Claude King began his college career as an archaeology major, tracing his love for antiquity back to his eighth grade science teacher.
“I had to write a paper and had no idea what to write about,” the noted author admitted.
“My teacher suggested archaeology, and one day invited me to hunt arrowheads with him,” King recalled. “We found a sack full, and I was hooked. Throughout high school I spent many hours walking through the fields and talking with God.
“In retrospect, I realize God was cultivating an intimate relationship with me. I surrendered my life to whatever He wanted me to do.”
Fifty years on, King has been helping churches experience renewal and make healthy disciples.
He was featured at Pinnacle Alabama, Aug. 5–6 at Shocco Springs Conference Center in Talladega. Conference coordinator Steve Layton of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions said King is a “much-beloved figure” to Alabama Baptists.
“We invite him here often, and people ask us to invite him again,” Layton added. “He has a winsome spirit and a gift of communicating to Christians about living lives pleasing to the Lord.”
‘The deeper life’
Some have described King as a teacher of “the deeper life.”
“I would consider that title a compliment,” King said, “though I’ve never used it for myself.
“I’ve been deeply influenced by the writings of pastor and author Andrew Murray of South Africa. He was part of the Keswick movement in England that taught a deeper life message.”
King said he’s also been influenced by revival history and the teaching of Manley Beasley and Bertha Smith. He attributes much of God’s work in his life to godly men with whom he has collaborated, including Avery Willis, T.W. Hunt, Roy Edgemon and Henry Blackaby.
“Calling people to a deeper life of holiness, victory over sin and fullness of the Holy Spirit that leads to power in our witness has been a meaningful way to spend my life,” King said.
His ministry began when he served as a summer youth director while studying at Belmont University in Nashville. After graduation King was recreation assistant and then interim minister of recreation at Two Rivers Baptist Church there, going on to earn two degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in preparation to be a bivocational church planter.
“During my final year in seminary I made plans for what I was going to do for God and asked Him to bless them,” King said with a laugh. “But He directed me in other meaningful areas.”
King began work in youth church training at the Baptist Sunday School Board (now Lifeway Christian Resources) in 1985, where he collaborated with Avery Willis (author of “MasterLife”) to develop resources for LIFE — the Lay Institute For Equipping. In 1986 King and Willis met Henry Blackaby, a director of missions in Vancouver, British Columbia, who was speaking to a national lay renewal conference in Toccoa, Georgia.
“When we heard Henry, we realized God had entrusted him with a significant message for the Body of Christ,” King recalled. “Henry’s biblical approach of looking to see where God was working and joining Him caused a radical shift in my ministry.”
Over the next two years Blackaby and King developed “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God.” Once they clarified “seven realities of experiencing God,” Blackaby was asked to teach at a week-long conference at Glorieta [Baptist] Conference Center in New Mexico.
King wanted the anticipated study to read as if Blackaby was teaching the reader one-on-one. He reorganized conference transcripts into book form and added Bible study passages and learning activities.
While King was developing the workbook, Blackaby became director of the office of prayer and spiritual awakening for the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) in Alpharetta, Georgia. For two years Blackaby traveled across America teaching the “Experiencing God” message.
“In October of 1990 we had nine courses in the LIFE Learning System,” King recalled.
“‘MasterLife’ and ‘Disciple’s Prayer Life’ were the most popular and the best sellers. But ‘Experiencing God’ quickly began to outpace everything else. By 1994 we were selling close to one-half million copies each year. We didn’t have a grand marketing campaign; people who were experiencing God recommended the course to others and it spread by word-of-mouth.
“The appeal also crossed denominational lines,” King said, “since ‘Experiencing God’ taught things about which we can walk together despite our doctrinal differences.”
He noted the “seven realities” of the study have revolutionized the lives of countless believers, including many at the Louisiana State Penitentiary [Angola Prison] where it’s been taught for two decades.
Currently King is developing an “Experiencing God” workshop to introduce a new generation to its life-transforming message.
In 1992 King left the Sunday School Board sensing God’s leadership to collaborate with Blackaby on another book, “Fresh Encounter: God’s Pattern for Revival and Spiritual Awakening” (published in 1993).
“I knew there was a great urgency for revival, and I needed to devote my full-time attention to the project to get it ready on a fast track,” King said.
“I was also invited to speak to other groups, and I couldn’t do this because of my workload. Once I announced my resignation, a non-profit organization took me on as a ‘project’ for about 18 months so I could write ‘Fresh Encounter’ without worrying about finances.”
During the following nine years of what he calls “self-employment,” King wrote a number of other discipleship courses including, “The Mind of Christ,” “In God’s Presence” and “Come to the Lord’s Table.”
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he worked as a prayer strategist with the North American Mission Board in New York City in an outreach called “New Hope New York.”
He later returned to Lifeway for another 15 years as a discipleship and church health specialist. There he collaborated with others to develop “The Growing Disciples” series, and authored the introductory title, “The Call to Follow Christ: Six Disciplines for New and Growing Believers.”
Looking back, King said he realized God used his interest in archaeology and arrowheads as a tool to bring him to a deeper love, spending time in nature and communing with Him.
“I believe every Christian must seek God’s will above all else and be obedient to Him whatever the cost,” King said. “God wants our absolute surrender to Him, and His plans for us are good.”