A 1970s Bible study card game has become such a popular draw at New Age Fairs, that church workers have had to order a reprint.
Encourager and evangelism trainer Penny Horseman prepares to use the Jesus Deck at a New Age fair
‘The Jesus Deck’ has become well known all over the UK, as Christians seeking to reach out to spiritual seekers use it to talk about Bible stories, with eager participants.
Often used in ‘Mind Body Spirit’ (MBS) exhibitions and similar settings, the Jesus Deck has found an new lease of life among people who consider themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’.
Consisting of 52 cards, and two jokers, the cards were originally designed to educate children about the Bible. Set in four suits, named after the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each card has a scripture verse on it, and depicts a scene from the Bible, in vibrant colour and classically ‘1970s’ style.
But the cards found a second use, as a useful and engaging tool to talk about Jesus in a way which relates to the kind of people who go to MBS events for things like Tarot readings.
But as sets of the Jesus Deck became scarce, evangelism trainer Penny Horseman began to research the history of the cards.
Although the cards were well out of print, she managed to track down the original publishers, and began to raise money to fund a reprint.
Mrs Horseman, who raised £12,000 to get the new sets made, said: “I first saw the cards in 2003, and since then I’ve used them in many settings.
“The reprint came about because I noticed that the cost of the cards was going up and up. I bought my deck for £19, but I could see it was getting more expensive to get a pack, eventually the price per pack got up to three figures!
“I realised that to go any further, we’d need to get them reprinted, some people suggested getting new cards made, but that would have been just as expensive, and these cards already have a reputation.
Bishop Stephen Cotterel is introduced to the Jesus Deck
“So I started to raise the money, and got a costing from the license holders, in the end I had to raise about £12,000, but we did it, and now the cards are available through the Diocese of Chelmsford.”
Like many others working in this area, Penny is a regular stall holder at MBS exhibitions.
She explained: “The main setting in which we use these cards really, is within Mind Body Spirit exhibitions, in fact we’ve just come back from a three day exhibition, where we met with over 130 different people for in-depth conversations.
“We meet more and more people who say ‘I want to follow Jesus’, and this year we met others who said, ‘I’ve begun following Jesus since I saw you last time, and wanted to come and see you again.’
“What we’re doing with these cards is basically picking out scriptures, and talking about them with people – because the scriptures happen to be on cards, with pictures, they are presented in a way that is approachable for people at these kind of events.”
Penny Horseman takes delivery of newly reprinted packs of the Jesus Deck
Steve Hollinghurst, a Church army expert in ‘post Christian culture’ says he thinks the cards are best understood as an ‘applied bible study’.
He said: “The cards all portray in pictures with short bible quotations, events from Jesus life and teaching, but in a way that those who would not respond well to a Bible reading can begin to explore what the stories might mean for them.
“It is also a very personal approach, not so much about theology and doctrine but application to people’s daily lives. In truth when someone has a ‘Jesus Deck reading’ they are having an applied Bible study.
“Actually there are loads of contexts and people for whom this is a creative way of sharing life wisdom from the stories of Jesus. However, those of us who have pioneered this have particularly used it in places like Mind Body Spirit fairs where people might look for wisdom in Angel Cards or Tarot readings so approaching Jesus through cards is something they are very open to do.
“The cards seem to have been designed as Sunday school teaching aid in America in the 70’s, but that means they are drawn with a 70’s popular style and as is true of many things designed for children that use creative images instead of words, they actually work well with adults by opening up new ways of going deeper with their meaning.
“I find that the pictures help people move beyond their questions about faith to explore the stories and their meaning for them in a much deeper way. I somehow doubt the pastor who crated then would have foreseen this, but God’s Spirit works so often in unexpected ways.
“Any cross cultural mission challenges us to allow our expression of faith to be incarnated in another culture, to become at home there.”
May 17th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross