What is this? | Podcast | Episode 0

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Hello! My Name is Nate, I am a youth pastor in the Detroit area and you’re listening to the OnTrack Devotions Pulse Podcast.

I’m not sure why things start with zero. I was never a big math guy, so I am just going to run with it.

I am an Associate Pastor at a church just outside Detroit. My main ministry is to work with 5th-12th graders and their families to help guide and train them to run after Christ. I have been privileged to serve here for almost 9 years and it has without a doubt been the most enjoyable, stretching, frustrating, and growing experience of my life.

What are you doing here? I suppose that has to be a question you’re asking if you’ve somehow found us through the On Track Devotions app, website, or through one of our podcast platforms. Well, my hope is that as you ask that question and listen you find a place where you can easily listen, learn, and grow through the hearing of God’s word.

Whether you’re a ministry leader, student, church goer, or none of the above our prayer is that you would find hope in the word of God and desire to study it on your own.

What is On Track Devotions?

Some of you have come here and you are quite familiar with OnTrack Devotions. Perhaps you’ve used them in your own Bible study or with a ministry you’re involved in. I know I took a few wilderness trips in college and have used them in my own youth ministry. Others are listening to this and wondering what in the world OnTrack Devotions are.

So for this first podcast we are going to discuss OTD, The Pulse, and the OnTrack Devos App so that you might be familiarized with our mission and perhaps jump on board.

OnTrack Devotions was started by a young youth pastor named Dwight Peterson back in the early 90’s. He was leading a youth ministry in northern Indiana when he realized that the vast majority of his ministry was content driven… meaning, all the teaching was focused on communicating truth. For example, as soon as a kid accepted Christ, they were immediately taught the core doctrines of scripture in a formal atmosphere.

None of that is wrong. However, he realized that their ministry did not focus on skill development. Their core discipleship was transfer of info, not training to grow.

Dwight realized his students did not know how to read their Bibles. He had to ask the question. “How could I expect them to dive into Scripture, let alone find success with it, if they didn’t know how?” This problem was even deeper in that many of his student’s parents didn’t know how to read their Bibles either. So, there was no way they would learn that at home.

Dwight found some encouragement from the life of his father, a businessman, who realized one day that he lacked passion in his walk with Christ. So, his father made a choice to pick his most profitable time of the day and block that off to read his Bible. He made that choice for himself but also for Dwight and his whole family. They were required to read, and record what they read and learned each day. Dwight learned to read his Bible because his father required him to.

Because Dwight learned to read his Bible, he knew how important it would be for his students to have this skill as well. Dwight needed to find a way to stop a stream of students only being fed truth and not feeding themselves. So, he began to teach students to feed themselves by training them to approach scripture, read it, learn it, apply it, and integrate it into their lives.

Enter OnTrack Devotions. OnTrack exists to teach and develop Bible study skill so that the users can become “self-feeders” for life.

Why should you care about any of this? Well for the same reason a person should care and know how to maintain their physical health, eating, sleeping, exercise… Spiritual heath requires knowing how to feed yourself from God’s word, not just consuming what others have chewed for you.

As yourself these questions:

  1. As a young believer, what methods were used to train you in the development of your relationship with God?
  2. In your current leadership roles (ministry, parenting, etc…), what methods do you use to train others in the development? of their relationships with God?
  3. How would you assess the level of success of your students as it relates to a growing personal relationship with God?
  4. How would you assess your own personal relationship with God?
  5. What do you think are the key factors in an intimate growing relationship with God?
  6. What are you doing to train yourself and those you lead in the skills necessary to succeed in each of those factors.

If the answers to those questions show a lack of skill or direction in reading and understanding the Bible for yourself or others, don’t lose heart, we have something for you!

But wait… So how did On Track get to where it’s at today? Well around 2008 and 2009 OnTrack began to be produced by an organization called Pilgrimage. They produced monthly booklets, with the help of Dwight and made them available for people to use within their own ministries.

Fast forward a bit. I attended college where Dwight was one of my core professors and became acquainted with a guy named Ben Wilhite who led Pilgrimage.

Fast forward a lot more to a time known as 2020. I had been serving at my church for 9 years and just like everyone else I felt that my ministry was floundering, or just sort of floating with a life jacket on. I missed connection with my students, and with my youth leaders. I had figured out every new way of utilizing Zoom I could think of and I was spiritually drained and saddened at the lack of connection I had to students.

I believe around May some of my high school students started a group chat and added me to “The Quarinteens”. What an honor. It was reassuring to know that I’m clearly still hip enough to be a part of their lives. They stated that they wanted to start each day praying together. By start I mean when they woke up at 10am. When they told me this I cried. I didn’t tell them that. But I did. My students were missing the connection as much if not more than me. So, we prayed together as we were able.

But I was still frustrated especially after they got back to school and were unavailable. I was frustrated because many mentioned the difficulties, they had in reading their Bibles. I realized I had failed in the same areas that Dwight realized and yet I couldn’t be with them to teach and train.

I called and voiced these frustration to my friend and former intern, Stephen Billings. Wouldn’t you know it. He felt the same way. So, we started to play around with the idea of starting a website where students could access devotions, and ask spiritual questions in a community setting.

In starting this, we decided to call Ben and ask if we could have access to On Track to post on our site in a digital format. In our Zoom call we described our frustration and desire and Ben said. “Yeah, don’t do that.” What?

Wouldn’t you know it. He had already been working on a site, and app for several years and was in need of help.

So since around November 2020 we have been working to gather trusted voices to answer biblical questions in the same format that On Track would guide in Bible study. We have been refining a site, developing an app, and praying God would use it to help others study his word.

Enter the OTD App and the Pulse Podcast/Blog

The OTD App is a mobile-first digital platform that builds Bible study skill development through connection (social — groups), content (digital media — blog, video, podcast), and conversation (trusted “voices” + user questions), using the foundation of OnTrack Devotions, to illuminate the world around us in light of the Word of God.

A critical aim of the project is to teach users “how to think biblically,” not simply “what to think.”

The app is free to download and users may create a free account to access and engage the foundational resources personally. Individual users may upgrade by subscribing (premium) to a full feature set and/or pay to access premium studies/tools a la carte.

Ministries may subscribe (premium) to create organizational accounts, which adds the ability to create, brand, and curate private small groups, assign group leaders, etc…, to build discipleship communities that intersect with their broader ministry strategy.

Essentially, we’ve worked to create a space where people can study the Bible effectively on their own and invest in a community of believers encouraging one another in their study of God’s word.

We hope that you would consider downloading the app, creating a free account, and learning and growing with us.

The Pulse is a free aspect of the app and connected website. We have contacted a group of believers who are gifted in different areas but primarily in answering questions biblically. So, using questions we have received from students, we have begun recording, writing, and videoing responses to these questions.

All of these answers are from an inductive approach mostly using a single passage of scripture that is

Observed
Interpreted
Applied
And given integration ideas that the end consumer can take home with them.

We are also giving you, the user, the ability to submit questions to us and then the users can vote on which one they want answered each week. Of course, other ones will be answered in time, but we want to know what believers want answered!

There will be more to come but I encourage you to check out the app, start a bible study, and keep growing in your walk with God.

Outro

Please be praying for us in this endeavor. From all of us at On Track we’d like to thank you for listening to this podcast. Evan Braddock both edits our podcast and produces our music. You can check him out on Spotify.

If you have questions don’t forget to submit on our app. Thanks for listening! Be well.

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