Experiencing God: Changing Lives for 15 Years

by Polly House on Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God has a simple - but not easy - message: Find out where God is at work and join Him there.

The workbook by Henry Blackaby and Claude King continues to change lives. Published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, it has sold more than 4 million copies and has been licensed in 62 languages.

A Canadian, Blackaby was pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, for 12 years, and then served as director of missions in Vancouver for two years before moving to the United States to become the director of prayer and spiritual awakening at the North American Mission Board. He later served as special assistant to the presidents of the Southern Baptist International and North American mission boards and LifeWay. Since his retirement, he has devoted his time to Blackaby Ministries International, based in suburban Atlanta.

"Experiencing God is my life's message," Blackaby said. "It's how I had always understood and walked with God. This is how I pastored and led God's people."

Seven realities

The message of "Experiencing God" is built upon what Blackaby calls the Seven Realities:

  1. God is always at work around you.
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
  3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways.
  5. God's invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
  7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.

King, who at that time was a design editor at LifeWay, constructed the workbook and authored its learning activities, based on Blackaby's conference presentations. King is currently an editor in chief in the leadership and adult publishing area.

"Experiencing God set a new model for workbooks," King said. "We videotaped Henry as he spoke to groups at Glorieta, then transcribed the tapes and compiled it all as a first-person narrative and added the learning activities."

King said "Experiencing God" was different from what Southern Baptists were accustomed to studying. It was not a program, but an experience. "As people began responding to the message in the workbook, we saw lives changed," he said.

Speaking opportunities

Blackaby's life has changed considerably since the workbook's release. "One of the best parts is now, everywhere we go, Marilynn [his wife] and I hear the most wonderful stories from people," he said. "We hear how their lives have been changed."

Blackaby gets more than 2,000 invitations a year to speak and lead conferences around the world based on the Experiencing God message. Accepting all those is humanly impossible, so how does he choose?

"I have to make certain I have a discerning spirit," he said. "The size or location of an event is not important. I look and determine if God is already at work. And I won't do an event if I feel like I have been invited just because my presence will draw a crowd."

Worldwide availability

The relevance of "Experiencing God" to other cultures has been significant. LifeWay recommends it as one of the most important resources for international ministry.

"'Experiencing God' is one of those resources that has translated well to the needs of our overseas churches," said Luis Lopez of LifeWay's international department.

"In South Africa, for example, we have done weekend studies similar to the Experiencing God weekends that we do here, and churches have had tremendous results from those," Lopez said.

Through a partnership with LifeWay Brazil, more than 80,000 copies of "Experiencing God" in Portuguese have been sold. "In Latin American churches discipleship is a major concern and Experiencing God has been a wonderful blessing," Lopez said. "The seven realities speak cross-culturally."

In 2005, LifeWay released A 40-Day Experience: Reality, 7 Truths from Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby. It uses the popular 40-day format to capture the impact of an "Experiencing God" weekend overview. The workbook, leader kit, and DVD draw from "The 7 Realities of Experiencing God" video series and the Experiencing God Day by Day Devotional. 'Reality' is designed to recap previous studies of the "Experiencing God" workbook and launch new ones.

Still in the Word

Even though he has influenced countless people through his Bible studies, devotionals, books, and conferences, Blackaby still makes it a priority to keep his own daily appointment with God. He spends between four and five hours a day in study and prayer. "I find that I am sleeping less than I used to," he said.

Blackaby is proud that all five of his children and their spouses are involved in ministry and missions. Richard is president of the Canadian Baptist Theological Seminary, Mel is pastor of Bow Valley Baptist Church, and Norm is vice president of Blackaby Ministries International. All three of them live in Cochrane, Alberta. Tom is pastor of North Sea Baptist Church in Stavanger, Norway. Carrie is a career missionary with the International Mission Board in Brilon, Germany.

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