Dave Ferguson founded Community Christian Church, Naperville, Illinois, with his brother, Jon, 25 years ago. Finding Your Way Back to God was released March 3, and we talked with them shortly before that about the purpose and their dreams for their new book. (The book is now available at Amazon.com.)
Why write Finding Your Way Back to God?
Jon: As many as 92 percent of people who live in the United States would say they believe in God, but research also tells us the majority of those people feel distant or disconnected from God. We sense a desperate need among many to know how to find their way back to God.
Dave: A generation ago, people had what we would call an inherited faith, something like your ethnicity. If you grew up Catholic, you were Catholic. If you grew up Presbyterian, you were a Presbyterian. But it’s far different today where almost everybody has what I would call an investigated faith. What we’ve tried to do here is provide a very helpful tool to help people find their way back to God.
This has been our mission at Community Christian Church for the last 25 years, to help people find their way back to God. So it’s very much the heartbeat of what our church is about and what Jon and I have been doing here all these years.
And the audience for your book isn’t just seekers, right? You feel that every Christian is on a journey that can be spoken to by this book. Am I reading that right?
Dave: You’re absolutely right. In many ways, I think this book is kind of paradigm breaking. We compare it to the Twelve Steps used in many recovery programs. They are the way you get sober and also the way you stay sober. This book describes Five Awakenings, and they are both how you find your way back to God for the first time and also how you find your way back every week and sometimes every day.
These Five Awakenings will help a person find God for the very first time and reconnect with him again and again.
Dave: The first is “Awakening to Longing,” the universal experience where people think, there has to be something more, the relentless pursuit of love, a search for purpose in life, and constantly looking at life and asking “Why?”
The question is, “What do we do with these longings?”
Jon: Some people blame themselves for having those longings, as if there’s something wrong with them. We’re saying, “No, God gave you those longings, and you must pay attention to them.” It’s what we do with those longings that often gets us in trouble. That’s what happened to the prodigal son. And so, this idea that there’s got to be something more, pay attention to that. We all feel that, and quite honestly, we should feel that way.
Dave: And that moves us to the second awakening, which is the “Awakening to Regret.” It’s kind of like the old country song lyric, “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.” We’re looking in all the wrong places, and we end up with regret. And this is where most of us get stuck for a majority of our life, in these first two awakenings. We believe “there’s got to be something more,” and then we try something and decide, “OK, that doesn’t satisfy.” And so we go on to the next person or the next thing, and each time we regret it again. We continually find ourselves thinking, I wish I could start over. So we try to start over, but we repeat the same cycle of longing leading to regret, again and again.
This leads us to the third awakening.
Jon: We call it the “Awakening to Help.” The prodigal son eventually came to his senses and recognized I can’t do this on my own. I need some help. It turns out that help has a name, and that name is Jesus.
We think there are a lot of parallels with the Twelve Steps. Until we admit we are powerless on our own to find fulfillment in this life, we will never truly find our way back to God.
Dave: And this leads us to the fourth awakening, which is “Awakening to Love.”
Jon: At this step we realize, Wow! God loves me deeply after all! And it’s irresistible! When we finally return to our Father and experience the forgiveness and grace he offers every single one of us—it’s something we just can’t find anywhere else. And it’s that beautiful picture of the Father waiting for the son to return, and then, when he sees him in the distance, running in an all-out sprint to welcome him home. It’s the shocking, overwhelming, amazing grace of God we all long for and experience in this awakening.
Dave: That Awakening to Love then leads to the last of the five awakenings, “Awakening to Life.” The son gets invited to the party, and so do we. And then we realize, I do belong. This is my identity. I am a child of God. I am unconditionally loved. And when that thoroughly penetrates your head, your heart, and your soul, then you awaken to, as Jesus described it, the “abundant life,” which is where he means for all of us to live.
I’m particularly taken by the challenge you put forth in your book, encouraging readers to pray this prayer: “God, if you’re real, make yourself real to me.” You assert that anybody who will pray that prayer for a month will see a specific answer to it. How have you seen this happen in the lives of people you’ve worked with?
Dave: It’s really like betting on God. The fundamental premise is, as badly as we want to find God, we know God wants it even more. That’s what Jesus is all about. That’s why we challenge people, “Yeah, just go ahead and step into this even though you don’t believe it yet. Step into it. Pretend it’s true for a while and in so doing, call out to God and see if he doesn’t respond.”
And based on our experience, we’re very excited about getting this into print. I would love to see many, many people take that relational risk with God.
One of the compelling things about the book is the journal at the back and your suggestions about how to use it. Tell us what this journal is all about.
Jon: The journal causes you actually to reflect on Scripture and your experience. Since we have given this challenge to pray, “God, if you’re real, make yourself real to me,” we wanted to give a practical tool that helps people keep this prayer in front of themselves daily. It’s almost like a God hunt. They will begin to see, Wow, I think God’s showing up here, God’s showing up there in different places. And by actually writing it down, it makes it more real and they’ll hang on to it and come back to it.
Dave: The guide in the back of the book actually takes you through the Five Awakenings with questions and Scriptures to reflect on. It also suggests the prayer for each awakening. Readers will spend six days on each one of the awakenings to complete a 30-day journey.
How will you use this book at Community Christian?
Dave: In March we planned a five-part series based on the book. We thought we would go ahead and do it first and then make all the tools available to any church that wants to do it. Between July 1 and December 31, any church deciding to do this series can get all our resources for free.
Jon: There’ll be videos, bumpers, message manuscripts, and discussion guides. All of these resources will be available for free for that window of time for churches that would like to actually implement the Finding Your Way Back to God series in their church.
Dave: Go to bigidearesources.com or yourwayback.com. And Jon and I both have websites so you can go to daveferguson.org or jonferguson.org and they will also get you there. And our publisher, Multnomah, is sponsoring a buy one, give one free campaign for the book.
Great! We’re certainly going to pray that God uses this new book in a mighty way in the hearts of tens of thousands of people who are going to join with you now in finding their way back to God.
Mark A. Taylor is publisher and editor of CHRISTIAN STANDARD.
In Their Own Words
Listen to the complete 30-minute interview by Mark Taylor with Dave and Jon Ferguson. Go to this link: www.blogtalkradio.com/standardpublishing.