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Inside Group: A Powerful God Experience

Thom and Joani Schultz

It's amazing to watch: adults and young people captivated by an experience none of them really expected -- The Prayer Path. Those who enter this multisensory, multimedia experience of the heart, mind, and body encounter God in a fresh way.

They experience walking through a labyrinth that looks jagged and mazelike, but really has a purpose and clear-cut way to the center, which represents God as the center of our world and our hearts. The Prayer Path journey isn't at all unlike real life, taking us on twists and turns that later reveal God's power and plan all along!

BACK TO OUR ROOTS

At Group Publishing (the organization that creates this magazine and many other church resources), we value learning by doing. The Prayer Path, a new multimedia kit for churches, uses the power of experiential learning. It taps into what churches are rediscovering: the power of experience and God's Word. The early Christians knew all about that. They saw Jesus baptized in everyday river water. They "remembered" Jesus' death and resurrection every time they ate bread and drank wine. Experiences like washing, eating, and drinking were central to connecting with the God of the universe.

Since then, have we lost the thrill of seeing God work through common experiences? In recent decades it seems churches have become quite spectator-oriented. That's not been all bad. We've seen Christ creatively and powerfully proclaimed through new uses of upfront tools such as drama, music, and big screens. But churches may have played it safe when it comes to helping people actually experience God. We've allowed people to become comfortable, passive, safe-at-a-distance audiences. Perhaps it's time to remember our experiential roots.

Experiential ministry takes its cue from the master leader, Jesus himself. Through adventurous experiences (think of the storm on the lake, the feeding of the 5,000, healing the blind and lame), people didn't know what to expect!

Jesus didn't go for leaving people unchallenged on the sidelines. Consider him washing the disciples' feet. Even when his own disciples weren't keen on participating, Jesus lovingly stretched their comfort zones.

WALKING while PRAYING

Back to The Prayer Path. Here's an out-of-the-box approach that gives young people and adults an unforgettable God experience.

At our church we set up The Prayer Path in the fellowship hall. Our middle school kids laid out the maze diagram on the floor with black tape. Congregation members now venture in to see what God's doing.

Participants begin with a small booklet and a portable CD player. Through their headphones they hear a voice beckon them to meditate on God's Word and his presence. As worshipful music lilts, the narrator guides them along the path marked on the floor. At one of the first stops, video images help the walkers separate from the noisy distractions in their lives.

Soon The Prayer Path leads the pilgrims to a water-filled bucket. The narrator urges them to let go of their concerns and worries. Some choose to pick up small stones and drop them into the water as a symbol of allowing God to take away their burdens.

In the center of the labyrinth is a "holy space," where people relax, sit on comfy pillows, and pray. A candle with three wicks burns in the middle, representing the Trinity. Bread and wine or grape juice are available. Some people quietly linger here for 30 minutes or more.

Then the walkers take their renewed strength and move through several other stations along The Prayer Path. At one stop they pray for another person, lighting a small candle as a reminder of Christ's light. As the narrator leads them closer to the world outside, they step into a box of sand, leaving their footprints as visual reminders of their impressions on the world.

Many are touched deeply by this close encounter with God. Some lose track of time as they enter into concentrated prayer. Many return for repeat journeys through The Prayer Path. Some invite their friends to experience it. There's something about The Prayer Path that makes it inviting and nonthreatening for curious seekers.

The Prayer Path isn't a show. It's not a spectator event. It's a fully enveloping Christ-centered experience that's different for each individual.

We pray you and your church might find it just the thing to reach and refresh your people in search of God-experiences.

If you'd like to know more about The PrayerPath, check out our Web site at www.grouppublishing.com /prayerpath. The kit includes a director's guide, six CDs, 10 devotional guides, and two videos. Or see The Prayer Path kit at a Christian bookstore, or call 800-447-1070.

Thom Schultz is founder and president of Group Publishing, Inc. Joani Schultz is chief creative officer.

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