“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11
As Executive Director of Community Bible Study, Texas-born Kimm Carr has a mission even larger than the organization she directs in Colorado Springs, Colorado; engaging people with the Bible literally around the world!
Ask anyone who knows Kimm and they will tell you about her beautiful, God-given sense for servant leadership. This makes her more than simply an Executive Director; it makes her more of a “Shepard-in-Chief”. After this interview, I thought, “I wonder if she thought it was weird that I was clapping and spouting an energetic, “Yes!” after so many of her responses to my questions? It wasn’t as if the Redskins were scoring touchdowns. I mean who claps over the phone? And who claps over the phone listening to a Bible teacher? I just couldn’t help myself because Kimm stirred me up by just being who she is: a completely real woman; utterly devoted to God, and wanting everyone to have the opportunity to know Him through His Word.
Community Bible Study (also known as CBS) started 41 years ago in Bethesda, Maryland, with a small handful of dedicated Christ-following women. Starting one Bible study at a time and touching hearts one person at a time, the ministry soon grew beyond the United States. (Note: My mother was part of the first “servants team” so this mission is near and dear to my heart! It is also the reason I fell in love with the Word of God! )
It would be an understatement to say that this ministry has grown and more appropriate to say that is has spread like wildfire. Today CBS has classes in 100 countries (16 started in this past year) and lessons translated into 66 different languages.
It is interesting to note that Zambia has the largest number of participants enrolled in CBS; even more than the United States. Due to this outreach internationally, CBS has increased 121 percent this past year! Globally there are more than 400,000 class members being transformed as they study God’s Word! As Kimm says, “CBS is like a trophy of God’s grace, and what He is doing. God is alive, and He is speaking to us through His Word.”
Let’s find out why so many are taking part in this dynamic, alive Bible study. What makes it so very special?
Q: How do you explain Community Bible Study to new people you meet who might not be a part of a Bible study?
A: We have a powerful mission statement; Making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, in our communities, through caring, in-depth Bible study, available to all. But if someone asks casually, I don’t give them the mission statement, I tell them we are a Christian organization that has been in the works for 40 plus years. We are located around the entire globe, and everything we do is geared toward welcoming anyone just as they are!
Typically, this will open the door for additional explanation. I also like to stress that CBS is not affiliated with any one church or denomination and is open to men, women and children of all ages. Equally, welcome are curious non-Christ followers. We welcome whoever wants to participate!
The most beautiful component is that anyone who walks through the door is greeted with love. Check everything else at the door. Whether you are in Kigali, Rwanda, or Austin, Texas, you are welcomed with love to comfortably study God’s Word together.
Q: Can you tell us about the path that led you to become a member of CBS and then on to Executive Director?
A: I grew up in the church but really didn’t become a follower of Jesus until I was in college. It was there that I decided to intentionally pay attention to God’s Word.
In 2002, after moving to Athens, Georgia, our real estate agent asked me to join her Community Bible Study class. I remember being greeted with such love that I knew I wanted to be a part of whatever this was. So I started out slowly, doing more listening than actually finishing the lessons. But my core group (small group) leader never shamed me for not doing it all. I was just loved through it, and then as I started doing my lessons on purpose, I realized… THIS is how I’m going to know Jesus! I started feasting on the Word of God: I couldn’t get enough.
The following year, I was asked to lead a core group. Then, half way through that year, I was asked to start praying about becoming the teaching director for the Athens class! My professional background was clinical audiology sprinkled with a minimal amount of teaching through Auburn University and the University of Florida. This was definitely outside my comfort zone, but I felt God calling me to take on this ministry, so I prayerfully dove right in!
In 2012, I received a phone call from Community Bible Study’s Succession Task Force asking me to prayerfully consider being vetted for the position of Executive Director of CBS. This would entail a move from Athens, Georgia, to Colorado Springs, Colorado. A radical change for my family and me. After prayer, my husband, Steve, resigned after 25 years with Georgia Power, and we uprooted our 8th-grade son, Ben, and headed west!
Q: With over 400,000 class members around the globe participating in Community Bible Study, why do you think it is so popular? Is there a formula for its success?
A: There is no formula per se, but we do have Five “Essentials” of CBS that we can point to:
- Individual study – Which is the class member…one on one with the Bible.
- Encouraging discussion – Taking what you have learned, coming to your core (small) group and discussing the questions with them. During this time of sharing and listening, you begin to see the Holy Spirit “unpacking” truths that you may have missed doing the questions by yourself.
- Effective Teaching – This is where the class teaching director wraps up the lesson you have just studied and discussed in core group time. They highlight a central idea from the passage, share their expertise and insight, thus tying together, even more, all that you have studied and how it applies to your life.
- Scholarly Commentaries – After class, members go home and read scholarly commentaries that shed additional light on the Bible passage by introducing history context, backgrounds on authors, how the passage you’ve studied relates to the rest of Scripture and other insights as well.
- Caring Community – This CBS fellowship is all wrapped up in caring that we call shepherding. Compassionate leaders pray for and encourage participants to grow spiritually and connect with each other.
The “Five Essentials” give Community Bible Study strength and foundation that transcends all the different cultures. The essentials may look and feel different culturally, but they are all able to be duplicated, are cohesive and all distinct at the same time, depending on your class and community. It’s just a beautiful thing to see!!!
(Note: This all may sound time-consuming but class is generally held once a week and is about 2 hours in length. First part in your core group; second part in lecture. The rest, studying your Bible and answering questions, is done on your own time.)
Q: What are the challenges you have faced over the years as Executive Director?
A: I think what has personally challenged me is walking in faith as God leads. From the calling to serve in the Athens, Ga CBS class to leading an international non-profit, it has been a real challenge to walk step by step in faith. Yet, it is continually amazing to me how God equips those He has called!
A ministry challenge would be that there are boundless opportunities domestically and internationally! We need to make sure we stay focused on one thing: caring, in-depth Bible study. We’ve entered into a season of strategic planning, which is going very well, but it’s also a challenge.
The global movement of God and all the work that comes with unveiling that reality to everyone…wow, the lines start to blur. It’s incredibly exciting to see God moving!
Q: How do you and your staff keep all the study books relevant to today’s believer?
A: Relevancy to today’s believer is best maintained when we focus on in-depth study of the literal Word of God first and foremost. The Bible, since it is the written revelation of God, transcends time, language, and geography. The most important focus is leading an individual participant into Scripture and just letting that Scripture speak as the Holy Spirit through the passage. Scripture is the place where the power of God is going to speak into the hearts of the CBS’ers. This is what it’s all about!
On a lighter, editorial note regarding relevancy, our writing team and other editors have had to go into course studies written 40 years ago and carefully, prayerfully update illustrations and edit out terms that may no longer make sense to anyone 30 or younger. Where we may have a brilliant commentary from 1978, it may use an outdated term such as “mimeo-graph” or “typewriter”. A what? Ha!
Q: As a long time CBS’er myself; my favorite section of the CBS commentary is the “Think About It” section. Can you tell us a little about your authors?
A: Yes, the “Think About It” section is an integral part of the format because it makes the lesson, relatable and personal. It gives you something to “chew on.” The editorial staff has seminary and pastoral experience. Commentary writers are carefully and prayerfully chosen based on their expertise as well as their writing ability.
Q: What do you tell people who say, “I don’t know anything about theology or Bible study; I can’t do something like that.”?
A: Community Bible Study is an every person’s study. Questions are intentionally designed so anyone can answer, regardless of experience! Many questions are who, what, where, when – kinds of factual questions; others are more challenging. If you don’t want to share, you can absorb what others in your group got from the passage. There is no stress to be an “A” student. Phew! You can do the “homework” at your leisure although we recommend that each participant pray about doing one section a day so they don’t have to rush. Also, you get to enjoy the blessings of your study throughout each day if you take it day by day.
Q: What are your desires and prayers for each member of CBS?
A: Oh, yes! My prayer for the ministry as a whole and for each individual CBS-er is that each one around the globe captures the essence of an intimate relationship with the living God. I like to pray Isaiah 55 (see below) which points out the universal truth that we are all thirsty ~ and we all can come to His water. Every person is in CBS because God appointed it. May there be a total transformation for all who desire it. That’s what CBS did for me…total transformation! Not just a spiritual change but a practical change as to who I am as a wife, daughter, mother, co-worker. I hope that anyone seeking or wanting transformation would know that Community Bible study is a safe place to come.
For more information on a Community Bible Study in your area please go to:
1 Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers, the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
Testimonies from CBS participants:
“Since that first time, CBS has been the biggest blessing in my life. At that point in my life, I have to admit I was a spiritual train wreck. I was torn between my selfish apathy and my desire to regain my faith. However, CBS finally brought me around and ignited a new spark in my faith.” ~ Kalli, Austin, TX
“I met with a friend I have known since junior high (40+ years) last week who is now an empty nester; her comment was that CBS has saved her marriage! Those were her exact words! ~ Priscilla, Jacksonville, FL
“CBS has helped me learn more about Jesus. Jesus has taken me far from the darkness. I have learned about the importance of eternal life and growing in faith. If someone asks why I am a Christian, I tell them I have learned the secret to eternal life. I have learned that Jesus died for me because of my sins – He impacts lives!” ~ Jurius, a young boy who attends CBS in Burkina Faso, Africa
“My name is Anika. Earlier in my life, I was a local rowdy (gangster). I did many illegal works in our area. Due to these kinds of activities, I was arrested by police and imprisoned in jail. After my release from the prison, I went to a CBS group in my neighbor’s house. There, they taught me the Word of God. I was touched by the Word and I surrendered my life to Jesus. Now I have been baptized and regularly go to church.” ~ Anika, India