Last fall, Chrissie Kaufmann’s friend presented her with a challenge: read the book of John in the weeks before Advent. In order to make sure those interested went through with it, the friend posted a chapter each day in a Facebook group with all those who had pledged to read the gospel.
As they neared the beginning of Advent, Kaufmann had little interest in losing any of the momentum to read Scripture. She told her community she would be starting a Facebook group for those interested in observing the season together.
“During a pandemic, a lot of us couldn’t get together and couldn’t go to church. What was going to be something we could all access and that people would trust?” said Kaufmann. “I was looking for something interdenominational so that many of my friends would feel comfortable participating. I was also looking for quality: for a study that would be worth our time, that would dig into the Bible, and that would challenge us to think more, pray more, and read more of God’s word. As soon as I saw the CT study, I was excited.”
That each day of the devotional was focused on a particular passage of scripture and was written by pastors and church leaders from a variety of denominations, communities, and traditions gave her a lot of confidence that it would minister to believers from diverse backgrounds.
After about a week, a total of 40 people had signed on to work through the material together.
“I was delighted by how many of my Facebook friends joined the group; I think that is because of CT’s credibility,” she said. “I enjoyed reading perspectives from authors from different backgrounds than my own, and I think a study like this helps us hear voices in the church that we would not otherwise hear. It helps us become one body in Christ more fully. It also introduces us to new authors whose books we can use to minister in our local churches.”
For the next 25 days, she posted in the group twice a day. One post gave the title of the devotional and listed out the Bible verses that it would focus on. Another post contained a link to the actual devotional. Underneath, group members often shared quotes from the readings and their reactions from it had touched them. Below are some of their responses:
Devotional: “A More Important Question”
“We see these themes emphasized in Peter’s first epistle, as he urges believers to live with a joyful confidence and alert, hopeful focus on Christ’s coming (1 Pet. 1:3–5, 13).”
Kaufmann’s perspective: People liked “joyful confidence… alert, hopeful focus”. This was in answer to the question, “What kind of people ought you to be?” During a dark time in the pandemic, it helped many of us to be reminded how we should live.
Devotional: “What God Sees”
Key Line: “The exodus story invites us to participate in God’s audacious work of redemption“
Kaufmann’s perspective: We were reminded that God sees the “nobodies”, that God sees US, that we can be faithful to do the right thing and not give up.
Devotional: “Part of the Story”
Key line: “May God’s life be birthed in us."
Kaufmann’s perspective: We were really struck by what it means to have a Savior come and what it means to have God in you. Not only did Mary have to say yes Gabriel to Jesus coming inside her womb, we also have that choice to tell Jesus he can come inside us and live inside us. It just struck us differently because of this devotional.
Devotional: “Hope When the Future Crumbles”
Kaufmann’s perspective: We didn’t pull a quote, but this one resonated with several of us. I commented that day, “A few times in my life so far, the future crumbled. Sometimes life has pain and suffering that we can't make sense of. God helped me walk through them to a different future. He is faithful, my friends. He redeems and heals. Hold on.”
Kaufmann’s group left her deeply encouraged. Several weeks ago, she received a Christmas card from a mother of four children who hadn’t been visibly participating in the group.
“She wrote, ‘I’ve really enjoyed reading and following along and I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been there, even if I haven’t been posting regularly,’” she said.
Kaufmann started another Facebook group for those interested in reading the gospels together. These communities have been routine bright spots for her during a hard year. Many of the group members were isolated from close friends and family during the holidays.
“Reading this devotional filled a little of that void of I can’t go to the office party,I can’t go to my church’s Christmas cantata, we’re not singing in church together right now, so what can I do? I can read this everyday instead of getting as depressed. I look to Jesus to encourage me,” Kaufmann said. “This study gave us a way to journey together with others in search of connection and hope, to help us keep our focus on Christ. I think that CT has a unique opportunity to connect Christians across denominations virtually because of its reputation for quality, unity, and commitment to the gospel.”
Morgan Lee is global media manager at CT.