New Course: Introduction to Revelation with Wayne Whitney

Wayne WhitneyWhat may be the most complex, confusing, and controversial book in the Bible may also have the simplest message. In this insightful overview of the Book of Revelation, Wayne Whitney tells us that it’s all about encouragement and standing firm in tough times – which is a message we need for today. Click here to learn more about, and register for this course.

Given its vibrant and imaginative imagery and constant reference to an age and time so far removed from our own, many people set aside the Book of Revelation as too complicated and confusing to read. And those who have read it seem to have wide and varied interpretations that can be dark, judgmental, and downright scary.

However, the Rev. Dr. Wayne Whitney believes Revelation held a simple and profound message to its earliest readers, and continues to do so today, for you and me.  In this class, Wayne tells us:

  • Who Wrote Revelation and Why
  • Themes in Revelation
  • Interpreting Revelation
  • Reading Revelation

This course is perfect for people who have never read Revelation and are curious about it, as well as those who are familiar with its main themes and are looking or a refresher.

The Rev. Dr. Wayne Whitney is an Episcopal priest who holds a Ph.D in New Testament Studies from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. You can follow his blog

New Course: Introducing the Baptist Tradition with Amy Butler

A ButlerPerhaps no other denomination has impacted the spirituality of the United States more than the Baptist tradition. From mega churches to tiny country congregations, the rich Baptist diversity is both simple and complex. In this course, pastor and speaker Amy Butler gives us a powerful lay of the land.

Born and raised in the United States, the Baptist tradition has shaped our culture more than any other religion.

In this course, Dr. Butler offers a compelling and humorous overview of the Baptist tradition. Topics she covers include:

  • Baptist Beginnings
  • Baptist Diversity
  • What Baptists Believe
  • Why I’m a Baptist

This course is a colorful and gracious introduction, suitable to the newcomer as well as the seasoned Baptist. Click here to find out more, or register for this class.


Encouraging Learning in Our Congregations

When my oldest child gets to first grade there are certain competencies he is expected to master. He will need to spell his name, color within the lines, and exhibit a modicum of good manners. When he gets to second grade the ante will go up, and so on, and so on.

And when he comes grows into an adult and comes to church he can forget about all that, because at church we only expect people to show up when they feel like it – once a month seems about right. And we thank them for doing so – which sometimes has followed a form of begging them to do so.

It is becoming clear that this is not a helpful strategy.

The Church possesses an educational heritage that has seen more rigorous times when it comes to the formation of its members. And it is high time we re-claim it.  In a day and age when people are no longer pressured to join a faith community like they once were – and many, if not most, are coming to church figure this ‘God thing’ out – we do well to  not only meet them with a well-reasoned understanding of what it means to be a Christian, but to offer them a logical and practical way to grow in their faith.

Let me be clear at the start that what I’m commending is not a rule-based, Class A Christian vs. Class B Christian – in fact I don’t even like this word ‘competency.’ What I’m suggesting is that this whole idea be framed in the notion of gracious invitation – that wherever someone is on their spiritual journey, their faith community is poised to aid in ways that go further than, ‘you figure it out on your own.’  Instead, what would it be like to have in place a framework, using mentors, small groups, and competencies and expectations set by the student – though the congregation would have some suggestions and, again, a gracious invitation to help them along?

The Anglican Communion is onto something with their establishment, and continued work on something called Ministry Grids. These are essentially recommended core competencies that meet people where they are in their journey with God and God’s Church – from baptism to maturity and renewal. As local church leaders we need to do some noodling around this document and look for ways we might encourage learning in our congregations.

In my parish, St. David’s Episcopal Church in Southfield, MI, we are thinking and praying about launching something like St. David’s 101, 201 and 301 in the fall of 2014. We are thinking about a blended learning model for the congregation – a combination of online courses from ChurchNext and small group discussions that come about as students self-identify areas of interest and pursuits that keep with their understanding of how the Spirit is leading them.  Should we ask learners to come up with their own curriculum (what do you want to learn?) or should we set the curriculum? We’ll probably do both.

What would it look like for the Church to get more involved in the spiritual development of each individual parishioner, and can you help us think along these lines with what you’re doing in your community?  Suggestions welcome!

Just Launched: Gift Certificates from ChurchNext

Gift Subscription

Gift Subscription 2

We’re really excited about this new offering – that allows people to give the gift of online Christian learning.

Once a gift-giver goes through the purchase process, a gift card is created and a certificate is generated, which includes redemption instructions. This can be printed up and hand delivered to the recipient, or it can be emailed.

Once a recipient receives the gift certificate, it’s easy to create an account and redeem the certificate. Redemption starts when the student signs in, not when the certificate is purchased.

New Course: Who is Jesus?

Jason FoutJesus wrote no books, built no empires, nor left us so much as an image of himself – yet his life has impacted the world more than any other.

Who is Jesus? Ask ten people and you may get 11 answers… In this thought-provoking course theologian and seminary instructor Jason Fout persuasively argues that the best way to begin is through the resurrection.

Who was this man and how can we best get to know him?

In this course author, priest, and teacher Jason Fout suggests four helpful lenses in which to view Christ:

  • Resurrection
  • Teaching
  • Atonement
  • Incarnation

This class is appropriate for people who are new to the Christian faith as well as seasoned believers who are looking for new insights into this engaging topic.

Find out more about this course, Who is Jesus.

How Online Learning Is Working in a Lutheran Congregation

Pastor Paul Walters, who shepherds the flock at Lutheran Church of the Master (ELCA) in Troy, MI says online learning has really invigorated Christian formation program.

“We started with just a few people, but over the months it’s really caught on.” Walters, who also teaches one of our courses, Introduction to Christian Marriage, says a few of his older parishioners had trouble figuring out the platform, but eventually worked it out. In this four-minute interview, Pr. Walters describes how his congregation has embraced online learning.

New Course: How to Deal with Difficult People with Peter Steinke

Peter SteinkeDealing well with difficult people is often an ability that comes with maturity – ours and others. In this course Peter Steinke, an expert in Family Systems Theory, goes over basic dynamics of healthy relationships at home and in church.

Dealing with difficult people, whether in at home or in a congregation, is something we all must do.Understanding the issues at play are integral to properly handling the difficulties that routinely crop up in our home and work lives. In this class Peter introduces us to Bowen Family Systems Theory and the ways it is used to help us better get along with people.

Click here to learn more about this class.

The Rev. Dr. Peter L. Steinke is an internationally respected congregational systems consultant who has also served as a parish pastor, an educator, and a therapist for clergy. He is the author of several best-selling books including How Your Church Family Works and Healthy Congregations and Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times.

Announcing The Big Class with Bishop Michael Curry

Contact: Jim Naughton
Open, online course, discussion, January 27-February 3 

DETROIT, December 5, 2013—Early next year, anyone with Internet access and a computer or tablet can get free instruction on how to become a crazy Christian.

From January 27 through February 3, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, will teach The Big Class, a program of ChurchNextThe course will expand on Crazy Christians:  A Call to Follow Jesus published by Church Publishing Inc. The book is based on  “We Need Some Crazy Christians,” a widely acclaimed sermon the bishop preached at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2012.

Bishop Curry will moderate the course and answer online questions during the week of The Big Class. Participants can take the course anytime during the week at No special software is required.

“We thought about putting a warning label on this course: Danger, Your Life Will Be Transformed,’” said the Rev. Chris Yaw, founder of ChurchNext, a producer of online Christian learning.  “In a world that constantly sanitizes Jesus’ radical message, Bishop Curry’s clarion call to deeper discipleship has changed lives. We pray all who take this course will experience God’s transforming power.”

The Big Class is a worldwide online course for all who want to go further in their walk with Christ, and is free to everyone, everywhere thanks to the support of Bexley SeaburyChurch Publishing Inc., the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina and Forward Movement.Special materials will be available for congregations and adult education classes who desire to take the class together as part of their Epiphany season study.

In his book, Bishop Curry writes, “We need some crazy Christians. Sane, sanitized Christianity is killing us.  That may have worked once upon a time, but it won’t carry the Gospel anymore. We need some crazy Christians like Mary Magdalene and Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Christians crazy enough to believe that God is real and that Jesus lives. Crazy enough to follow the radical way of the Gospel. Crazy enough to believe that the love of God is greater than all the powers of evil and death.”

“It’s exciting to see all the new ways technology is being leveraged to help folks go into a deeper awareness of and relationship with the living God,” said Bishop Curry. “Online education is an excellent example of it. It allows folks to learn, to interact, exchange ideas and, ultimately, to share what they learn with others. The process is exactly what we as Christians are called to do; an online classroom just gives us one more way to do it.”

Visit to learn more about The Big Class.

ChurchNext creates online Christian learning experiences to invigorate lives and congregations. Along with our partner, Forward Movement, we are devoted to helping people grow in their Christian faith, improve their lives, and better the world. Learn more at

Why Every Church Leader Must Be a Tech Visionary

“Digital learning is the most important innovation in education since the printing press.” – Rafael Rief, President, MIT

Educators everywhere know, or suspect, that a tsunami of change is underway in the ways teachers teach and students learn. This is something churches, which are historic bastions of learning, need to better understand and evaluate as we move further into our missions of shaping followers of Christ. This is not some new fad that we should file away and visit later. This is an important development that, when thoroughly evaluated and considered, should be having an affect on what we are doing right now to form disciples.

We are currently seeing two major shifts in this area, says Jose Ferria, CEO of Knewton, an internet education company. The first is the shift to digital materials for use in blended learning environments to augment or even replace written textbooks. Yes, textbooks may soon be obsolete. This school district in Raleigh, West Virginia, joined an increasing number of others and began phasing out all its textbooks. Instead, students use iPads. Within five years, there will be no textbooks in that district – at all – everything will be digital.

The second shift, is the move toward making a purely online experience a part of every student’s educational experience. There are an increasing number of for-credit courses available purely online. In September Chicago Theological Seminary (UCC) became the first progressive seminary in the U.S. to offer a Masters of Divinity degree totally online. Their slogan, ‘You don’t have to come here to go here.’ The incredible popularity (alongside its guarded effectiveness) of MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – attests to this, as does the growing number of free, archived courses at Kahn Academy and other places. The students, not just of tomorrow, but of today, are being formed in a radically new environment.

The reasons are simple, and include more than these four: access to talented instructors, convenience, affordability, and the conclusive research that has found people, in many replicable environments, actually learn more (and better) taking an online class than they do in a face to face environment.

If these developments have your mind spinning, you are not alone. Making sense of how our churches respond is making for a rather elastic environment, filled with innovation and fraught with the ensuing missteps. Not the least of which is what the Mayo Clinic says 60% of American adults suffer from: technophobia, especially older folk, who tend to make up most of our churches.  This isn’t a disease that requires medical attention, but it’s an attitude or reaction that produces symptoms of anxiety.  Most of us fear one or more of the following when it comes to adapting to new technologies: looking stupid, appearing inadequate, being monitored by Big Brother, losing control, being at the mercy of a machine, relying on something mechanical because it may fail, damaging the machine or the data and losing face-to-face contact.  Most of us bumble along using 10-25 percent of the capabilities of a software program, and  75% of us secretly wonder, ‘What is software, anyhow?’

So compounding the rapidly changing educational landscape is our own apprehension toward technology in the first place. Thankfully, there are a lot of people who are doing wonderful things to shed some light upon the path before us. I would commend the work of John Roberto and his enterprise. John’s not only a real pro, but he’s been tracking these trends for years – sign up for his regular email and discover how he is harnessing technology in practical ways to equip faith communities for the work of making disciples. Here are just of few of the growing list of other resources that are that are helpful in for this journey: Faith Formation 4.0 by Julie Lytle, The Social Media Gospel by Meredith Gould, Center for the Ministry of Teaching – Virginia Theological Seminary, Building Faith – Sharon Ely Pearson. The work of Elizabeth Drescher and regular visits to places like and are also helpful.  If you have a resource you find particularly helpful, please leave a comment below.

So what’s before us is a vast, new, evolving landscape of seemingly limitless possibility in online education that church leaders need to take seriously. I think it is an invitation and a challenge to dream and envision how this new reality can help us become and shape disciples. And it requires us to put our fears in check, be open to what the Spirit’s next ‘new thing’ might be, and engage in the ongoing conversation with new parters who are developing new ways to tell the old story.

Chris Yaw is the founder of ChurchNext and a lifelong learner.

Cyber Monday: Take 20% Off

ChurchNext-mini-color_172x70We’ve heard from many folk who say they’d like to take a ChurchNext course – but for some reason haven’t got round to it.

So we figured Cyber Monday was a good time to make it easier. Enter the coupon code cybermonday anytime in the next week, and take one or all of these courses for 20% off:
Introduction to Advent with Tim Schenck
Growing Old with Grace (Not Glamour) with Barbara Crafton
Grieving Well with Andrew Gerns
The Episcopal Tradition with Frank Wade
Click here to see the full selection of courses.

We’re doing this because we realize our courses are really good, however with new technology people often need an extra incentive to give it a try. When asked if our students will take another course, more than 90% say they are likely or somewhat likely to do so. We think you’ll like learning about faith this way and are willing to give you a little nudge in this direction to help you check us out.