ATLANTA — “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God” has a simple – but challenging – message: Find out where God is at work and join Him there.
Fifteen years after its release, the workbook by Henry Blackaby and Claude King continues to change lives. Published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, it has sold more than 4 million copies and has been licensed in 62 languages, from Chinese and Mongolian to Hebrew and Arabic.
A Canadian, Blackaby was pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, for 12 years and then served as director of missions in Vancouver for two years before moving to the United States to become director of prayer and spiritual awakening at the North American Mission Board. He later served as special assistant to the presidents of NAMB, the International Mission Board and LifeWay. Since his retirement, he has devoted his time to Blackaby Ministries International, based in suburban Atlanta.
“Experiencing God is my life’s message,” Blackaby said. “It’s how I had always understood and walked with God. This is how I pastored and led God’s people.”
The message of Experiencing God is built upon what Blackaby calls the “Seven Realities”:
1. God is always at work around you.
2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways.
5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.
King, who at that time was an editor at LifeWay, constructed the workbook and authored its learning activities, based on Blackaby’s conference presentations. King currently an editor in chief in the leadership and adult publishing area.
“'Experiencing God' set a new model for workbooks,” King said. “We videotaped Henry as he spoke to groups at Glorieta, then transcribed the tapes and compiled it all as a first-person narrative and added the learning activities.”
King said Experiencing God was different from what Southern Baptists were accustomed to studying. It was not a program, but an experience. “As people began responding to the message in the workbook, we saw lives changed,” he said.
Blackaby’s life has changed considerably since the workbook’s release. “One of the best parts is now, everywhere we go, Marilynn [his wife] and I hear the most wonderful stories from people,” he said. “We hear how their lives have been changed.”
Blackaby gets more than 2,000 invitations a year to speak and lead conferences around the world based on the "Experiencing God" message. Accepting all those is humanly impossible, so how does he choose?
“I have to make certain I have a discerning spirit,” he said. “The size or location of an event is not important. I look and determine if God is already at work. And I won’t do an event if I feel like I have been invited just because my presence will draw a crowd.”
"Experiencing God" has proved to be an important LifeWay resource for reaching into other cultures.
“'Experiencing God' is one of those resources that has translated well to the needs of our overseas churches,” said Luis Lopez of LifeWay’s international department. “It’s been on the market for 15 years and people have become very familiar with it.
“In South Africa, for example, we have done weekend studies similar to the 'Experiencing God' weekends that we do here, and churches have had tremendous results from those,” Lopez said.
Through a partnership with LifeWay Brazil, more than 80,000 copies of "Experiencing God" in Portuguese have been sold. “In Latin American churches, discipleship is a major concern and Experiencing God has been a wonderful blessing,” Lopez said. “The seven realities speak cross-culturally.”
In addition to Spanish and French, the 62 languages into which "Experiencing God" has been translated include Burmese, Thai, Maasai, Turkish, Greek, Kurdish and Polish.
In January LifeWay released “A 40-Day Experience: Reality, 7 Truths from Experiencing God” by Henry and Richard Blackaby. It uses the popular 40-day format to capture the impact of an "Experiencing God" weekend overview. The workbook, leader kit and DVD draw from “The 7 Realities of Experiencing God Video Series” and the “Experiencing God Day by Day Devotional.”
"Experiencing God" also is available as an online study at LifeWay.com, joining two Beth Moore studies, “Believing God” and “Living Beyond Yourself.”
Sal Sberna, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston, hosts the online study. “I’ve led several groups through this study and each time that I have, I’ve discovered some significant and fresh insights, not only into who God is, but what that means in my own personal life,” Sberna said. “I have found from my own personal experience that the more intimately that I know God and His ways, the more significant I feel in my everyday life being able to participate with Him.”
Even though he has influenced countless people through his Bible studies, devotionals, books and conferences, Blackaby still makes it a priority to keep his own daily appointment with God. He spends between four and five hours a day in study and prayer. “I find that I am sleeping less than I used to,” he said.
Blackaby is proud that all five of his children and their spouses are involved in ministry and missions. Richard is president of the Canadian Baptist Theological Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta; Mel is pastor of Bow Valley Baptist Church in Cochrane; and Norm, who also lives in Cochrane, is vice president of Blackaby Ministries International. Tom is pastor of North Sea Baptist Church in Stavanger, Norway, and Carrie is a career missionary with the International Mission Board in Germany.
© 2005 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.