrictions, Zoom fatigue, or health concerns, it’s important to stay on the right track even at an individual level. Below are five ways in different formats to remain on the road to greater Christ-likeness.
The Good Life Online Bible Study
This experience is for anyone with an interest in learning more about the good life espoused in the Beatitudes. Pastor Derwin Gray’s new Bible Study, The Good Life, will be made available for anyone that signs up using the link above. Invite group members, family, or friends to engage in community built around this 8-session study. We recommend ordering the Bible study guide at Lifeway.com as a complement to the weekly video event. In the description with each video, we’ll add questions regarding the teaching. Then, you’ll comment with your answers to start the discussion!
Pray Like This: A 52-Week Prayer Journal https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/pray-like-this-a-52-week-prayer-journal-P005826967
We talk a lot about prayer. We ask for prayer and commit to prayer. Scripture describes prayer as crucial in our relationship with God through Jesus. But do you find it hard to remain grounded? Has consistent prayer been a challenge over the years? Are you in a season in which your prayer life might have become stale? This journal has been created to get you in the habit of reading Scripture daily, to serve as a guide to improve your prayer life, and discover the path to knowing God more intimately.
No More Excuses 90-Day Devotion for Men https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/no-more-excuses-a-90-day-devotional-for-men-P005826966
Adapted from the popular No More Excuses Bible study for men, No More Excuses: A 90-Day Devotional for Men will challenge you to lay down your excuses, stop compromising, and fight to be a man of character and commitment. Each day, you’ll find a Scripture verse, short devotion, and thought-provoking question to help you find purpose, meaning, and direction in life and become the man God has called you to be.
Unanswered Personal Bible Study https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/unanswered-personal-bible-study-book-P005819108
This Bible study provides precisely what many of us need today: tools and answers! It addresses several challenging topics, including mental health and suicide, paranormal activity, the resurrection, how we got the Bible, suffering, and why God is sometimes silent. The study will show you how to answer, how to explain, and how to respond in a deeply personal and effective way, as a thoughtful ambassador of Jesus. You will leave this study enriched, characterized by a thinking faith, capable of communicating confidently, and committed to escape the tendency to offer trite answers to a skeptical world. It’s also great to work through with a friend, co-worker, or spouse.
The Power of God’s Names Personal Bible Study https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/the-power-of-god-s-names-personal-bible-study-book-P005819105
The study examines 11 names of God. The words translated as name show up over one thousand times in Scripture and routinely carry with them power, responsibility, purpose, and authority. The study for personal discipleship offers biblically rooted content on the meaning and power of God’s names and encourages us to call on God through the names that speak to their needs. Like the Unanswered Personal Bible Study, this experience from Dr. Tony Evans is a great opportunity to share with a friend.