Inside Group: A Powerful God Experience

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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.

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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.

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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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