Over the past 30 months our team has led more than 130,000 individuals and 500 churches through a 40-day challenge to help them ultimately become greater followers of Jesus. In spite of the complicated Covid times we are experiencing, we are getting ready on February 14th to launch the single largest 40-day challenge season we’ve ever experienced.
In this upcoming season we have churches from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong participating! Amazingly, more than 25 churches from the New York City area are banding together as well!
In this blog, I want to share with you 5 reasons why the season known as Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) is the perfect time to launch a 40-day challenge. Also, at the end, if you’d like to be “in” I’ll give you the timeline we have perfected over the past couple of Lenten seasons and some next steps that you will need to act upon quickly.
Why are so many churches jumping on board now? Here’s 5 reasons:
Our 40-Day Challenges Fit Perfectly into the Church Calendar Before Easter!
Many churches across the world celebrate a season called Lent prior to Easter Sunday. Lent is 40 days plus the Sundays…therefore, it leads perfectly to the grand celebration of Easter! The ultimate purpose of Lent is to prepare our hearts for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In each of our 40-day challenges, Red Letter Challenge and Being Challenge, the final targets that we challenge our readers with in both challenges is to “go and share the Good News.” Sharing the Good News of Jesus can often times come with an invitation to attend church as a next step. The Easter celebration is the perfect next step that so many in your community need to hear!
2. Our 40-Day Challenges Bring Unity by Focusing on Jesus!
Lent is ultimately a season where we look to Jesus to remember what He’s done for us and the life that He’s given to us. Our 40-day challenges examine His words, His habits, and His life, and present them in a simple-to understand, but challenging way that will produce results.
Our belief is that the best way to follow Jesus is simply to follow Jesus. There are many good and great answers on how to be a disciple of Jesus, but simply looking to Jesus is still the best answer! Never before has there been more information on what a disciple of Jesus is, but never before has there been more confusion on how to practically daily live out our faith.
In light of all things 2020, many of our churches have become more complicated to lead. Many churches have and still are experiencing physical distancing and added division. When division abounds, it is imperative to look for resources that will bring back unity. Nothing unifies like Jesus. The number one word we have heard from pastors who have completed one of our 40-day challenges during coronavirus as a church is “unity.” Author and speaker Carey Nieuwhof said this about our resources: “How do you find common ground in a deeply divided culture? Zach Zehnder’s focus on the words and habits of Jesus have unified churches and people in a deeply needed way. Taking your church through a 40-day challenge might be the best thing you can do right now. Culture divides. Christ unites.”
Our 40-day challenges bring unity not only because they focus on Jesus, but also because we have materials for every age group, even kids. Our belief is that kids not only have what it takes to follow Jesus, but they can be, and many already are incredible followers of Jesus already. Not only can you unify every age group, unify your weekend worship experiences with both digital and in person, but you also will feel the unity during the week as well Monday-Saturday as your people are reading and challenging themselves together.
3. Our 40-Day Challenges Bring Opportunity for Self-Examination!
In Lent, not only are we taught to look to Jesus and remember what He’s done for us, but we are also taught to examine ourselves. In light of what Jesus did, we look at our own lives and remember why Jesus had to sacrifice His life for us in the first place. We needed the death and resurrection of Jesus to fully pay for our own sins.
In self-examination we confess our sin in order to receive His grace. It is His grace and His kindness that leads us ultimately to life change. It is not out of obligation, but rather through His grace that we are compelled to want to be the greatest followers of Jesus that we can be. By looking at Jesus first and foremost, we ensure that following after Him comes from the right motive. We do not desire to follow Jesus well because we have to, we do it because we want to. We do it in response to how good our God has been to each one of us.
The challenges lend time each day for self-examination. The workbooks are written in a way for people to write, journal, draw, and scribble their thoughts. It also has weekly small group materials (videos and study guides) so that individuals can come together, learn, and grow with one another.
4. Our 40-Day Challenges Inspire Action!
At the root of it, disciples are both hearers and doers of God’s Word. While many discipleship resources thrive in helping us be better “hearers” we have seen incredible results by simply challenging people to take what they “hear” and “do” something about it. It’s this rhythm of hearing and doing that we believe is imperative for all followers of Jesus to get right.
In the Lenten season, traditionally, many churchgoers practice “giving up” something or fasting for Lent. But I’ve noticed, as good as that practice can be, if you don’t replace it or “pick up” something new most will go right back to what they’ve done in the past. If you give up soda for 40 days, that’s great, but what about after the 40 days are over? Pop another Coke bottle?
Is that really the life change that pastors want for their people? Red Letter Challenge and Being Challenge encourage people to “pick up” the habit of putting Christ’s words and habits into practice and I simply don’t believe there is anything more valuable.
At the root of it, disciples are both hearers and doers of God’s Word. While many discipleship resources thrive in helping us be better “hearers” we have seen incredible results by simply challenging people to take what they “hear” and “do” something about it. It’s this rhythm of hearing and doing that we believe is imperative for all followers of Jesus to “pick up.”
5. Our 40-Day Challenges are Turnkey for Your Whole Staff!
Easter is the biggest and greatest celebration of the church year! By implementing a 40-day turnkey challenge to your church prior to Easter, this will allow you and your staff the opportunity to go all-in on your Easter celebration. It’s easy to go all-in on your Easter experience, when you know you will have the extra time because you’ve got the 40 days leading up to this BIG day done for you already.
Included in our 40-day challenges are all of these materials for FREE: Small Group Guides, Small Group Videos, Sermon Manuscripts, Sermon Videos, Weekly Kids Curriculum, Graphics Package, etc. We’ve tried to make this as turnkey as possible so that you can not only have the confidence of a great 40-day experience but also so that you can put full effort into strategic celebration Sundays like Easter.
Bonus Reason: It’s always fun to be a part of something BIG.
Join a movement with literally thousands of others across the world and let’s see what God will do as we take His words and habits into a world that so desperately needs more Jesus!
Next Steps: Timeline, How to Join, and Where to Learn More?
We’d love for your church to be a part of this worldwide 40-day challenge launch. After a few years of studying best practices, we recommend kicking off your 2021 Lenten 40-day challenge by preaching the introduction to the series on Sunday, February 14th. You would then start Day 1 readings on Tuesday, February 16th. By starting Day 1 readings on February 16th, you will end Day 40 on Saturday, March 27th, and can then either choose to use Sunday, March 28th to recap, share stories, forecast vision of continuing to put Jesus’ words into practice, etc. or do regular Palm Sunday services leading into your Easter celebration the next Sunday, April 4th.
In order to have the best 40-day experience it’s important to get materials to you as quickly as possible. Therefore, we have a small window left to do this well. We are offering an incentive to sign up by January 22nd so that we can ensure you have the ample time to promote and distribute your materials. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Finally, if you still have questions on how to implement, how to launch small groups with these challenges, how to include kids and student ministry, promotion, distribution, we have a series of short videos at this link to help.
And if you already have plans for Lent or a 40-day challenge fits better into your calendar in a different season, do not fret! A couple of other really great strategic times to launch a 40-day challenge are the 40 Days after Easter Sunday and in the Fall.
I want to see your congregation thrive and I believe this has the opportunity to be the best Lent season of all time. Let’s not just give up something, let’s pick up the words and habits of Jesus.