A megachurch pastor from Texas is asking people during the season of Lent to consider how they would behave if they knew this time period before Easter was their last days on earth.
Pastor Kerry Shook, and his wife, Chris, are challenging their congregation of more than 15,000 during this season to accept the reality of their mortality, and to learn to live a more intentional and meaningful life without regrets.
To do that, they are using their book, One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life, which was released in 2008 and recently updated in a new paperback version.
The 30-day challenge of the book ties in with the last 30 days of Jesus' life and also fits in with the season of Lent the church is currently in. Lent is typically a time when Christians give up or "fast" from something for 40 days leading up to Easter. It is a time people reflect on removing obstacles that keep them from knowing Christ more deeply.
Pastor Shook told The Christian Post that the Protestant Church doesn't always talk about Lent, but said that it's an important time to prepare for Easter, which is why his church, The Woodlands Church, is participating in it.
He said this season is geared toward turning what you learn from it into a lifestyle, and not just something you do for a month. It's "living passionately from what God has placed in your heart," Shook said.
This passion is part of the reason the husband-and-wife team decided to write the book. They said they spent a lot of time with people on their deathbeds or at the end of their lives – people who said they wished they had done more in life, had tried something new, or repaired a relationship. Many people had regrets of not living to the fullest with the time they had been given.
Shook said that in talking to many of these people, he and his wife began to study how Jesus lived when he knew he only had one month to live. "He lived passionately and invested his life completely. The goal [of the book] is to help people seek to live this way," he said.
Throughout the study, the book focuses on four key principles the Shooks took from Jesus' final days on earth. This includes: to live passionately, love completely, learn humbly, and leave boldly, creating a legacy that will impact generations. Each of the thirty chapters – one per day – offers strategies and tools to help bring about permanent changes in the reader's lives.
"People think of Lent as a time to take something out, but this is putting something in," Chris Shook said. "It's really about asking yourself, did I do everything I possibly could while here on this earth, and did I use up everything the Lord gave me?"
The Lent season and the book are also meant to conquer what the Shooks call "someday" syndrome--always waiting for someday when your schedule calms down, your finances improve, or your kids grow up so you can begin to live the life you've always dreamed of.
But the Shooks believe that people should stop living on autopilot and become determined to make the most of every moment when they realize they don't have much time left on earth.
Chris Shook said that the book doesn't claim that after 30 days you will have completely changed. She said people are really just getting started, that it's the beginning of a process. It's about "spending time on what things I want to change in my life. Where I won't have regrets, [or] leave anything on the table," she told CP.
Pastor Shook said he is encouraged that more churches are beginning to celebrate Lent, because the power of it is something that many miss out on. If you really look at the meaning of the season, he said, it's not just about giving up and denying things. It's about developing new habits, and "adding things to your life, really preparing for the Resurrection."