Enjoy this interview with Experiencing God at Home co-author, Tom Blackaby, as he shares how the Seven Realities of Experiencing God can translate into parenting children and teens.
LifeWay.com: What sets Experiencing God at Home apart from previous studies or works from the Experiencing God line?
Tom Blackaby: The Experiencing God at Home resources are designed to zero in on the seven realities of Experiencing God and translate them into a useful format for parenting, for teenagers to find God's will, for children to encounter God, maybe, for the first time. To understand that He does have a plan for their life as well.
Over the years Experiencing God has been used in every conceivable fashion. But we haven't really helped families specifically with the material. Now that my brother, Richard, and I feel that our kids are old enough, and we've successfully navigated the parenting arena, we think we have some good principles that we've been able to use in our own homes to share with other parents.
Having helped our children establish their own relationships with God as well, we've seen the challenges that parents face. And so we've tried to offer them tools to help their children come into a personal relationship with God through the seven realities of Experiencing God.
LifeWay.com: Is that a study that's done in the home or do you see that happening in a lot of different ways? Is it something that families and their children go through together?
Tom Blackaby: There's a variety of resources that we've put together, starting with the children's storybook – beautiful pictures. We have a book for teenagers to read for themselves that includes a lot of humorous stories, fun graphics, and designs. We have a book for the whole family for devotionals that includes helps for parents to teach their children how to have devotionals themselves. It's our goal to have parents disciple their own kids, not only pass that on to the church, but to equip parents to disciple their own children.
And we have a book specifically for parents to help them navigate those treacherous teenage years and to help focus their efforts on the important things in the home for teaching about a relationship with God. Not to worry about the small things, but to really have a big picture of where they're trying to take their children.
We focus a lot on being a model to our kids, to live out an authentic, genuine relationship with God that is visible and real. when the children have difficult times themselves, they'll remember that the parents turned to God in time of need and they'll copy the modeling of their own parents.
I should add, too, we've included resources – two eight-week-session curriculum pieces, one for children and one for parents, that can be used as a home group or in Sunday School, discipleship times, summer camp. These materials are meant to be very flexible, to be used in any situation, any format, any small group, or personally, or even just in the home with parents and their kids. We wanted this to be accessible to everyone at any level, in any situation.
LifeWay.com: How do you see that impacting the church and ultimately the kingdom?
Tom Blackaby: It's my understanding, through reading the Scriptures, that the church really is based on a family model. We have the church as the house of God. We have our Father in heaven. We have brothers and sisters in Christ. We have babies in Christ that need to grow up into maturity. And the family is the microcosm is all of that.
So when we have our strong family foundations and strong relationships in the home, it grows to incorporate the family sense in the church as well. I think that the church, as a family, when they regain that whole perspective, they're going to be more loving. They're going to be more caring and gracious and outgoing toward one another and toward those God brings into their midst, welcoming them into the family.
We hope that these resources will not just impact individual families but impact the entire church as they see their work and mission as a family reaching their own communities.
The Impact of Experiencing God
LifeWay.com: What can you tell us about the impact of Experiencing God and how the new documentary came to be?
Tom Blackaby: Several years ago my father and I had a chance to go to Hyderabad, India. We met with the pastor who was five-foot-two, a small man. In fact, he was sick. He had to get out of bed to come and translate for my father who was going to preach in his church. The church started in his home as a Bible study. But when we saw it, it was about 15,000 members and there were several worship services in a day. They had a Bible school, 300 preaching points every Sunday that they would send people to an orphanage, bookstore, and they cared for widows.
The pastor's son took me aside and said, "I want you to know that many years ago someone came to our church with an Experiencing God workbook. He completed the entire course with a pencil, and then he erased the whole book and he gave it to the next person, who did the book in pencil. And then he erased the whole book and gave it to the next person, until that book was completely worn out. My father has lived by those principles, and you can see the results today in our ministry."
We [were] very humbled by that, to think that a little workbook had been taken from America to one of the main cities in the heart of India and had made such a difference. And we're grateful for that.
Experiencing God has impacted so many different lives. A lot of people have been curious as to how it came about. What was the foundation for it? And they want to know more about the background. And truly, it is very simple, the whole foundation of Experiencing God.
Even a young pastor off in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the prairies of Canada, he (Henry Blackaby) just trusted God. And he just learned to listen, to see where God was at work, and followed each step of the day, leading his church to follow what God was saying. A Bible School was started, 30 mission churches were started, 100 young people were called into the ministry through that church.
And then, he put what he learned as a pastor leading a congregation into a resource, because the question of the day was, "How do you know God's will for [your] life?" There are several books out there [that teach you to] line up the pros and you line up the cons, and you weigh them and see what door is open or what door is closed. Go through the open doors.
But my father said none of those are actually biblical. The only biblical way to find God's ways and will is to seek Him, to spend time in prayer with Him, to focus on His word and let Him speak and lead you into where He's already at work. And so these principles made sense, and it was like a breath of fresh air. People had a way to come before God and let Him lead and guide them, maybe for the first time in a long time.
It was never really promoted. It was a grassroots activity [that] went around the world cross-denominationally. It was a shock to everyone on how well it's done. So, the documentary is going from story to story, from the beginning through a progression of different people's lives that were transformed by the book, and an interview with my father and mother in their home letting them speak about how God used the resources or how it came about.
I don't think the story is over. I think we're only in the middle of the story, because a next generation is coming to understand how powerful these principles are in people's lives. And the Experiencing God at Home materials are a set for a new generation. In fact, my nephews are co-authors on some of the books with me. My wife is a co-author on some of the books.
My father's generation taught the material. My generation is living it, and the next generation is learning it. And it's an exciting thing to see how God continues to use such simple principles.
The Legacy of Experiencing God
LifeWay.com: It seems that Experiencing God really has become a legacy of sorts of your family. So many people in your family are involved with its work and international ministries, and all of the different aspects of that. What has that experience been like for you personally?
Tom Blackaby: It's very humbling to see the impact of Experiencing God around the world. I've been in over 40 countries so far, and I could say almost every country I've been to people have come to me and told me about the impact of Experiencing God in their life. I jokingly say that Experiencing God has ruined a lot of lives.
But in actual fact God has used those materials to take people from being an engineer to being a missionary, from being a medical doctor to being a pastor. He's completely shifted and reoriented people's lives through the material. And it's not the book. It's not the material. It's an opportunity to encounter God, maybe for the first time, to see that God does have a plan, that God is at work around them, and our lives are to be placed in His hands and to join Him in His work.
That legacy is something that we, as a family, have had to live out and model in our own homes, as well. It's not just a book. In fact, many people have used Experiencing God ten times more than I have. I have people that say, "I've taught that course 12 times in my church." And I don't even think I've gone through it three times, four times myself. I teach the principles, I live the principles, and it's shaped who we are. But the truth is it's principles that work and that make sense and that keep us focused on God in the center of our life and in the center of our home.
So we're excited when other people get it, when they understand, and when it impacts their life. And they're so thrilled and excited. Many people have come to me, shake my hand, and say, "You're the closest I'll ever come to seeing Henry Blackaby. And I just want to tell you how his book has changed my life." And I know what they're saying, but it really is God who keeps changing their life. It's not a book.
My father, in Experiencing God, just put the truths into a resource that people could understand and apply to their life. And so he is as shocked as anyone else that it's gone so far around the world, in so many different languages. But in many ways, it's defined who the Blackabys are. And on the other hand, it's a Blackaby sharing with others how God has changed our family and our lives, and what can happen in their lives and homes as well.