By Jim Nieman
Greenwood (Ind.) Christian Church has been building up to Easter through a 21-day study of the book of John, including four sermons, daily Bible readings of one chapter of the Gospel each day with companion devotions—both written and video—shared via Facebook, and an emphasis on prayer.
GCC’s approach with “Pray 21” has been both simple and surprisingly comprehensive. It’s a series capable of being carried out by much smaller churches, says Matt Giebler, senior minister of Greenwood, which averages about 1,200 for worship each week.
“We’ve all been pleased with the overall level of engagement,” Giebler says.
As with all the Gospels, John traces Jesus’ life and culminates in his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. It’s been a good way to engage the most faithful in the church as well as securing at least a short-term commitment among those not in the habit of reading and studying Scripture and praying daily.
The idea for “Pray 21” was proposed at an annual brainstorming retreat last summer, says Giebler, who has served with Greenwood for 19 years.
In addition to Giebler, participating staff who developed the sermon series themes included student ministers Matt Bean and Coty Stiltner, worship minister Jason Wetherholt, and two ministers in residence from Johnson University: Mason Powell and Justin Sutherland.
“Pray 21” started on Sunday, March 24, with John 1 and the first weekly sermon. During the series, participants are encouraged to read a chapter from John each day plus an accompanying devotion that is available on Facebook and also via printed handout.
A specific prayer focus is suggested at the end of each devotion.
Additionally, there are daily video devotions available via Facebook. (These Facebook videos are still rather new for the church, Giebler says.)
Beyond that, the church has gathered for prayer in public places several times during the week.
For example, on March 25, when the focus was John 2, which details Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, church members gathered at a popular wedding site—a gazebo in a city park. Together, they prayed for people married in that gazebo, and for city officials and first responders who work at the city building and fire station located nearby.
Various ministers and staff members, elders, and others in the church have worked to prepare and present the devotions and participate in the prayer gatherings, Giebler says. Hundreds of others are participating at home.
It’s been great to involve and engage so many people and add to the number of “touches” GCC has with individuals daily and throughout the week, Giebler says, while also encouraging daily habits of Scripture reading, devotions, and prayer.
“It has been intentional to have people come into the service each Sunday already immersed in the Gospel, maybe more than they otherwise would have been,” Giebler says.
“Pray 21” ends on Sunday, April 14; the next Sunday will be Easter, when the theme switches to “This Changes Everything.”
Giebler has been happy with how “Pray 21” has centered hearts and minds on Jesus in the weeks before Easter this year. He says the church will consider focusing on another Gospel during this same season next year.
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.