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Town finding common ground in ‘Experiencing God’ studies

MC CAMEY, Texas (BP)–When it comes to discipleship, Christians in one town all are on the same page –literally.
Following a community-wide “Experiencing God Weekend” in McCamey, Texas, in August, 20 small groups representing believers from several denominations now are conducting a simultaneous study of the “Experiencing God” discipleship workbook by Henry Blackaby and Claude King.
The groups, including at least one conducted in Spanish, began working through the 13-week curriculum on Sept. 12. Some are home-based groups, while others hold classes at church facilities.
“It’s exciting to think of the entire community of believers studying the same thing each week for three months,” said Duane Gryder, pastor of First Assembly of God in McCamey. About 65 people are attending the classes connected to his church, which has 48 active members.
The pastors also were slated to meet and work through the study together in a small group of their own, Gryder added. “We’re not trying to convince each other to change any doctrine. We just want to see one another get closer to the Lord.”
The support of pastors in McCamey’s Ministerial Alliance was crucial to the success of the simultaneous study and the weekend event that preceded it, said Bryan Crittendon, who was called as pastor of First Baptist Church one year ago last June.
Crittendon was one of several new pastors who arrived in the community at about the same time, and though they represented various denominations, the pastors immediately formed a close kinship.
“We not only get along. We actually like each other,” Crittendon said. “It’s a fresh feeling in the community.”
When Don Gibson of Texas Baptist Men visited First Baptist Church last year to speak at an event promoting the Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions, he raised the possibility of a community-wide Experiencing God Weekend emphasis. The weekend events provide an overview of the “seven realities of Experiencing God” that are explored more fully in the 13-week study.
Crittendon presented the idea to members of the ministerial alliance, and they supported it. The Experiencing God Weekend involved more than 250 people from at least 10 congregations, including the community’s Baptist, United Methodist, Christian, Assembly of God and independent churches.
The weekend event was held in the high school auditorium, and meals were served from the Permian Baptist Association disaster relief unit. The school’s first Friday night football scrimmage of the season was rescheduled for Thursday so that it would not conflict.
“The Experiencing God Weekend program has given many of our students in McCamey — regardless of denomination — an opportunity to experience the love of God and to gain focus and direction in our own individual lives,” said Jerry Stinson, high school principal and deacon at First Baptist.
Crittendon is convinced that God is preparing McCamey for something special.
“This is breaking down a lot of the traditional barriers between the churches,” he said. “There’s a greater openness to the gospel within our community. We’ve certainly removed the argument, ‘I don’t want anything to do with Christianity because you guys can’t get along with each other.’”

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  • Ken Camp