Ep012 Interview with Christianity Explored’s Alan Avera

Thy Kingdom Comma is delighted to have an opportunity to sit down with Alan Avera of Christianity Explored to talk about CE’s mission, method, beginnings, and stories of lives changed through the gospel.

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Anthony Russo
Joining me today on Thy Kingdom Comma I have a very special guest. This is my first Thy Kingdom Comma interviewee. This episode I’m sitting with Mr. Alan Avera.

Anthony Russo
Avera. Okay. All right. Alan is the Executive Director with Christianity Explored US. He and I live here in the Greenville area, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to get together as I’m learning more about Christianity Explored, my church’s looking forward to doing the program, I thought we’d meet and find out more about both the program and also Alan. So Alan, thanks for being with me today. I appreciate it.

Alan Avera
Okay, thank you.

Anthony Russo
So first of all, tell me, what is Christianity explored.

Alan Avera
Christianity Explored is a church equipping ministry in the area of evangelism and discipleship. And we are trying to help local churches be able to equip everyday Christians, that is those that wouldn’t say, “Hey, I’ve got the gift of evangelism, or I’m a church elder, or, or minister or pastor…” but the people who are the everyday Christians, we want to help the church equip those people to be able to love, live, and then tell the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Anthony Russo
Excellent. So kind of partnering along with the pastors in “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.”

Alan Avera
That’s correct.

Anthony Russo
Excellent. Wow. So now, and that’s done through small groups through the Gospel of Mark, correct?

Alan Avera
Yeah, that’s correct. The the namesake resource that Christianity explored has is the Christianity ExploreD course, which is now in its third edition. And it’s a seven week study through the Gospel according to Mark, that helps people discover the answers to three big questions: Who is Jesus? Why did he come? And what does it mean to follow him? Or what does that mean to me? What does he want me to do in response?

Anthony Russo
And those are really three huge questions that our culture, if they’re not asking, they need to be asking, and those who are asking or are looking for answers.

Alan Avera
Yeah, that’s correct. We have an interview with three pastors at a church out in the Denver area. And one of the guys says, you know, those three questions Questions rarely upon them hang most of the questions that the unbelieving world ask. Who is Jesus? Why did he come? And what’s it mean to follow him? Almost everybody’s questions fall under one of those three big headings.

Anthony Russo
That’s fantastic. And now you said that the material’s in its third edition. How long is Christianity Explored been around?

Alan Avera
Christianity Explored was developed in the late 1990s. And then I guess it currently is launched somewhere in the early 2000s. It comes out of All Souls Church Langham Place in central London, in England, and probably a name that people would be familiar from that church is the late Dr. John Stott. So developed under the tutelage of the late Dr. John Stott. And one of the primary developers was Rico Tice, who has been the Minister of Evangelism at that church since 1994.

Anthony Russo
Wow, I didn’t realize it was that long. That’s neat. And it’s in over what? 150 countries now… it’s not just the US and the UK.

Alan Avera
That’s correct. I’m not sure… somewhere between 125-150 countries. It’s been translated into 60 languages. It is being used all over the world. Just recently, there have been trips to the Far East that the team in London is made to equip people there. It’s been in Africa, you know, from the United States we help do training in, in South America. You know, most of the languages in the 10-40 window, has Christianity Explored translated into their languages.

Anthony Russo
Excellent. What’s some of the feedback you’ve gotten from from those who have gone through the program?

Alan Avera
Well, one thing to understand is, since we use one of the four gospels, the Gospel according to Mark, we’re really getting people into the Word and helping them meet Jesus there. But as we do that three things are happening simultaneously. When somebody when a church is using Christianity Explored, two of the things are happening among the Christians that are helping lead it.

Alan Avera
One is each time they go through it, they’re reviewing the gospel, and falling more deeply in love with Jesus in the Gospel as they go through Mark yet again. Another thing is helping them know how to use the word of God itself as the primary evangelistic tool. And then for unbelievers, they’re hearing a clear presentation of the gospel, but in a dialogical way, in a way where they can ask their questions, and where we can take the time to really help people in the places where they’re struggling.

Alan Avera
I think a lot of times we think of evangelism more As a one way communication, we’ve got something that we want to communicate to the unbelievers. But we might be totally missing what their real hang up is. But [in] Christianity Explored, in the format of a small group discussion where we’re looking at the Word of God together, and people are having a chance to ask their questions, then we can really help diagnose where people are in terms of their journey with those three questions. Who is Jesus? Why did he come and what’s it mean to follow him?

Anthony Russo
Excellent. And then of course, those people who who don’t know the Lord, who aren’t Christians, they have an opportunity to see really from right there from the source material this this Man was more than a “man.”

Alan Avera
Yeah, as Rick Tice says, our goal is really for Jesus to “walk off the page of the Gospel of Mark and into people’s hearts.”

Anthony Russo
I love that. I love that “walk off the page..” Now, how long have you been associated with Christianity explored?

Alan Avera
Well, in terms of actually working for the ministry, that’s since 2013. But I’ve known about Christianity Explored from before it was Christianity Explored. Because prior to this, I was a pastor in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. And I had a couple in my church. The husband had a three year job assignment at the American Embassy in London. And before he went, the only church that he knew of in London was All Souls through the writings of John Stott. So he decided before he ever left home that he was going to go to All Souls. He came to All Souls in 1995. Rico had come to be Minister of Evangelism in 1994 and was already developing what was going to become Christianity Explored. So this couple of My Church was in London from around 1995 to 1998. They came home and the husband, Chuck, said, “Alan, you have got to find out what they’re doing in London!”

Anthony Russo
That’s great.

Alan Avera
And actually, in the early days of Christianity Explored, that’s the way that it spread. It spread by word of mouth. People that had come across it in London through visiting All Souls came back and reported it exactly the way Chuck reported it to me saying, “Pastor, you got to find out but they’re doing in London!”

Anthony Russo
Wow. So the gospel that spread word of mouth, and now the gospel program for evangelism got spread word of mouth!

Alan Avera
Yes.

Anthony Russo
That’s funny.

Alan Avera
Yes. So that’s the way I heard about it. I heard about it through word of mouth personal recommendation. So the first time I actually ran a Christianity Explored course or at that time was a pre Christianity Explored course. It was before any of the material had actually been published. So Chuck brought home an old cassette tape of Rico leading the sessions. So I just listened to those over and over again. So I had the gist of it so that I could run a group myself.

Anthony Russo
Right, right. That’s great. Now, you had mentioned too, that you were a pastor of a Presbyterian church, but Christianity Explored is not denominational. Am I correct?

Alan Avera
Yeah, that’s correct. It comes out of an Anglican church in central London. But here in the US, the biggest group of users are Baptist churches of various kinds. The second biggest user in the United States are Presbyterian churches of different kinds. The third biggest, larger are the independent, the Bible churches, the non denominational churches, the fourth largest group is Anglican. And then there’s a good mixture of Evangelical Free and various other kinds of churches.

Anthony Russo
I love hearing Christians and churches working together for the gospel, crossing those denominational lines and resources that are available to the whole body of Christ. That’s great. Tell me a story about someone who’s life has been changed by Christianity Explored.

Alan Avera
I can tell you three stories. One, I can’t use the name and you can tell why. But there was a young lady who was going to college here in the US but come from a Muslim background. And while she was studying at college, she was invited to a Christianity Explored course, that a local church near that college was running and had her life totally transformed by the gospel, you know, made a profession of faith. But because of the background she’s from, I mean, she really doesn’t want her name used in the stories, but that’s the case of a student who came here to study and somebody invited her to a Christianity Explored course.

Alan Avera
Another one is a guy named Will who was a executive in the healthcare industry. And his boss is actually one of the people who came across Christianity explored from a job assignment in London. So Billy went to London thinking that it was going to be the best job he ever had and the spiritually driest experience he ever had. He said, “You know, it’s actually the opposite. It was the worst job I’ve ever had. But through coming across Christianity Explored, you know, it was absolutely amazing for me.”

Alan Avera
So then, Billy’s now on our board, but he’s always sharing the gospel with people using Christianity Explored. So he was inviting this guy who worked with him, Will, to go through Christianity Explored with him. Will resisted that invitation for five years. But finally after five years with Billy continually inviting him and praying that the Lord would provide opportunity, then the Lord had Will in such a case that he said “Yes, yes, I’ll do the Christianity Explored course with you.” And then he had his his life changed. As a result of the Gospels, he committed his life to Jesus Christ.

Alan Avera
And then there’s another one in Colorado, named Chelsa. And she was at a church that runs Christianity Explored twice a year, and people kept inviting her to come, she kept coming. It took her going through the course seven times before she finally got it, and, you know, accepted salvation through Jesus Christ. She said, “I’d gone through it so much, and I understood Mark so well, I could probably taught the course before I actually made the profession of faith!” But now if you She is so excited about it that she and her husband just gave a gift to help us fund more stories like her’s, people coming to Christ through Christianity Explored.

Anthony Russo
Those are those are really cool stories. It sounds to me like at the end of the harvest, when all is said and done, we’re all in heaven, it sounds like there’s gonna be a lot more stories like that because of what Christianity Explored is done.

Alan Avera
Hopefully there’ll be stories for all kinds of resources, not just Christianity Explored! But I pray that Christianity Explored will hear lots of stories.

Anthony Russo
Yes, it sounds like you will. In fact, I was talking to someone before the interview and he said, Oh, well let them know that you know, we just finished doing that with with I think was with it with their kids, kids or small group or whatever it was, and they said that, you know, they loved it. So that was another example of how, how “user-friendly,” I guess you could say, this course is as well.

Alan Avera
Yeah, Christianity Explroed is very flexible, Anthony. Churches use it in large groups as long as you break the large group up into small discussion groups because this is designed to be a discussion-oriented exploration together of the Gospel of Mark, but it also can be done one on one. This guy Billy I was talking about who shared will he often does it online, he’ll do a Skype or something like that, and they’ll go over it with people in various geographies… It can be done in various locations. It’s done in churches and homes, in public places like YMCA and business offices. I even know one that was done in a retail store, so, you know, it’s flexible, it can be used in a lot of different places

Anthony Russo
Well, that sounds fantastic. What a great flexible resource to meet people where they are, just like Jesus did, to bring them to him. Now, for those who are listening, if they wanted to know more about Christianity Explored, what’s the website? Where would they go?

Alan Avera
Okay, I’m going to give you two websites. One is the ministry website, and the other is the guest website. So the ministry website is christianityexplored.us.

Then we also have a guest website, that if you’ve got somebody that you’ve been talking to who is not yet a Christian, and you want to point them to a good website, that’s going to have answers to tough questions, it’s going to have testimonies and also an introduction to Christianity Explored. That website is christianityexplored.org.

And then there is a ministry that uses our course online, that if you know somebody who’s struggling to understand Christianity, but it’s not in a place that they’re able to come to an actual group, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has a website called searchforjesus.net. And [there] you can go to a tab that says “Courses” and there’s three follow up courses. One of those three is Christianity Explored as a mentor online evangelism course.

Anthony Russo
Wonderful, and I will definitely include those in the show notes. Alan, thank you so much. This was fascinating. I’m so glad to hear that the Lord is using Christianity Explored and that everything is going so well for the ministry as well. That’s fantastic.

Alan Avera
Okay, now I’m gonna throw the ball back at you kind of unexpectedly. I know that you go to a church that’s used Christianity Explored. So have you heard any good feedback from the church?

Anthony Russo
I have actually! The fellow I mentioned earlier, he goes to goes to my church. Okay, so that would be one example. I don’t know if I can ask you three examples, But I’ll try! Actually, I think I can! I did have a couple other people come up to me, as as we were talking about Christianity explored in the last few weeks at church, as I’m actually heading up bringing Christianity Explored to our church again, and looking into small groups, I’ve had a couple people come to me say, “You know,” (before I was at the church) they said, “You know, we did Christianity Explored here and it was great!” So the feedback is, it was really positive, and they were very encouraged to hear that our church was bringing it back in.

Anthony Russo
Alan, again, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Alan Avera
Well, thank you, Anthony.

Anthony Russo
All right. God bless you. Thank you.

Anthony Russo
Well, that wraps up our show for today. Be sure to join us next time as we dig deeper into God’s word. Apply it to our lives. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, please tell others and you can visit our Facebook page at Facebook.com/ThyKingdomComma, or you can visit us on the web at ThyKingdomComma.com. Until next time, I’m your host, Anthony Russo, and Jesus changed my life.

For more information about Christianity Explored visit https://tellingthegospel.com/2020/03/23/sharing-the-gospel-in-a-time-of-social-distancing/

https://www.christianityexplored.us

https://www.christianityexplored.org

https://searchforjesus.net

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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