In this issue:
Re-branding / Christmas: The Real Story / RCL Notes
LAID IN A MANGER, NOT BORN IN A BARN
 / OCTOBER 2018
Like many of you, from childhood I knew the Christmas story. At an early age I could recite the account recorded in Luke, chapter 2. Annually I participated in what were called “Sunday School Christmas Programs” on Christmas Eve at church. My family set up the same manger scene in our home every year. We sang familiar carols. It was a very memorable time. 

Looking back I realize how much I had learned about Christmas from carols and skits and cards and crèches rather than from a careful study of the narrative itself. Beginning my pastoral ministry in 1966, each year I attempted to help people to more fully understand that Christmas is not really about a baby born in a barn, but about the appearance of the Son of God in human flesh. That Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of the promises of God recorded in the Old Testament to send a Savior, the Messiah. 

In studying the text I came to realize that there is no mention of a donkey ride, an inn or an inn-keeper, a stable (building), or three wise men. Luke is simply trying to tell us that Jesus, the King of the universe, was by God’s design born in a humble setting, similar to that of the common folk in Palestine at that time. The uniqueness of His birth is neither the circumstances nor the surroundings but rather that He is the Son of God in human flesh. St. Paul stated this well in his letter to the Philippians: “[Christ Jesus] who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself” (2:6-8 NIV). 
 
My interest in the Christmas story received a big boost in 1998 with the publication by Crossways International ® of the study guide by Harry Wendt entitled Christmas: the Real Story . Drawing on the research of his friend, Dr. Kenneth Bailey, who was an expert on Middle Eastern culture, Dr. Wendt helped me to “experience” the first Christmas as did those who lived it, and to gain new meaning for our lives today.

Of the many helpful insights presented in the study guide, one in particular caught my attention. Read more.
 
Pastor James J. Vehling / Board of Directors Member
A MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Christ,
 
I am writing to share some very good news with you!  For the past few months, the leadership of Crossways International ® (CI) and I have been busy praying for God’s will for CI, its mission and ministry. I am pleased to share that together, we have built a strategic business plan that will launch CI forward to accomplish God’s call to all of us:

To Reach, Teach and Transform Lives Worldwide
with the Living and Written Word of God!
 
In order for any organization to grow within its industry, it requires revisiting existing products and enhancing market appeal not only to current customers, but also to the generation the organization is trying to reach. This involves a process known as re-branding.
 
The new logo (or “brand” for CI pictured above) embraces God’s call to us—to Reach, Teach and Transform. Recognizing the past and embracing the future, this logo reminds us that taking the posture of the Servant King Jesus the Messiah, you and I are called to love and serve others just as our Master has done for us. 
 
To become more fully like Him, we too, are called to Reach, Teach and Transform.
 
I pray that you and I will hear and obey that call—and do the very thing that He tells us to do: Reach, Teach and Transform. God has called each of us and whispered into our hearts. What will that look like? Perhaps you know. Perhaps you have heard Him. Perhaps you are still wondering what that means. Listen to Him. 
 
The leadership of CI and I have listened—and continue to listen—to Him. CI has a truly exciting “Big Story” to proclaim—and a truly transformative story ahead continuing the work that the Master has given us to do.
 
This newsletter outlines the way ahead. Aside from a revised logo, we are on the verge of launching a new website, a new program of work, a new way forward. Will you help us? We know, without a doubt, that we need your prayers and financial support. 
 
I invite you to prayerfully and intentionally join us—and give generously—to Crossways International. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do—to Reach, Teach and Transform Lives Worldwide. God bless you all.

Your sister in the risen Christ,
Kate Silvas / Executive Director
SET MY PEOPLE FREE
This summer, while sitting among stacks of inventory in the warehouse at Crossways International and working on our business plan, I found myself praying for God’s will. At that moment, the Word of God came to me: “SET MY PEOPLE FREE.”

I looked up, thinking I had somehow imagined this, shook my head, dismissed the thought and turned back to the balance sheet. But God spoke to me again: “SET MY PEOPLE FREE.”

Realizing that it was not a stray thought, I looked up, and replied, “Okay, Lord, I think you’re talking to me. What are you talking about? I’m dealing with numbers here. What do you mean? Who needs to be set free—from where? What does that have to do with Crossways International? What does that have to do with me?”
 
“SET MY PEOPLE FREE,” came the reply. “LORD,” I said, “What do you want from me? What are you talking about. How am I to ‘Set your people free?’”

At that moment, the LORD reminded me, “All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18). “Set My People Free.”

I looked down at the balance sheet again and understood: CI has funds that have been set aside for international work. God was telling me to use those funds to reignite CI’s mission and send product overseas to international partners. By saying, “Set My People Free,” I knew God was directing my path—to reset CI’s vision and mission—to get CI’s product sent overseas to our international partners! 
 
“SET MY PEOPLE FREE” is a campaign to raise $350,000 to ship product overseas to our international partners. It’s an ambitious goal, and we need your help !

Will you help us? Will you, too, “Set My People Free?”

I invite your prayers over this campaign—and for Crossways International. We have a big job to do—but God’s call is clear. Crossways International is being called to fulfill God’s mission—to reach, teach and transform lives worldwide. Let us work—together—to fulfill this call:

Together, let us “Set My People Free.”
BOARD OF DIRECTORS APPROVES CI BUSINESS PLAN
On Thursday, September 20, after months of hard work and discussion, the Crossways International (CI) Board of Directors unanimously approved a new Business Plan and Revised Budget at the recommendation of CI’s new Executive Director, Kate Silvas. 

“CI’s Business Plan is comprehensive in that it will succeed in moving the organization forward to continue its mission: to reach, teach and transform lives worldwide,” Silvas said.  
“The Board is already beginning to see progress in the implementation of CI’s Business Plan,” said Tim Schmitt, Board Chairman. “We are excited to have a comprehensive plan that is already working and which we believe will extend CI’s mission well into the future.”
The following are the Vision and Mission Statements approved by the CI Board:

Vision Statement
A Premier Publishing House
Providing Biblically Based and Theologically Sound
Books, Materials and Training Worldwide
to Advance the Kingdom of God
Mission Statement
To Produce Materials that
Reach, Teach and Transform Lives Worldwide
with the Written and Living Word of God
The following is an excerpt from the Executive Summary:

In order to continue its mission, Crossways International will work to:
1. Migrate to a virtual, online business model;
2. Distribute CI’s remaining product through direct sales, international outreach campaigns & ultimately remote fulfillment;
3. Pursue digital and print-on-demand publishing of Biblically based and theologically sound materials and products; and
4. Inform and gear its materials to a digitally conversant generation.”

Stay tuned for more updates. The best is yet to come!

Kate Silvas / Executive Director
OFFICE CLOSED WEEK OF OCTOBER 1-5
Crossways International offices will be closed the first week of October. The office will reopen Monday, October 8. Office hours will be Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Thank you!
SEMINAR RECAP
At the end of August, we welcomed students from New York, Wyoming, Texas, and Minnesota for our annual Fall Training Seminar.

Tim Schaefer led this information-packed training seminar featuring materials from our  Crossways ® course. Students left the seminar equipped with more biblical understanding and ready  to lead their own congregations and communities.

Crossways International hosts training seminars twice a year in Minneapolis. If you'd like to host a seminar in your area, or if you would like to designate funds to support our special ministries, please call our office at (800) 257-7308. You may also donate online at crossways.org . Thank you!
GIVE TO THE MAX DAY
Mark your calendar and then make your gift on November 15 by visiting  GiveMN.org . Gifts may also be scheduled beginning November 1. 

If you or your church is interested in providing a matching gift, please call our Executive Director, Kate Silvas, at (800) 257-7308 today!
Check out our  Fall Specials !
SHARING GOD'S GOOD NEWS
Harry Wendt
REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY NOTES

" We might ask, 'Why the second touch in Mark 8:22–26?' The disciples might be beginning to understand that Jesus is the Messiah, but they have no idea what that implies. However, they will be granted full sight only when they meet the Risen Jesus in Galilee; see Mark 16:1–8 and note v. 7 and the word see . ” 

Read the Rev. Dr. Wendt's October 2018 Revised Common Lectionary Notes .
BECOME A MEMBER TODAY
Crossways International® (CI) is looking for followers of Christ who would like to become Members of CI. A Member is a follower of Jesus who is willing and able to commit time, talent, and treasure to enhance, expand, and extend Crossways International's mission and ministry, and is eligible to serve on the Board of Directors and elect two members of the Board annually. Please click on the below link to access the application.
FACEBOOK GROUP FOR INSTRUCTORS
A new, online resource is now available to teachers of any Crossways International course. Simply log onto Facebook, search for "Crossways International Instructors" and request access to the group. Moderators will grant access upon request.

This closed Facebook group is devoted to answering questions and providing additional support to make the most of your teaching experience in order to better serve your students. We look forward to this opportunity to engage with you in a new and meaningful way.  
SIGN UP FOR INSPIRATIONAL PASSAGES
Mark 8:34-35

34  He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  35  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (NRSV)

 To receive a daily inspirational Bible passage like this one, send an email with the subject "Daily Verse" to info@crossways.org or change your email preferences by clicking on the "update profile" link at the bottom of this newsletter and selecting "A Daily Bible Verse."
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LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
JOIN A CLASS OR WEBINAR

Looking for a Crossways International ® class near you? Visit our  Class Map for locations and details! Interested in starting your own class? We're happy to help you with planning and promotion. Just call  800-257-7308  or email   info@crossways.org .

You can also join us online! Our  webinars  provide an interactive way to promote discussion and answer questions. They're the perfect resource for leaders preparing to teach a class within their own congregation, and a great opportunity for learners who prefer to study on their own. Click on a webinar below to learn more!

Christmas: the Real Story Webinar October 16: 10 a.m. noon Central
Praying Like Jesus Webinar November 13: 1 p.m. 3 p.m. Central
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Reexamine traditional Western assumptions about the first Christmas with Christmas: The Real Story .

An ideal study during Advent, this course also makes a great Christmas gift for anyone desiring to know more about Christ's birth.
Shine a new light on an old, familiar story with A Clear View of the Birth of Jesus DVD.

In this DVD, Dr. Kenneth Bailey draws upon his decades of research and teaching in the Middle East to reveal a fresh perspective on the story of Jesus' birth. 
Perform a drama that depicts accurately what happened that first Christmas night with Open Hearts in Bethlehem .

Everyone will enjoy this drama and music based on what the Bible says, rather than the Christmas stories we've heard.
A PRAYER TO SHARE
Dear Lord and Savior of mankind, we thank You for coming among us and for remaining among us. You welcomed into Your presence outcast shepherds from near, and Gentiles from afar. We rejoice that You know us by name, and declare us to be your brothers and sisters. You teach us how to walk through life, so that we might find meaning, joy, peace and hope. Inspire us to live to give You glory and to make Your Good News known both near and far. Keep us in Your forgiving grace until the day comes when we shall see You face to face. Amen. (From Christmas: The Real Story leader's manual)
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Planning a class for 10 students or more? Get a great deal! For the standard price of 10 student manuals or packages, get the manuals/packages plus the additional free items listed. See descriptions of our class packages  here
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