By Brilynn Janckila
HOWARD LAKE, MN If you have a New Year’s resolution of understanding the Bible in a deeper way, a three-year study at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Howard Lake might be just what you’re looking for.
“I think people who take this course, and those who take the classes for all three years, will walk away saying ‘Wow, I can’t imagine not having this in my life,’” said Paul Koch, the current pastor at St. John’s.
Classes start in 2017, and the deadline to register is Sunday, Jan. 8.
Led by Pastor John Hopper, the study is a comprehensive, chronological Bible study program called Crossways International.
Koch said his congregation has shown great appreciation for Bible studies Hopper has taught previously.
Hopper graduated from Luther College in 1978. From there, he spent 43 years serving the church as a pastor in places like Westbrook and Sacred Heart, before retiring in Delano.
Hopper and his wife, Sally, are now members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Howard Lake.
500 years after the Reformation
Koch and Hopper decided to begin Crossways in 2017, as a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation the European movement led by Martin Luther that aimed to reform the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.
Hopper and Koch chose Crossways because it’s the most comprehensive study of the books of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
Hopper has been teaching Crossways for more than 30 years.
Hopper said, “When I was trained to teach Crossways, it was really the first time the whole Scripture fit together for me, because of the way the course is designed. I was immersed in the books during my courses at Luther, but Crossways helped fit everything together. It’s deeply affected who I am in my faith life, how faith has been shaped and moved forward in my life, and is the background of much of the teaching I have done.”
According to Crossways, the methodology is based on “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I will remember. Involve me, and I will understand. Introduce me to the Real Jesus, and I will be transformed.”
In order to reinforce this, Crossways uses teaching graphics to help students fully grasp concepts. Bible study members receive study materials including a study book and a manual. This allows for people to see, hear and read about a concept before the next lesson.
The goal of Crossways is not only for people to understand the Scriptures and passages, but for them to gain a fuller understanding of the Bible.
According to Hopper, he’s seen people struggle with the Scriptures because they think it’s so complex, when it actually has one basic message from beginning to end, which is the promise and grace of God.
“Part of what will happen is that people will learn how to sit down and read the Scriptures,” said Hopper. “They won’t be, in a sense, afraid to do it, because they’ll have some sort of context to do it in.”
Koch believes that everyone can take something away from Crossways, no matter what their previous experience with the Scriptures is.
He said, “People talk about how you lose the forest through the trees and this Bible study will give people both the forest and the trees. You could study a particular tree and know everything about it, but have no idea how to walk through a forest. That’s the issue. We want you to know the trees know the passages, spend time with them and study them but we also want you to know the forest so you can walk through and not get lost.”
Hopper believes God’s Word will do the work and that when someone is exposed to God’s Word in a faithful way, the Word will touch people’s lives and give them hope.
Hopper said, “It’s not about me as teacher, it’s not about anything else. It’s about God’s Word, and I want you to hear it and be changed by it.”
Sign up by Jan. 8
What: A three-year comprehensive study of the Bible (20 sessions per year).
Where: St. John’s Lutheran Church in Howard Lake.
When: Classes are once per week. Attendees can choose to go Sundays at 3 p.m., Wednesdays at 9 a.m., Mondays at 7 p.m., or Thursdays at 7 p.m. The sessions will run 10 weeks at a time, from January to March, and September to November. There are 40 lessons on the Old Testament, and 20 on the New Testament.
Cost: $75 per person, or $95 per couple. This cost covers class materials for all 60 classes.
Who: The class is open to anyone in the community, including members of other churches.
More information: People who are interested in taking the Crossways Bible study can contact St. John’s Lutheran Church to register by Sunday, Jan. 8. Those who register by phone will be asked to pay the first week they attend class. Any questions will be directed to Pastor Hopper.