My wife makes tasty candy every year at Christmas. For the past several years, we’ve shared some of these delectable treasures with our neighbors. This past Christmas, we decided to distribute to our non-Christian neighbors not only chocolate-covered peanut clusters, but also a copy of the gospel of John. We’re praying for God to use His word to save our neighbors.
Whenever God’s Spirit grants understanding (see Matthew 13:11), it’s always in partnership with the message of Christ. I want to help you think about how you and your church can strategically distribute God’s word, but first consider a few stories about people who, through the Scriptures, were made “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
A Bible-smoking Soldier
A chaplain had given away all but one of his New Testaments. He urged one particular soldier to take the final copy. The man said that he would accept his gift so that he could role the pages up and use them for cigarettes. Off he went with his “pack” of cigarettes.
Two months later, the chaplain was staying at an inn out in the countryside. The lady in charge of the inn was sad, prompting the chaplain to inquire about her sorrow. She told him about the recent loss of her son. But then she said, “I’m sad for losing him, but I’m not really sad, you know.” The man asked, “What do you mean?” She said, “Well, this last year, he’s been quite different. He’s had such peace, and as his end drew near, he was actually happy, all because of a little book. I’ve got it upstairs—would you like to see it?” Of course, the chaplain wanted to see it very much.
So the innkeeper retrieved a little book from the upstairs. The man immediately recognized it as one of the New Testaments he had given away in the army barracks. He opened it, and there were six or seven pages missing. He then remembered what the one soldier had said about making cigarettes with the pages. As he investigated the book further, he found this written on the inside cover: “Here is a book which I once despised, then read and through it found salvation in Jesus Christ.”
Another Bible-smoking Man
Gaylord Kambarami served as the General Secretary of the Bible Society of Zimbabwe. He once offered a man a New Testament, but the man responded that he would just roll the pages and use them as cigarettes. Gaylord replied, “I will make a deal with you. I will give you this book if you promise to read every page before you smoke it.” The man agreed to the arrangement, so he gave him the New Testament and they went separate ways.
Approximately fifteen years later, Gaylord was attending a convention. The speaker on the platform unexpectedly recognized him, pointed him out to the crowd, and said, “This man doesn’t remember me, but I remember him. About 15 years ago he tried to sell me a New Testament. When I refused to buy it he gave it to me, even though I told him I would use the pages to roll cigarettes. He made me promise to read the pages before I smoked them. Well, I smoked Matthew. I smoked Mark. Then I smoked Luke. But when I got to John 3:16, I couldn’t smoke any more. My life was changed from that moment!” He soon became an evangelist, devoting his days to telling others the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A Lonely, Desperate Man in a Hotel Room
In the past decade, The Gideons International have given away hundreds of millions of Bibles. Who hasn’t seen a Gideons’ Bible in a hotel drawer? For some, it has meant their salvation. Here’s John’s story:
- One night, I sat in my hotel room, totally defeated by self and sin. Through my excesses, my health was deteriorated, my family was rupturing, and my business was ruined.
- In my loneliness and desperation, I picked up a Gideon Bible and began to read. The Spirit of God used the word of God to bring me to repentance and faith. I had entered that hotel room totally defeated. I left it the next morning wholly delivered. God’s grace in Christ had conquered my life.
Increasingly Curious El Salvadoran Villagers
A man who owned a market in El Salvador used the pages of a Bible to wrap some of the produce his customers bought. Sometimes they would make it home with a single page, but other times two or more. Instead of throwing those sheets away, the villagers began reading them. Eventually, they began to piece the pages together, and the stories began to make sense. These curious customers eagerly awaited the next pages, and then the next. Going to the market had never been so exciting! Soon, some were converted and a church began.
I hope those stories motivate you to get God’s word into the hands of unbelievers. But how can you and/or your church do this? Here are a few possibilities:
Have a few New Testaments (or even single Gospels) with you at all times. If possible, churches should make copies available for members to give away. Ask God for opportunities to distribute them. You may want to put a personal testimony in the front cover about how the Bible has changed you, along with your contact information. I paste the following inside the cover of the gospels of John I give away:
Before you throw this booklet away, would you read this one page? At some time in your life, you may have been given a flyer or a booklet like this. Please know that my purpose in giving you this booklet is not at all intended to waste your time or to insult you.
Over the centuries, this little book has completely changed the lives of millions of people. It contains the 21 chapters of the Gospel of John. This “good news” was written nearly 2,000 years ago and is a true story. It was recorded by the apostle John, who was an eyewitness to the life and miracles of Jesus of Nazareth. Would you consider reading 1 chapter a day for the next 3 weeks? It will take you only 5 minutes a day for the next 21 days. 5 minutes a day is really a small sacrifice considering the results could be life changing.
In this book you will learn about the Son of God who came into the world performing many signs and miracles attesting to His authority. As you read, consider His compassion on the weakest members of society, His contempt for religious hypocrites, and the authority in His words. Consider His willingness to suffer unjustly and even die for crimes He didn’t commit. Consider His relationship to His heavenly Father. This Gospel says He is none other than God in the flesh.
God was gracious to send His Son with a message for you and for me. He carefully recorded this message in the Bible through men like the apostle John, and He has preserved it over the centuries like no other book in human history. It has been said that the Bible is different from every book. Why? Most books you simply read, but the Bible reads you.
If you do read this book and have any questions, feel free to email me with questions. I’m a pastor, so I respond to questions about spiritual matters very often. Write me at s____@_______.org. If you would rather not write to me, you can submit any question to the following website: www.WayToGod.org
May the Lord Bless You,
Feel free to copy or adapt that note for your own evangelism. (I borrowed heavily from another believer in my church.)
“Outreach” copies of the gospels (usually just John), the New Testament, or the entire Bible are available online at very cheap prices. Your church may want to purchase these in bulk, which will make the cost even less. Investigate the layout of the Scriptures before purchasing too many—not all are easy to read. Also, remember that the elderly often need Bibles with large print.
Local gatherings like fairs and festivals typically have booths which local organizations can rent to display their goods and to give away items. Your church could rent a space not primarily to get people into your gatherings, but to get the Bible into their lives. You may try to have church members at the table in shifts in order to meet people and to evangelize. If this isn’t possible, someone will have to go each day to keep the table organized and the Scriptures readily available.
If you (or someone you love) are admitted to a hospital, you will develop relationships with nurses, doctors, and other workers. Perhaps there will be at least one person you would like to thank with a kind note and a New Testament. If the stay is lengthy, a card to a larger group (all of the nurses?) would be appropriate. Along with expressing your appreciation for their work, you could include your thoughts about the verses that were especially precious to you while in the hospital and an encouragement to read the Scriptures you are giving them.
Foster parenting is increasingly common among believers. Some of the foster children stay in a home for several years before moving elsewhere. Be sure they leave your home with a well-made Bible.
What if the child is too young to read? Send the boy or girl off with a New Testament. Write of your love for him or her inside the cover, and express the worth of the Bible and the extreme value of reading it or hearing it read.
Bible translation work
Perhaps the following statistics will motivate you to become a Bible translator: According to www.wycliffe.org, there are over 6,800 languages spoken in the world today, but over 2,000 of these languages are without even a portion of the Bible. Approximately 350 million people speak the 2,000+ languages where the Bible is not found.
There are multiple opportunities for using audio Bibles in your own language, including with those experiencing disabilities such as blindness (see www.audiobiblesfortheblind.org). Consider also using recordings for those who speak a different language. For example, if you are taking a ministry trip to a different country, visit www.faithcomesbyhearing.com and contemplate giving away their audio Bible ministry tools—such as “The Proclaimer,” a “digital player dedicated to playing God’s Word in the local heart language.”
I once taught the “Parable of the Sower” (see Mark 4:1-20) with this simple outline:
- The kingdom of God advances only if the gospel is proclaimed. Jesus said, “The sower sows the word” (4:14).
- The gospel is rejected for a variety of reasons. These reasons would include the activity of Satan, “tribulation or persecution,” and “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” (4:15-19).
- The gospel is embraced by some. Jesus said, “But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixty-fold and a hundredfold” (4:20).
My ultimate aim in the message was to encourage “sowers” that Christ is building His church, so we can proclaim expectantly and hopefully. Yes, the gospel will be rejected, but God has His people who will bow to King Jesus.
So keep sharing the gospel. We can do this in a variety of ways like conversations in the backyard or evangelistic Bible studies at work, but I’m urging you to think carefully about one specific strategy: the distribution of the Scriptures.
Gaylord Kambarami (the same man mentioned in “The Bible-smoking Soldier” story above) was on his way to his home in Zimbabwe when he was stopped by a military roadblock. The trunk of his car was full of Bibles, but he was accused of having weapons. When a soldier opened the trunk, Kambarami was again accused of carrying weapons. He was shocked and told the soldier again that he had no weapons—just Bibles! The soldier looked at him with a warm smile and replied, “That’s what I am talking about, brother. Don’t you realize? That is ammunition!”
- This story was told by Stuart Olyott in a sermon on Psalm 12 titled, “When Times are Bad,” located at www.knowyourbiblerecordings.org, accessed July 28, 2012.
- Harold Sala, Why You Can Have Confidence in the Bible: Bridging the Distance Between Your Heart and God’s Word (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 203-4.
-  This story is located at www.gideons.org, accessed July 25, 2012.
- Sala, 204.
- http://www.csmonitor.com/1985/0502/zbib.html, accessed January 3, 2013.