By Carl Stagner
Old history textbooks are full of two letters that appear together with every recorded date since Jesus walked the earth. A.D., which stands for the Latin term anno Domini, translates as the year of our Lord. While the Church of God seeks to advance the message that Jesus is the subject, Pastor Steve Chiles of Shartel Church of God in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, got to thinking about what might happen if his congregation truly made 2015 the year of Jesus. Three months into Anno Domini 2015 at Shartel, transformation of hearts is already taking place.
“We’re in the third month of the Anno Domini challenge, and it is awesome,” one Shartel congregant named Betty, explains. “I have learned so much so far, and it is changing my life. I have gained a peace and understanding that I have not known before…He is in my thoughts day and night—even when I am asleep…You know what? When this year is up, I’m not going to quit spending my time with him. I want to do all I can to be like him, and do the things he has planned for me.”
Anno Domini 2015 isn’t just another preaching series. For Shartel Church of God, the theme permeates every area of their ministry. But it’s also not just another passing theme. Not only has Steve Chiles ensured that practical resources are plentiful and accessible, he has also issued seven unique challenges to the congregation. Of these seven challenges, individuals have been instructed to select at least three to complete for the year. These commitments shouldn’t be taken lightly, but neither should the cross that Jesus endured for our salvation. Shartel’s taking this seriously.
Individuals of Shartel Church of God can choose to
• complete The Essential Jesus (one hundred Scripture readings about Jesus; published by Scripture Union),
• read through the four gospels (Bibles are available to those who need them),
• read (or listen to) one book per month about Jesus (a library of resources is available),
• watch one movie per month about Jesus (a video library is available),
• attend at least two of five classes Shartel is offering on the subject of Jesus,
• memorize one scripture per week about Jesus (Shartel provides the scripture that corresponds with the message each week), and/or
• complete two forty-day devotionals—one leading up to Easter, and one leading up to Christmas.
“Knowing that people need to know how as much as they need to know what, I tried to come up with several different ways that people could spend the year focusing on Jesus,” Pastor Steve explains. “I considered various learning styles, while keeping in mind the varied level of time commitment people would be able to make. I ended up with these seven different challenges, and decided that people needed to commit to at least three to make it meaningful for them—though they could do more if so inclined.”
The commitment component of Anno Domini 2015 is necessary to bring about spiritual growth across the board. Steve Chiles knows the power of accountability to accomplish spiritual goals. “The opportunity to discover Jesus more intimately is there for all of us every day,” he explains. “But most of us don’t really seize it. People often need commitment, accountability, resourcing, and encouragement to excel.”
Steve Chiles is greatly encouraged by the Church of God emphasis, “Jesus is the Subject.” He not only wants to see his local congregation, but also the entire Church of God movement, rally around Jesus Christ. “I love the new Church of God emphasis. It addresses the question—which I’m trying to address with our people on a personal and church-wide level—on a movement-wide level. What’s on Jesus’ heart? What would he be about if he were leading our church or our movement? How would my life be different if I really did get up every day and ask, ‘What would Jesus do?’ and ‘How would Jesus do it?’ There’s a lot of conversation right now about how the world hates the church, but loves Jesus. Maybe if we all leaned into Jesus a lot harder, we could change that view a bit. And maybe we could become the kind of church that Jesus had in mind all along.”
Learn more, about how the Church of God is making Jesus the subject, at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.