Why Run the Course?
Your church should have two groups of people in attendance: seekers who want to discover the Christian faith, and believers who want to develop their understanding of it. The Anchor Course is a tool to help you serve these two groups of people. Why should you use the Anchor Course?
First, by hosting this Course, you will offer people a faith that can anchor their lives.
Hebrews 6:19 says of the Christian faith: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Maybe that’s what Bono was thinking about when he was asked about his Christian faith. The front man for the band U2 said, “I’m the sort of character who’s got to have an anchor. I want to be around immovable objects.”
There is so much that is temporary and uncertain about life. People need to be able to hook into something solid that will hold fast.
The Bible often speaks of our lives as little boats on a big sea—little boats that need to be anchored so that they do not crash on the rocks or drift away lost. This image shows up a lot in the Bible. First Timothy 1:19 speaks of those who have “shipwrecked their faith.” Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” In Ephesians 4:13-14, Paul says that we are to “reach unity in the faith” so that we won’t be “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching.”
As God begins to draw people to himself, they become more and more aware of that need for a spiritual and moral anchor. Lee Strobel described the typical unchurched person as “morally adrift, but he secretly wants an anchor” (Lee Strobel, Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary). And Gary Collins and Timothy Clinton wrote:
Millions of people feel like they are drifting, with no absolute values or beliefs to which they can anchor their lives. Many feel empty inside, without firm standards of right and wrong, and with no valid guidelines for raising children, maintaining a marriage, building careers, doing business, or finding God. . . . They are looking for truth, identity, and something to believe in that will give their lives a real center (Baby Boomer Blues, page 39).
It’s interesting that both of these books use that image: spiritual seekers want an anchor. Through hosting an Anchor Course, you will offer people the stable faith that they are seeking.
Second, by hosting this Course, you enable people to explore Christianity together.
Note the subtitle of our course. The title of the book is “The Anchor Course.” The subtitle of the book is “Exploring Christianity Together.” But you might be asking, “Is this really something that can be done together? Won’t we either confuse nonbelievers or slow down believers if we have them all in the same class discussing Christianity together?”
In the Bible, finding Jesus and following Jesus always involved a relationship with people. Think about those Bible stories of people who found Jesus. In Acts 8 we see an Ethiopian official in a chariot, studying Scripture, but he couldn’t understand what he was reading until Philip came along and explained the faith to him. In Acts 9, Saul met Jesus in a blinding flash of light on the Damascus Road, but the whole experience only confused him until Ananias showed up to explain things to him. In the Gospels, Andrew brought his brother Peter to Jesus, and Phillip brought his friend Nathaniel, and the woman at the well told everyone in her town about Jesus, and Matthew even threw a party so his irreligious friends could meet Jesus.
It’s true today too. There’s only so far spiritual seekers can go on their spiritual search alone. They need to interact with others: with those who believe in Jesus and with others like themselves who are asking questions about him.
There’s a saying in churches that are effective at reaching seekers: “Belonging comes before believing.” People are more likely to come to faith in a setting where they have built relationships, where they have watched the Christian faith lived and not just taught, and where their honest questions have been welcomed.
So, finding Jesus involves discussing things and interacting with others. Following Jesus involves the same things: we still need interaction with others in order to grow in him. It’s not something we do by ourselves. Over and over again the Bible uses the little phrase “each other” or “one another” to speak about the Christian life. You can’t fulfill those phrases sitting alone in your living room watching religious programming. You can’t fulfill those phrases sitting alone in the library reading religious books. You can’t fulfill those phrases sitting alone in your computer room reading religious websites on the Internet. Spiritual growth is a group project.
Bill Hybels said that every major step or decision he has made was inspired and encouraged by someone 3 feet from him and not in a crowd of a thousand people. “Truth applied across the table” has been a key to his own personal growth. As you host an Anchor Course, you will be providing a setting where believers and seekers can come together—some to discover faith and some to develop the faith they have.
Third, by hosting this Course, you will introduce people to your church.
The Anchor Course is only eight weeks long. At the end, as participants either continue their spiritual search or grow in their relationship with Christ, they will need the ongoing fellowship and ministry of a church. After participating in a Course inside your church’s facility and with the people who attend your church, it will be easier for them to make the transition into your other church activities.
Fourth, by hosting this Course, you are providing people with the basics they need to make up their mind.
When it comes to getting a handle on Christian belief, people need an overview but they do not need to be overwhelmed. The Anchor Course is designed with this need in mind. Take the subject of Christ’s return, for example: Our aim in the Course is to explain why Christians find Christ’s promise to return so meaningful, not to provide a detailed sequence of end-times events. Or consider the subject of biblical inspiration: Our aim is to express our conviction in a divinely-inspired Bible without getting into the various theories of how God inspired the authors.
In short, we want seekers to finish the Course with answers to such fundamental questions like: What do Christians believe about God and his relationship to us? Why is the Bible so important to believers? Who is Jesus? What was his vision for the church, and how must believers make that vision a reality? What about heaven and hell? Why does the cross stand as the most recognizable symbol of the Christian faith?
In order to provide this overview, the Anchor Course is organized around an ancient statement of faith called the Apostles’ Creed.