Exploring the Lands of the Bible
In 2009, the Assemblies of God launched the Center for Holy Lands Studies (CHLS). This ministry promotes biblical education and spiritual growth by providing opportunities to visit the lands of the Bible. Over the past 13 years, thousands of people have participated in CHLS tours, walking where Jesus and the apostles walked. Participants have included pastors, families, seminary students, and church groups.
The vision of CHLS is that “all believers will understand the Bible and grow in their faith and love for God.” The mission is “to equip believers to understand and apply the Bible through its culture, history, land, and spirit.”
Amy Flattery, CHLS director and co-founder, spent a number of years living and studying in Israel. Flattery holds a master’s degree from Jerusalem University College, where she specialized in New Testament backgrounds and Jewish history of the second temple period. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, Flattery has also served as a lecturer at Continental Theological Seminary in Belgium.
What are the holy lands?
Israel is often referred to as the Holy Land. We are interested in all the lands of the biblical narrative, including Israel, Jordan, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, and Italy. Our name, the Center for Holy Lands Studies, reflects that.
When we talk about the holy lands, we understand them as the geographical areas in which God interacted with humanity to enact His plan of redemption, as recorded in the Bible. We find biblical events taking place not only in the land of Israel, but also in other locations in Asia, Europe and Africa.
How does a CHLS tour enrich a person’s faith?
Participants have the unique experience of interacting with God where the biblical narrative unfolded. Standing in the land adds a new and vibrant nuance to your faith.
We pray that every person who travels with us will discover that the lands of the Bible display a rich tapestry of material, masterfully woven together. The culture, history, land, and spiritual climate of the time period create a powerful image of what the biblical text says, what was meant by what was said so long ago, and how we can apply those lessons in daily life.
How does visiting the holy lands change the way a person reads the Bible?
When people stand in the same regions as the ancients and sense and visualize the reality of those locations, their perspectives of the biblical account often change. The narrative becomes more personal, contextualized, and three-dimensional.
Participants will discover the cultural and historical contexts of the Bible. They will see how the geographic landscapes connect to the biblical stories. They will learn about common spiritual beliefs of those time periods.
The experiences and insights travelers glean will help bring the text to life — every time they open their Bibles.
Many companies offer tours to the holy lands. What are the unique features of a CHLS tour?
First, we like to clarify we are not a company. Though we do tours, we are a ministry. That is our most significant difference. Our focus is helping Christians — both inside and outside the Assemblies of God — draw closer to God and grow in their understanding of Scripture.
We want participants to return to their communities and churches and share with others the wealth of insights they gained.
Most companies approach the holy lands with a profit mindset, but our approach is a gospel-minded one. We pair each group with a guide, as well as an experienced teacher who knows the lands of the Bible and has a heart for ministry.
What should someone expect on a CHLS tour?
Prior to departure, you can expect to receive communication and travel materials to prepare for the journey. This includes a backpack and a book about the land you are about to visit. We care deeply about how participants prepare and how they grow and learn.
Expect to walk the land with an experienced tour guide and devoted CHLS teacher. You will experience some of the same walkways and roads the ancients traveled upon — including many that are not accessible to other visitors. Along the way, you will encounter an abundance of learning opportunities and participate in Bible devotions.
Finally, expect the Lord to meet you in unforgettable ways. Expect to experience life change. You will be unpacking the teachings, experiences and devotions for the rest of your life.
As a reminder, we are always here after the journey to answer questions and provide resources.
What should readers do if they are interested in leading or joining a tour to the holy lands?
Start by visiting our website at thechls.org, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 1-855-700-CHLS (2457).
We are ready to help. Through a phone conversation or email, we can guide you to the best trip option. An individual or group can join an already planned CHLS program.
Alternatively, we can customize trips for churches or groups, tailoring the itinerary to your needs and interests.
Some AG universities also offer opportunities to earn college credit through Center for Holy Lands Studies tours.
This article appears in the Fall 2022 issue of Influence magazine. Used with permission.