Dear CCW family,
I recently calculated that we’ve had about 2000 meetings in our home over the last ten years, many of them packing out the place. That’s around four per week! When I think about all the times we’ve “cleaned up before they come,” I break out in a cold sweat. Let’s just say, we’ve put out a lot of chairs and swept a lot of floors.
But really, think about what a privilege it is to use the home for training and for the gospel. I do love it. And Pam loves it also, even though most of the burden falls on her for the place itself.
There is something here we must remember though: constant hospitality can make you cranky. That’s the reason Peter reminded us to “show hospitality without complaint.” We’ve done some of that complaining from time to time, but the overall joy we have in using our place is our main emotion. Strangely, it just wouldn’t seem like Christianity without it. I mean it.
Sometimes we think hard about buying another place that can accommodate more and can park people easier and provide the kind of “people flow” and separate spaces that would work better. It’s a serious consideration for us only because people are important. We have zero (let me emphasize “zero”) desire to clean more, but we do want to serve more. Pray for us on this issue if you think of us. Life is short and we want it to count in this way.
I grew up in a great home, but, we didn’t have many others inside our walls. I do remember times when we invited people over, but those times were rare-maybe just once a year. Back then, it was a big ordeal-too big to do often. As my friend Don Whitney once told me when preparing for some special guests, “We cleaned for the Queen of England.” We’ve done that kind of cleaning for folks also at times, but it’s not sustainable. Hospitality is about people, not the place, we remind ourselves. If we make hospitality a chore, we won’t do it. We’ve come to think, “Hey, we’re going to clean the house sometime this week; why not now?” and “So what if they see something out of place? They might just think we’re normal.” At the same time, we strategize sometimes about how things can be easier when we make this closet about “that” and that space about “this.”
On the other side, sure, make it nice for them. If they spend the night, do something extra. Some hospitality is about a memorable experience; other hospitality is just about providing a floor that people can sit on. Know the difference.
Could I challenge you to think about doing more hospitality both for groups and for families and individuals? What a difference it can make. You’ve got just a few more years on this planet; we’ll rest later. Live for others while you have the opportunity!
By the way, one of our communicators has a new article on hospitality if you care to read more: Creating a Culture of Hospitality. It’s very helpful in practical ways.
When I found out that I was going to speak at a college in Malang, Indonesia, and perhaps 300-400 students would be waiting for me, I quickly organized in my head how I could share the gospel most effectively. We have to be ready in our travels for such times. There they were when we walked in the gymnasium, sitting on the floor quietly waiting for me to speak. There was only one blaring mic, so I gave it to the interpreter in order to be free to move around and get “up close and personal” with the group.
What did God do that day?
Answer: I have no idea. And neither do you most of the time you share the beautiful gospel with others. Young men and women heard the truth, I can tell you that for sure. There was no equivocating. They heard it in memorable ways, in my estimation. They seemed to be listening. Some appeared thoughtful. Many came by to speak to me afterwards and to express their thanks. But only God knows what actually happened.
Yesterday I made other evangelistic forays into the lives of a few other people aware that life is short and the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation.” What is God is doing with those words?
A few observations that can help you understand evangelism:
- It’s OK if we don’t know what God is doing with our gospel words. Much of what Jesus or Paul did was preparation for a future harvest. Thousands heard them without any immediate positive response.
- It’s right to speak of Christ even when people reject. The truth is, everyone is a rejecter by nature. Until that person is converted, he or she is refusing to believe.
Sadly, the gospel sometimes serves to judge. Rejected truth from God is nothing to take lightly. God says that many are “storing up wrath for the day of wrath” by turning away from the words we share. In a strange way, this authenticates and glorifies God’s message and the character of God. That’s important.
- Most of the time, those who are converted hear the gospel multiple times. This means that you may be a strategic part of the process, but obtaining understanding of gospel truth is a process after all.
- You can share with hope. That is, you can share Christ in whatever way you are able, anticipating that the effects may only be discovered in another world. Imagine the joy of meeting up with those who were impacted by your life and your simple and sometimes stumbling words, words that were rejected by them at the time. It’s going to be exciting to see what God has really done with our faltering speech about Him.
- Remember, God always stoops to use your inadequate words. That never changes. He condescends to use you because he has chosen to allow you to participate. But the power is in the truth itself and in the One behind it.
- Prayer and the gospel go together. Paul often asked for it in relation to his presentation and boldness and clarity. We should pray and ask others to pray for us.
Please pray for our evangelistic endeavors. Our team is involved in evangelism in several ways. Some of our work is in writing. Our evangelistic works are being used by others all over the world and is, thankfully, even translated in other languages. We want to write clearly and convincingly so that believers everywhere will have appropriate gospel material to use. Here are a few places you can find those: Pursuing God and Wasted Faith can be ordered here for discount prices; our evangelistic website can be a tool for you to refer to others; and formatted evangelistic inserts are available for distribution from our writers.
We also engage ourselves every week in strategic gospel discussions in various places. Right now, for instance, I am in a coffee shop ONLY because it provides more opportunity for gospel encounters. And, as we speak throughout the nation and overseas, there are often amazing times afforded us for presenting truth to those who need it most. Please, please pray for us about these things. We are discussing regularly new ways to make the good news known.
Thanks so much for your participation in the gospel with us.
When Ball Becomes Baal
We’ve seen nearly 70,000 responses on social media to a simple article called “When Ball Becomes Baal.” The article is on our site, but the huge response has come from the “For the Church” blog site at this address. Can you help us spread this small but important article with your friends, church, and on social media? It seems to be the right time to pass this on. From the comments, the Lord seems to be using it to help families sort out their priorities. That’s important.
Family Life Today
FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey surprised us by including portions of a seven-part radio broadcast with them on “How Children Come to Faith in Christ” in a magazine style presentation. It features what they believe are some of their most used broadcasts over their 25 years of broadcasting. You can hear it here.
Yours with joy,
Dear CCW family,
An intense prairie fire in our border state, Kansas, destroyed numerous homes, cattle and wildlife almost overnight last week. Whipping winds erratically threw the flames forward consuming vast ranges of the Prairie during calving season. Guns were loaded and cattle were shot to relieve them of the horrible death they would die in the flames. Many lost 90% of their animals. Houses and barns were eaten up by the blazes. Lives were changed overnight. History was made, but not cherished.
Our friends received a touching gift of love as the flames marched forward. A school teacher and large animal veterinarian, the couple is well known and much loved by the community. A neighbor drove his tractor to their house and drove around the house in ever enlarging circles, plowing up the ground and burying the lush Prairie grass, the fuel for the flame. Their home was saved, while many neighbors around them lost everything.
I like that word, don’t you? Paul makes an astounding claim in 2 Timothy 4:18, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever.” Traveling around the country and world, our team is really appreciative of such statements in the Bible.
But . . . “every evil attack?” Isn’t that a little strong?
We will never know until we arrive in the other world just how many times God has plowed around our house and protected us. Because we were delivered, most assaults by the enemy were non-incidents. And we won’t recognize them any better than a toddler recognizes the providential hand of a parent that kept him from the oncoming traffic, or got her to the doctor in time, or latched the baby gate at the top of the stairs. Daily, we are being rescued from calamity. Do you think about that?
For the believer, the one final deliverance will come, in whatever form God wishes. That one may not look like deliverance, but it most certainly will be.
Among its distinctive charms, there is a lot not to like about India. I don’t want to offend my Indian friends, but there are many aspects of large city life in India, a country of 1.25 billion inhabitants, that do not appeal. The air is rancid and choking, the dust is pervasive, and the traffic impossible. Dangers lurk. I suffered from two bouts of dysentery (“Delhi belly”) on this last trip, though I was very careful with the water. We like to think about that word, “deliverance,” when in places like India. But all the negatives put aside, there are beautiful Christian people there. And I was allowed to teach some of them on my most recent ministry trip. It was very much worth it.
At Providence Seminary, the students and I interacted a lot on church life over two days of classes. We grappled with subjects such as “Men Given as Gifts to the Church,” “How to Handle Immorality in the Church,” “The Lord’s Supper as a Meal,” and “Models of Church Life and Leadership.” In the FIRE Conference, Rick Anderson, Jason Deutsch (Missionary founder of the school), and I spoke on major “Transforming Truths” and how they apply to ministry and church life. This was the first FIRE Conference outside of North America; we hope it will be the first of many. We also were privileged to share in the graduation exercises and twice in the church which started the seminary. We hope to have an ongoing relationship with this worthy institution.
Just this final encouragement:
In my study of John, I recently met up with this verse: “For not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5). I’m shocked by this statement, actually. Jesus was only beginning his three year earthly ministry. It was the Feast of the Tabernacles, and his brothers were telling him that he should go to the feast in Jerusalem publicly. After all, “no one does anything in secret if he wants to be known publicly.”
But his brothers did not believe in him when they offered their human wisdom. How is it possible that the Messiah, the Son of God, had lived with them 30 years, and yet they did not believe? Later, we find that the brothers became believers. James, the half-brother of Jesus, is the apostle who stays in Jerusalem and is the most notable among them.
If Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him while living with him, is it possible that your brothers or sisters or parents or neighbors would not believe in Christ, even though they see and hear you every day? This argument from the greater to the lesser is easily answered. Yes, it is possible. Even if you’re an exceptional Christian, and even though you speak the gospel, your family may reject Christ.
I recently taught on the amazing chapter 6 of John, in which Jesus performed one of his greatest miracles, the feeding of the 5000. This was his most verifiable miracle because each person there could say it either happened or it didn’t happen. Jesus goes to Capernaum after this miracle, and walks on the water to get there. Then we have one of the greatest discourses in the Bible which we call “The Bread of Life Discourse.” Yet approximately the same number of people are believers at the end of the chapter as at the beginning! Not even the best miracles or teaching of Christ resulted in converts. And that, from the greatest evangelist who ever lived.
This makes the new birth even more miraculous. In fact, Jesus said in the context of his bread discourse that “no one CAN come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” And he also said, “EVERYONE who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to me.” The results of Jesus’ ministry, and ours, are ultimately up to the Father. There are mysteries in those statements, without a doubt, but I take it to be absolutely true, and get much encouragement from them.
After returning from Mumbai, I read a large section out of the biography of William Carey. He labored seven years in India before seeing his first convert. Following that, there were eventually thousands. How can you explain this? Answer: the Father does His will. And this brings him the most glory.
I read another story of a missionary who died thinking almost nothing had happened through his ministry in a hidden part of the world. Yet, when the area was visited many years after his death, there was a vibrant work for God going on, with churches being started by the indigenous people. Does this always happen? No. It’s up to the Father.
If this is so, then we can have tremendous hope. He is able to save even though we are weak, and he is able even when we see little for our efforts now. The wise Father knows what he is doing. And, believe me, he will glorify himself.
Time to end these reflections. Thanks so much for your love and interest in what we do. Please pray much for us: Steve and I will be in Alberta, Canada, within a couple of weeks. Bryan will be leaving for Columbia, South America, just after we return. Kole and I will then be in the Ozarks in Missouri to lead a Bible Intensive. Work with the Ethiopian church across town continues with Kole and Bryan. Many other responsibilities are ahead which call for God, the Deliverer and Sovereign, to superintend. Your prayers are so important in all this.
Dear CCW family,
In Bangladesh, in the teeming city of Dhaka, I rolled along in a rickshaw pulled by a bicycle, when this thought came to me, “My driver could make a wrong turn, and I could be lost in such a way that it would be impossible to find me!” The city was large, all the names of streets and buildings and stores were unusually strange, and I didn’t even know the name of the hotel where I was staying, nor did I have a phone that would work in the country. But, I kept on rolling and got to my destination . . . No problem.
I will be in Mumbai, India, when you read this letter. The trip promises to be an eventful one. I hope I will not get lost in Mumbai either, another sprawling supercity of our world. I will teach seminarians for two days, and then speak at a FIRE Conference for pastors. I will also teach in some churches. The next time I write you I will tell you about those experiences.
It is in such cities that I not only feel the possibility of being lost from my hosts, but the tragic lostness of the people spiritually who press against each other on the streets all around me.
This morning, here in KC, I spent two hours talking with missionary Trevor Holloway who is now in Cusco, Peru. We’re working through the book of Galatians together for several weeks. It’s already been very fruitful. But we also talked about the situation there, and what Trevor faces in order to rescue people from spiritual lostness in his context. Culturally, the Peruvians are warm, emotive people. You find the Pentecostal churches going to excess in exploiting those emotions and often, sadly, offering nothing substantive biblically. Trevor wonders if the gospel is clearly found there.
The Catholic Church, in one way or another, impacts much of the culture in Peru. Like the Pentecostals, the Catholic people do not do their own thinking about the Bible, but are taught to take the church’s view about everything, without probing the Bible on their own. Added to all this, animism coats almost all spheres of life.
So many are lost. The laborers are still few by comparison. We at CCW are always thinking about lostness, and attempting to do what we can do to bring light, both here and overseas. It’s an overwhelming task and we feel we do so little, yet it is necessary to persist, without slowing down.
Thank you for praying for us and helping us do our work. But let me ask these questions—What are you doing to disseminate the Gospel? How do you support and pray for the work of evangelism? Do you speak of Christ to your family and friends and work associates? Do you live Christ before them so that they ask about the hope that is in you?
When this world is over, and all our work is finished, there will still be many, many lost people. But this cannot deter us. God knows what he is doing, and we are his instruments. We all must be faithful.
We love and appreciate you all and thank you for your concern and help. I can’t write a personal note for those who receive a hard copy this time, but please know that we love you.
Yours with joy,
Dear CCW family,
It’s the night before the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. Downstairs ten Muller Center students are talking intensely about the book of Romans with CCW teachers, Kole and Bryan. We’ve had a long day, including an inspiring meeting this morning with the four of us who do the traveling and principle work of Christian Communicators Worldwide—and our four insightful, perfectly matched wives that share in the work in so many important ways.
As we drank coffee and tea and ate delicious breads by the fire that a couple of the ladies had prepared, these four men plus our wives, rehearsed the many ways God had “rebuked the devourer” and supplied what we needed for living and ministering over these last months. When God “rebukes the devourer” (that is, when He reduces or takes away the cost of something and keeps the enemy from devouring our income, see Malachi 3:10-11) it is as good as receiving a gift for the same amount. Those accounts were so inspiring to hear. We discussed the integral part giving plays in God’s supply. We also posited and sought answers for important questions about trusting God for our needs. We met just to talk to each other about that one issue—money.
This kind of meeting is important because each of us looks to the Lord alone for our supply, without receiving a salary. And, we don’t ask for money from anyone. If the Lord doesn’t come through for us at all times, we’re in trouble very quickly, in the same way a toddler courts certain destruction if her mother doesn’t literally save her a thousand times from pain or even death. Sometimes amazing rescues take place, and we don’t even acknowledge it because, like the toddler, we just don’t perceive the danger we are in. But when we are aware of our need and we cry out, and know we’re close to trouble, He is a “very present help” then also. I have to tell you—He is a good Father! Though He sometimes snatches us up at the very last moment.
It might seem unnecessary for us to live like this. After all, we could get another job and make money another way. And we all know that is a legitimate and normal way of life and one which God designed and wants for most of us. Most people honor God that way. But God has called our team to a different life. For one thing, we travel, making holding down another job all but impossible. And, as we expand, we just have too much to do ministry-wise so that another responsibility doesn’t work well.
But there is really something much bigger behind our decision.
A Higher Reason
Our big reason is that we want to demonstrate that God answers prayer and is exactly who He says He is in character and action toward the trusting believer. It’s about testimony and His reputation. If we can live in such a way that shows that, we think it would cause other believers to trust God more and to not be so fearful. We also believe that those outside of Christ might be convinced of the reality of God though the life that we live. That’s why we have never asked others, except God, for money.
Numerous times I’ve been flying or meeting up with people here or there who ask the common question about what I do in life. When they find out what is going on, including the travel to so many parts of the US and faraway countries, it is not at all unusual for them to ask about how such a thing is financed. I find an opening there to show them how amazing God is and how week after week and year after year, He supplies us, though we have never asked anyone for money. In a world that believes that Christian speakers are in it for the money, the answer they get often totally surprises them. And this has led sometimes to important conversations about the God who actually exists and how He acts in our personal history. They listen, on the main, with a new kind of respect that seems to enhance the sharing of the good news.
But then, everyone must trust God. It’s not just about money, is it? Not really. Money is the kind of thing that is exacting though, and it either will be there or will not. So, it is a good place to grow in faith. But there is so much more to trust God for, and it is what we should all be about all the time. Rachel, Kole’s wife, was in a terrible accident a couple of years ago, jarring her so strongly when she hit a concrete barrier at the bottom of a ravine that she broke the car seat. She wandered for a couple of miles through the rain not even knowing where she was. Now, she has a constant headache and other pain. Do you think she needs to trust God? Add two preschoolers to the recipe, and you will see how every day is a matter of prayer and wonderful provision of God.
Our need to trust God surely intersects more than just “some” things, but “everything”—literally everything—in life. We need the help of God because we don’t see what is around the next corner. We don’t see the ice on the porch, the mood change in our co-worker, the economic free-fall, or the power of the evil one. Nor can we discern if it is best to escape a problem, or to be submerged into a conflict, calamity, or loss to make us into GODLY men or women. And we don’t see the next person with whom we could have a meaningful conversation about Christ, or the next individual who is longing for someone to help. We have to depend on God. “The just by faith shall live,” is not only a description of the way we begin, but also how life is to be lived to the end.
To this reality, Paul said, “Pray without ceasing.”
Speaking of Prayer
We sincerely ask for your prayers as we do our work. We don’t have a private stock of strength apart from God. We can’t save up deliverance. We can’t bottle power. All of our strength and ability and effects are derived from Him. Because this is so true, please pray for us. That’s not easy to do, but we really are grateful to those who are able to do so.
Our team will be in India, Columbia and Canada the first of this year, along with several stateside venues. Let’s pray, “Lord, rend the heavens and come down!”
Dear CCW family,
It’s late as I write you. I’m sitting in the antique oak captain’s chair at my “desk” – a white folding table. I’m not in an impressive study wallpapered by shelves of books peering down at me. That’s nice, but I’ve lodged my remaining books downstairs and have camped out for writing purposes in a spare bedroom. It’s perfect. I used to wonder at Francis Schaeffer, the Christian philosopher and apologist, for the fact that he composed his books in his bedroom. Now I’m doing the same. The end of his bed was his desk, but I have this very adequate table. I love the simplicity of it, and I value the window I face overlooking the rooftops of my neighbors. I often stare out that window and think, “This is what I write and work for – people like these.”
I do have one inspiring item in this room outside of my Bible and Bible helps, a well-done painting by Cynthia Barber. It depicts country people being baptized in the river, while other church members look on. The original print was given to me by a professor friend at the seminary where I used to work, Midwestern, here in KC. I’m motivated by it because of a story. Let me tell it to you.
Lavaca. Heard of it?
When A. P. Elliff, my grandfather (born 1887) was called to pastor in Lavaca, Arkansas, in 1921, the river was overflowing to such an extent that the family could not cross. Soon however, the ferry could cross again and the young family of four began their work. A. P. wished to hold a protracted meeting at the beginning of his ministry there. He removed the window sashes so that the air could flow better and turned the pews, arranging the pulpit on the side. As crowds grew, families on wagons would pull up to the open windows because the church building was packed.
This meeting became one of the most notable early rural revivals in Arkansas’ history, and is recorded in a book on revival written by Dr. Mark Coppenger. During that meeting, 108 people were converted and were baptized in the Vache Grasse Creek in 63 minutes (thanks to A. P.’s organizational skills). Others joined who were believers as well. The welcome line led from the door of the church building all the way to the street. To this day, the Lavaca church is a major influence in that area of Arkansas.
When my father, A. P.’s son, was 89, his children, myself included, took him to several places over three days of travel which related to his growing up. It was a memorable trip full of tears and laughs. The last stop was at the Vache Grasse Creek. We tried to relive the experience of 83 years earlier. With tears we sang old hymns by the creek that likely were sung during that baptism, and all prayed that God would make us faithful to preach the word just as A. P. Elliff had been. That’s why I love that artist’s baptism painting.
The baptism reminds me that big things can happen, when God wishes.
Discussion at the Coffee Shop
Bryan and I were discussing life and ministry today at the Eleos coffee shop. He and Joey and Lucas live in the worn 1940s neighborhood that I grew up in, called the “Northeast,” working with Hispanic neighbors, and other ethnic groups, while writing and traveling for CCW. We both were concerned about seeing more people come to Christ. We sow lots of seed. But we need to see much more harvest. We were talking about method, truths, apologetics, but also power.
What is power for the Christian? Simply this – the positive effects that God gives to the presentation of the message. That’s what we need. That’s what God gave A.P. Elliff in that rural town in 1921. It was God’s “surprising work,” a term Jonathan Edwards used to describe the work of God in Northampton, Massachusetts, 100 years earlier during another even more powerful visitation of God in that rural town. We tell the truth, but we need more than truth. We need this power, this “surprising work.” No one was ever converted without encountering such power, even on the individual level. Only God, after all, can make true Christians.
And this is the potency you need also, as a wife, a children’s Bible study teacher, a student, an employee, an entrepreneur, a pastor, or a retired person. Without it, we will make no lasting difference. He promises it to us, but we must wait for it, trust for it, look to Him and expect it.
India, South Africa, Columbia, Ethiopia, Zambia, Canada and ??
We face many decisions about travel and ministry during this period. Please pray with us as we make decisions about the countries listed above. What a privilege though – wouldn’t you agree? Though we are making plans for overseas trips, we are also open to more stateside opportunities for our “communicators” – Steve Burchett, Kole Farney, Bryan Elliff, and me. And add Selamab Assefa who also travels with us to Ethiopia as a CCW team member. Steve is speaking this week in Ohio; Kole at the Ethiopian church here in town; Bryan at a church in TX while visiting his wife’s family. Pray for all the right doors to open for the ministry of Bible teaching that we do. And don’t forget to ask for power.
We love you and wish you the best Christmas and New Year.
Dear CCW family,
Years ago, as a much younger man, I went to Cripple Creek, Colorado, at the request of a friend, to share Christ with people in the town and speak just once in the church he attended. I do hope this town has developed for the better now, but at the time it was essentially a drinking town. The work for the church there was difficult, and few knew Christ. As my friend scrubbed the trays and cookware in the back of the pizza place on that night, I wondered just how effective this experience would be. But, for lack of a better way of explaining it, I had come because I felt strongly I should be there.
Some of the details are a blur at this point in my life, but one experience rises to the top. We were naïve but convinced believers. As we stared at the main street in town, we knew there wasn’t much hope to make an impact unless we went into the bars. So, with some trepidation, we made the choice and walked in. I’m not a bar kind of person, as most of you know, so this was a courageous step for me. We found a manager and asked him if I could speak to the group when the band took a break. He agreed!
I swallowed hard and stepped on the stage a few minutes later. There were perhaps twenty or so patrons sitting around in the dark room. It was as much a shock to them as to me. As I began to talk, some began to hoot and talk back to me, but others listened quietly. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I noticed three men sitting at a table to my left, paying attention carefully. I spoke the gospel as convincingly as I knew how, praying that it would somehow get through to those it was intended to reach.
When I came down, we encountered the men at that table. Two were twins, young men in their twenties, and they were interested in talking more. As we conversed, they believed in Christ! We took their names and addresses, and left to try it again in another bar.
It’s not every time you speak that you know the effects of your gospel message, but in this case, something very real happened to these young men. We kept in contact, and my friend worked with them also. They appeared to be truly converted. In fact, they were instrumental in bringing another friend to Christ, and their mother, as I remember.
Now, what’s the point? The point is that God does the work of bringing life to others. Sure, the Spirit gave us courage we didn’t normally possess, and we went into a strange context for the gospel. My gospel presentation lacked a lot, I’m sure. I’d love to hear it again, just to see what it was really like, but I can assure you it wasn’t too amazing on its own. We were sincere; that’s about it. But who could doubt that God himself had drawn just the right people into the path of the gospel, and had simultaneously brought two eager young men to the bar that day in order to eternally deliver four souls?
That story encourages me today to be bold. I hope it does you as well. Yet, even the level of my boldness on that day is attributed to God. And think of the depressed state of the young men. They were ready to hear because of discouragement in their lives. God’s Spirit had taught them that sin didn’t pay well. They could now listen.
Let’s Talk More About Jesus
Recently I posted this simple line on the Internet: “Christians, let’s talk more about Jesus.”
We must. How can we do otherwise? The nations are in turmoil. I just read in Forbes that our unfunded liabilities in the US are $127 trillion, equal to 1.1 million dollars per taxpayer. We are in a vulnerable place. In addition, Christians are threatened all over the world, and more are being persecuted than we can imagine. I was just with the international leaders of The Voice of the Martyrs for a retreat, and I can tell you that the suffering is immense for believers these days.
Therefore…we must talk more about Jesus.
Please pray for our team here, that we will be faithful to do just that. We feel compelled to make Christ known. We want to strengthen churches to do that job, through teaching the Bible and modeling the kind of lifestyle that motivates believers.
Our team had four retreats in October, and we spoke in other places. For instance, Kole and Bryan are teaching in an Ethiopian church regularly, seeking to help about forty youth to understand the gospel. We want to stay busy for Christ. Please pray that we can fill our lives with ministry that counts.
As we think about next year, some of you may wish to line up retreats and speaking engagements with our team early. We will do all we can to work out dates for some in our team to be with you. You can contact Steve at email@example.com to think through options.
We’re thankful for Midwestern Baptist College here in KC, connected to Midwestern Seminary, for the upcoming opportunity to teach a Bible lab on the Sermon on the Mount starting in January. We hopefully will have many opportunities for doing this sort of thing in the future. This is through their Contextualized Leadership Development program (CLD), and provides certificate hours for that, as well as elective hours for college students. The credit hour for this first (six-week) lab is free to the students! Let us know if you are interested.
It often amazes us how God provides through people like you. We’ve done this thirty years now, and He has never let us down. I can tell you, however, that God has often tested us and kept it “interesting” right up until the last moment over and over again. Our team (me, Steve Burchett, Kole Farney and Bryan Elliff) have one source for meeting our needs of our ministry and families, the Lord himself. Each of our families looks to the Lord alone without a salary. We are much like baby birds in the nest, with open beaks, waiting for God to bring what we need. And, amazingly, He does. We just want to brag in the Lord about that, and also to be an encouragement to all of you. And thanks to you who have been the instrument to send us help online or through the mail. It’s such an exciting thing to see God providing as we exercise our not-too-perfect faith in Him.
With much love,
Dear CCW family,
I was so encouraged about the work that we are allowed to do in the US and overseas when I read this report from Ron and Patricia Owens about ministry we had together in Slovakia just after the Communists fell from power. These were the days of The Velvet Revolution. I think you will find it stimulating also:
FREE AT LAST!
We recall watching on television, along with millions worldwide, as the Velvet Revolution came to a conclusion on December 29. 1989. Having previously ministered in Czechoslovakia when it was under Communist rule, little did we realize that within six weeks we would be witnessing what can only be explained as the sovereign hand of God intervening in the affairs of men.
February 12 -25, 1990
Kosice (Pron: Kosheetsay)
Kosice Newspaper Article (Translation):
Without tickets or special passes, people were allowed to get into the Great Hall of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Slovakia. (Known as the “Communist White House.”) They came to attend a Christian concert, an evening of Christian songs presented by Ron Owens, Director of the International Congress on Revival, and his wife, Patricia, both seen singing in the above picture. They come from Texas, U.S.A. Also with them was Jim Elliff, a minister from Little Rock, Arkansas.
Ron and Patricia write their own songs and also preach. They were able to involve the 1200 people in a time of group singing. This service was sponsored by the local Baptist church congregation that has an average attendance of 120 believers and its pastor, Juraj Pribula.
Tracing God’s Hand
As you might imagine, when we first walked into that auditorium where we were to hold the event that evening, we felt “goose bumps.” This was the place where only the Communist Party had met, where all their laws were passed, that is up until the Velvet Revolution had ended six weeks before, on December 29, 1989.
At the front of the Great Hall, overlooking the auditorium was a large bust of Klement Gottwald, the first Communist Premier of Czechoslovakia. His photos and monuments were sprinkled all over the country — his influence was notable.
But not tonight!! As we walked in, the young people of the local Baptist church were doing something that two months earlier would have landed them in jail. They had made a banner on which they painted a cross, and over the cross they had printed in Czech, “JESUS IS SALVATION”. Yes, they hung that banner right over the bust of Gottwald so that his nose was touching the back of the cross! When reference was made to this during the evening program, the people cheered!
The audience that night was one of the most responsive we’d ever faced, even though all but those of the Baptist Church, and a few others, may never have heard the gospel before, having been raised to believe that there was NO GOD.
They had placed an upright piano on the platform, and to Patricia’s astonishment, before anything had happened, Pastor Pribula turned to her and said: “I want you to begin the program by playing something on the piano.”
What in the world do you play in such a situation? Help, Lord!!! “The thing that came to mind was an arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which I blended into an arrangement of “Father, we love You, we worship and adore You. Glorify thy Name in all the earth”. The words of that second song were certainly what I was praying that He would do at THAT spot on the earth right then!”
The people in that auditorium heard about God that night. We sang, some in Czech and some in English, sharing the Good News for about an hour, before Jim Elliff got up and preached the wonderful gospel. Then we came back for a couple of additional songs.
There was an unusual sense of God’s presence throughout the evening. Two young men in their mid-twenties spoke to us at the close of the service and said they could not explain why, but, from the moment the first note was sounded on the piano, they began to weep. They were among the many who came to ask questions after the program.
During the time Jim Elliff was with us, in addition to his preaching, God used him in a significant way during counseling times such as in Kosice. We were so thankful he was with us. Every night in every city, after the services, there were “inquirers,” often asking questions for over an hour.
That night, again to our surprise, Kosice television carried “the event” on their late evening news, showing us singing the gospel in the Communist White House! Then, the next morning, the radio station actually carried the part of the service when we had everyone in the audience sing the little chorus, “Alleluia,” that Ron had explained is a word out of heaven’s language that is basically the same in every language on earth. With the help of our friends at the Kosice Baptist church we had learned how to teach them additional words in Czech, using the same melody: “Lord, we praise you, Alleluia; Christ is risen, Alleluia,” etc. What an experience, to be able to proclaim the Gospel and to praise God in that place!
This sort of response occurred from city to city as we traveled from the western most city of Decin to the most eastern city of Kosice—nine cities in all, with more than one service in three of them. In all but two of these cities, these “concerts” as they were billed, were held in city auditoriums, theaters, and Cultural Halls. Think of it! The first time in 42 years that Christians were able to go outside the walls of their churches to share the gospel!
And they made the most of the moment! Posters were made, handbills printed, advertising “an evening of Christian music.” Everywhere, auditoriums were packed. In the city of Lipt. Mikulas, at the foot of the
High Tatra Mountains, even the entrance foyer was filled. Though the people could not even see, they stood for two hours, listening.
Finding ourselves in the middle of all this, we knew we were just a part of something much larger that God was doing. We saw that it was “a new day”, but what would it all mean? We knew that only time would tell. We had learned that with the new freedoms in Eastern Europe, many different groups previously excluded were now wanting to come into these countries. This included not only western evangelistic groups, but also various cults. It was a day of opportunity and challenges.
Looking back—from Patricia’s Journal
February 26, 1990, British Airways flight, Prague to London
“This has been an intense two week period with many reasons for thanksgiving. God entrusted us with special opportunities—some truly historic moments, though I cannot name all the cities and towns we visited. We were privileged to present the first publically announced Christian message in over forty years, in theaters, cultural centers, etc.
“The highlight was in the city of Kosice, where we sang in what is called the Communist White House of the eastern area of Slovakia. The place seated 650, but a newspaper reporter said there were 1200 people packed in the auditorium. The mayor was present, and the event was covered by radio, TV, and newspaper. “Only God knows what He did in the hearts of people, but what an honor to share Christ openly where it has been illegal to do so for so long.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Please pray for our team as we teach the Bible and preach the gospel. God is still working in difficult places. Recently Selamab Assefa and Steve Burchett from our team returned from Ethiopia where there is now an Emergency Status imposed. People they know have been under attack on the highways. Trouble is brewing. But God’s word is there and Selamab and Steve had amazing opportunities teaching leaders.
Let’s continue to sow the seed of the gospel. Iran has become one of the difficult places in the world where Muslims are coming to Christ in record numbers. What appears to be to be impossible isn’t. God can turn the tide in the face of the most daunting opposition. I’m very hopeful of finding out more soon, as Steve and I lead a Bible Intensive for the Voice of the Martyrs international leaders.
Thanks for your participation with us. Please continue to help us by your prayers.
Yours with joy,
Dear CCW family,
We were sitting in a gazebo in a beautiful park close to the port at Portland, Maine. A couple was sitting there quietly with a bedroll and small bag. The woman was wrapped in a blanket. She sat still, staring toward the water. He tried to tenderly talk with her, but she seemed to be in a reflective mood.
Pam and I began rehearsing Hebrews 10 aloud, a passage we are attempting to memorize on our trip. We wanted them to hear. Then I purposefully asked Pam if I could read an email account of a young lady who had been a roommate of a young woman in our church. Pam had already read part of it earlier, but this really wasn’t for her.
As I read the intense story of how this Asian woman recently connected with rural girls in the big city where she had found a job overseas, girls who were essentially enslaved as factory workers in their Communist homeland, and who had been abused in every way, I could see the interest on the woman’s part across the gazebo. She continued to stare at the water, but she was tuned in.
The story of our friend’s roommate touched us. She told how she had encountered these country girls, visited their crowded apartment, and shared Christ with them on multiple occasions. Then the police came and interrogated them all. But God had done his work in these girls’ lives, and some of them were beautifully converted with sobbing and genuine hope in Christ. These newborn Christian girls would have no future questions about the cost of following Christ, for our friend’s friend spent 18 days in jail after that evening to demonstrate it. But she was glowing with praise to God. And found the jail experience to be closer to heaven.
I haven’t done her account justice, but you can know it was a stirring story made all the more poignant because we had prayed for the Asian Christian across the ocean, and we knew that her story could reach a couple across the gazebo, if God willed.
The pensive lady, in a deep Tennessee accent, said, “That was beautiful.” It had moved her as well. We found out that this couple wasn’t camping, but were homeless. They had been on the road for a year. They had been introduced to Christ earlier. The woman, especially, gave strong testimony to her love for Him. It was believable. The man was less convincing, but not uninformed or hardened. They were genuinely interested in all we could say about Christ. They asked for nothing as we left. The homeless woman hugged Pam and said, “I love you.” I’ve dealt with hundreds of homeless people: there was no pretense in them.
We went to the car after goodbyes. Pam sorted through some food we had and took it back up to them. When she returned, I went back with some evangelistic literature I had written. It was all good and all of God.
There are lessons here. First, we have to remember that being on vacation, like we are right now, doesn’t mean we take a vacation from the Lordship of Christ. We must remain on call for God to use us. But the most striking lesson is that life lived with abandon toward God, as proven by the Asian Christian lady, may have many ripples of effect unknown to us. And that is the word we all need to hear.
Thanks for your help in the gospel work that we do. Please pray for Steve Burchett and Selamab Assefa on our team who will be in Ethiopia through the beginning of October. And pray for the rest of us who sow gospel seed daily.
Dear CCW family,
I’ve said that to my wife before, but meant something very different than I’m saying to you now. I meant, “You’re perfect for me.” But that’s not what is written about Christ followers in the New Testament. It’s something much more startling. As you sit there in your not-too-cool pajamas and worn out flip-flops, let it soak in:
For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified [that is, set apart or consecrated to Him as His instrument] (Hebrews 10:14).
These days, I have felt imperfect in so many ways. Yet, what God says goes. And you and I must believe it, or we cannot be happy and have a sound mind simultaneously.
Scores of men and women faithfully come before church altars (for Catholics, it is considered a true altar) yearning for their sins to be removed through what they believe is an actual sacrifice of Christ through the priest’s hands for their sins. They attend the mass, say the rosary, confess to the priest, do acts of penance, seek indulgences (“reciting seven Gloria Patris and one Ave Maria in a single day, for example, would grant you ‘an indulgence of 100 days’”), pray novenas, observe the stations of the cross—but without receiving this perfection based on Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on the cross. They would not like me saying this, but it’s most assuredly not perfection they are receiving, for purgatory awaits them when they die. That’s where they believe they will finally arrive at the perfection which allows them a totally blissful state forever. How long will the purging take? Nobody will say.
The perfection God gives is not a perfection of lifestyle (though no believer will abuse the cross by making it a license for sin), but a perfection of status before God, obtained through the full removal of sins by Christ’s death. In it, God’s justice is satisfied. In fact, the Hebrews writer continues with this statement, quoting Jeremiah 31:
“And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is forgiveness for these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:17-18)
This doesn’t mean that God forgets sins. How could the omniscient God do that? But it means that the believer’s sins are not remembered against him forever. With sins no longer remembered against you, there is no condemnation possible if God is just—and He is. You stand perfectly justified even though you are not perfectly holy in your behavior. Since that is so, there isn’t any other offering for sin that could possibly do anything. It’s finished in this one offering of Christ “once-for-all.”
Now you must forgive me! I preached the gospel again. It just happens. I totally identify with Paul who erupts with it in his writings. What greater thing is there to write about?
Pray for us as we preach that gospel as faithfully as we can. And pray for our Bible teaching in general. As we speak, Bryan is in Columbia teaching in Spanish for two weeks at a Bible School. He’s doing this while sick with a slight fever and stomach problems that are going around. We’ve all done that at times. You teach through the pain. It often goes with overseas teaching, frankly. Kole Farney, Bryan Elliff, Steve Burchett and I all need your prayers as often as you can possibly remember us. We are planning for more teaching now and arranging future dates in the States and overseas. Thanks so much for doing that and for participating in other ways as well.
Pam and I are taking a few weeks of sabbatical for our anniversaries: 30 years for CCW, 40 years for our marriage, and 50 years since I began my speaking ministry. God has been good, and we want to make these few days of rest meaningful in increasing our love for each other, for Him, and for others.
Dear CCW family,
As Steve Burchett and I are packing to leave for Globe, AZ, this week, this almost ritual process reminds me once more what a joy it has been to speak about Christ for now 50 years of ministry. Christian Communicators Worldwide has been around 30 of those years. And Pam, my perfect-for-me wife, has been with me 40 of them. This is certainly a year to be remembered and a year for gaining perspective.
Almost from the beginning of my speaking work, I had opportunities to travel to other churches and ministries. When I was a young seminarian, God took me around the US and my first time overseas, speaking in approximately 40 venues each of the four years I was there. I wasn’t married at the time, and you might be able to figure out why. I was one busy person. Flying out from Dallas Love Field on Fridays and returning on Mondays for classes, I would usually preach my complete seven-sermon and “after church fellowship talk” repertoire!
Believe me, I was not the coolest speaker on earth, but God chose to convert people to Himself through my speaking. I could hardly believe that I got to see that. It was really all of God. Week by week, pastors would call, and I would write another church name in my calendar. Why? Why would He allow me to do this? I really didn’t know. I just did all I could to stay up with what He was organizing for my life. My hair was long, my jeans were bell-bottomed and worn, I was as poor as a barefoot monk, and I had a penchant for austerity. God used me anyway.
“God used me anyway” has been something of a reality for me all the way through. Who deserves to speak in almost all of the 50 States and in now 36 foreign countries? It’s not for the love of airplanes and motel rooms that I’ve done it. The travel romance is not the big thing anymore. Only God can keep you going for the possibilities that are there for people to be changed and churches to start and leaders to grow. I am so thankful that I don’t feel that life has been a wasteland of lost time and misspent energy, but that He has been leading and providing and using me, despite my own awareness that, by all rights, I should be unusable. Grace is a big word for me.
I know you understand when I say that I’m very excited about the next years of labor for Christ. God determines the days, but I’d love to be a really ancient man someday, serving Christ with my last false tooth. Why not? If the next 20 to 30 years are not the best ones, I’m going to be disappointed. Again, God calls the plays, but my aim is high because of an optimism I believe God puts in each of us believers. In some ways, all that is before is preparation—the action is just beginning.
When I sit down in that aisle seat (Steve, you did get us aisle seats, right?), and the plane rolls down the runway, you soon begin to feel the air pressure lifting the plane into the air. The long acceleration is for the lift. The experienced minister has come all the way down the runway in order to fly. The journey isn’t over at the end of the runway, but far away through the sky. We shouldn’t coast to a stop at the end of the tarmac, but let God take us on much further. We’ve got to use the momentum. The wind pushing against us gives us lift.
Part of what makes the next phase exciting is the team of men and their gracious and serving wives who are doing so much of the work. I happen to feel that we have the best of ministry teams. These people are really selfless—risking, growing, and sacrificing. It’s pretty amazing to watch the solid ministry of this team week after week, experience after experience. Again, why? Why has God been pleased to give us such a great team? He did it anyway.
What exciting days. Thanks for sharing them with us. I think we’ll all be surprised of what God will do in the years ahead.
Dear CCW family,
When my dead mentor, George Müller, was in his 70s and 80s, he traveled around the world to minister to people over a 17 year period. He sometimes fainted, but picked himself up and continued. He was frail and his strong wife helped him along. His trips were sometimes two years in length, with nonstop travel and ministry, but he carried on steadily until the Lord called him back to Bristol, England to finish out his days in the orphanage he had built by faith. It’s inspiring to read of his exploits. And, you would be amazed how evangelistic he was. He was fearless and often spoke to whoever would listen, in boats and trains and carriages or while walking along. He’s a model for me.
It’s not easy to evangelize. At least I don’t find it so. I can talk easy enough, but getting the conversation going is the most difficult issue for me by far. In fact, right this minute this is playing out in my mind. I just don’t want to engage. It’s so “un-Müller-like.”
Did the Apostle Paul wake up some days and say, “No way; not today”? Was evangelism sometimes awkward for him? Did he have those moments when he knew he should speak, but just didn’t? Did he feel tired of people and ready for a day back at the casa for rest? Was he sometimes so aware of his weakness that he wouldn’t venture out at all? Did he ever feel like he just didn’t have any desire for people intruding in his thoughts?
I expect that he was very much like us in the above respects, as was Müller also. When you read Acts, you have to realize that you are reading a very compressed account of Paul’s work in a particular city. He might be in town for two years and only two or three events are recorded. Sure, he’s the model for vigorous evangelism regardless, and I really don’t know for certain if he ever struggled like me to do it well. But, if he is anything like us mere humanoids, he well might be zealous one day and lackadaisical the next. Emotions vary; physical tiredness and stress mess with those emotions. You’re just not up all the time.
This being said, we ultimately do what we really want to do at a given moment. We overcome at any one time because our desires are trained by the Spirit to override our bodies or our mouth and make them move for Him. He drives us on. How often I’ve gotten on a plane or sat down in a coffee shop to work wishing no one would talk with me, only to find that conversation was unavoidable and led right to Christ. The Holy Spirit indwelling us is an evangelistic Spirit. He works in us to accomplish His purposes. Often he gets us there when we don’t expect it. We have to give Him credit for moving us to do His will any time we do it.
When CCW’s Steve Burchett was in Ethiopia, returning only this week, he suffered an ugly stomach illness, like so many people there do. He worked in the zone of the world that is said to foster such problems more than any other place. The resident teacher from the States, Jeremy Fruechting had been sick so many times that it was now commonplace. His family had known some kind of illness every two weeks or so since arriving there. You just don’t feel like ministry sometimes, but they did it anyway. They shared the gospel and taught believers and leaders because the Spirit worked in them to do it. And the Spirit had amazing things to do these last days.
Over the years I have found myself on numerous occasions totally depleted of strength after long travel, or fever or nausea, or worn out with constant contact with people who are speaking a different language, eat strange food, and have different customs. But still, thanks to the Spirit’s desires within, when God was ready I was able to minister and often with amazing effects. It was the Spirit’s work after all and He is credited for those effects. We need rest, but God can move us when it is time.
The Holy Spirit is the friend of all who minister the word of God. When Charles Spurgeon would climb into the pulpit area of his church, he would say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” He suffered often from low spirits and painful gout, but was carried by the Spirit to do His will. I want our team to never forget this and so we remind ourselves often enough to make sure that stays in our minds. It’s not the physical strength of the body that makes the difference, but the Spirit. We pray for power, but what do we mean? Don’t we mean that we are asking for God to give greater effect from our words and actions far beyond our frailty? We are mere men, but He is God!
Pray for us
Our team intends to be controlled by the Spirit in all our work—our writing, our teaching, our evangelizing, our counseling, our training, our study, our church planting, our mentoring, our influencing, and our compassion-giving. Please pray that this will actually be so for us more often than not, and that God will be honored with what happens, because it is His work after all.
Please pray for God to demonstrate His faithfulness by supplying all we need for our living and ministry. We are so thankful that to this very hour, He has done so. But we must be people of faith and look to the Father on a daily basis. We have to be content sometimes to find He is “the last-minute God.” We want our story to be, “The Lord supplies for every work He inspires.”
Some of us will head to Globe, Arizona soon for more ministry. The time two of us spent in Wake Forest, North Carolina last week, mainly with seminarians, was so valuable both for us and them. We want the same effects and even better for the folks in Globe, both the men of the churches there and the pastors, as well as the whole church when we teach. Kole will soon teach young people at a camp, where opportunity for the gospel will be abundant. There are other times we will teach in the days immediately ahead. Pray for the success of the word preached and taught.
Thank you so much for your participation in our work. It is HIS work after all and we all get to share together in it.
Dear CCW family,
I sat across the small table in the downtown coffee shop with one of our CCW men just the other day, discussing the difficulty of a person coming to Christ. “Whatever I attempt to do, it seems that the people don’t sense a need for Christ.” We discussed various strategies, yet the problem he brought up, without any question, is the main obstacle to overcome in evangelism.
It defies human understanding. Here’s what I mean. This week, another one of our workers, Shane, who undertakes all our computer operations, experienced what might be called a catastrophic business week. The large 1800s building that he was renovating in the square in the old part of historic Liberty, Missouri, collapsed. It has made the news in a big way, and has been a huge test of faith, a test that so far Shane is facing well. Thankfully, no one was killed. If it had collapsed a couple of weeks later, several would have been buried in the debris.
Now you have the setting. Pam and I and some other close friends were in the square after it happened, trying to be a praying team for Shane and his family as they faced this loss. The city people of Liberty were kind to us and gave us some of the sandwiches brought in from the local grocer. But there, sitting beside us while all this was going on, sat “Hippie.” Hippie is the local vagrant. There aren’t too many in Liberty. He sleeps in the woods, spends his days at the library and just hangs around the square. Everyone knows him. I shared part of my sandwich with him, and soon we began to talk about life issues.
Amazingly, Hippie brought up the story of the rich man and Lazarus. He felt that the main point was that “all Lazarus wanted was some food and some care. That’s it….not much at all.” That may have been right, but it missed the point. Frankly, the point does have something to do with compassionate giving. The rich man should have done that, and that is a big point in the chapter….perhaps the main point. It also shows that there is an afterlife of heaven or hades for all people. He admitted that.
Then I said this, “Hippie, what if you never had anything the rest of your days. What if your circumstances didn’t change at all, just like Lazarus’ circumstances seemed not to change? But suppose you followed the Lord, as obviously Lazarus did. He was a man of faith and ended up in heaven. Here’s what I’m saying, ‘You could never have any change of circumstances now, but be guaranteed eternal life with the Lord. In other words, a poor man may have an eternal future that is amazingly good, and people who have it nice now, may have an eternal future that is worse than bad.’”
Well, Hippie didn’t want any more. He got up and dismissed himself saying he had to go to the library. Uh huh…the library. So sad. As I watched him go away, I thought, “This man chooses his impoverished independence now and forever rather than eternity with Christ. He just doesn’t see it. Even in this state, he doesn’t think he really needs Christ. He’s OK like he is. If he sensed he needed Him, like he actually does need Him, he would give up his independence and run to Christ.”
Now that is incredible blindness, isn’t it? And it illustrates the point of our discussion in that coffee shop. On the main, our biggest problem in evangelism is for people to sense their need of Christ. They all believe they are OK like they are. And it doesn’t seem to make much difference if people are very obviously in need of Him from our perspective.
We want your prayers
We DO want your prayers. Why? We want your prayers so that we can faithfully teach the truth that changes lives. We want your prayers so that we will have more power from God in our words.
We’re so thankful people have been converted through our ministry over the years. Some of the stories have been amazing, but most of them we’ve never heard. That is, our work goes on from place to place, and we never hear what God has done. When God lets us in on his work, we really rejoice in the encouragement. We love hearing how this message or that writing or this recording or CCW book was instrumental in life transformation. But we have to be faithful not only when the encouragement comes on strong, but also when it is totally absent.
And so do you. We share our story and the truth because we must be obedient to Christ first of all. We also share it because we feel the compassion for people who are blind. And, we share because we have been motivated with its impact in lives when we’ve been allowed to see it. But the first reason is the strongest.
We’re off on more trips
Steve will soon be leaving for Ethiopia. He will go alone this time, to teach in a Bible School and to lead missionaries in a Bible Intensive Retreat in hopes that the idea can be caught and used. Selamab, our Ethiopian worker, will be back here. Selamab and Betty not only work with Ethiopians in Ethiopia, but are attempting to start an Ethiopian work here in the northland where several Amharic speakers reside. He now is working with ten soccer players who play twice a week close by. Last week he gave them our Pursuing God book, which he translated into Amharic.
Bryan is not on the road this next week, but will continue his labors in the old NE section of KC, where he works with Hispanics and other language groups, such as Somalians. He works with these refugees in their homes weekly. Also, he and Joey have several children in their home for Kid’s Club, so the Bible can be taught. And there are several other approaches they use to get in the lives of their community.
Kole and I will go to Monument, Colorado, for a Bible Intensive. We’re looking forward to working with an eager group of men there. After this, we will preach on Sunday and attend a short conference in the Denver area before returning.
We’re busy people, always seeking ways to get the word of Christ out to others. But that’s not enough….
Please, please pray for us.
With our appreciation,
Dear CCW family,
If you want to feel guilty, read the next word—EVANGELISM.
Did it work? It’s amazing how well it does work for most of us. No one can possibly feel 100% right about evangelism, because almost everyone around us is barreling to hell. And, equally sad, almost no one is telling any of them how to escape it.
It’s been a privilege for our CCW communicators to be instruments God has used at times to bring people to Christ. If you have experienced such a thing, you certainly know what I mean by “privilege.” However, there are a few things we’ve learned that should make all of us share the Good News more out of joy than guilt. Here they are:
Almost no one comes to Christ through the help of just one person. Several years ago, I found myself extremely concerned to share Christ to some truckers who were lined up along the road for a reason that now escapes me. But they were there for a long time. I knew God wanted me to stop and to approach some of them with the best news they could possibly hear. After several minutes seeking to persuade a middle-aged man of the merits of following Christ, he broke down. He was so excited, and confessed that he was now determined to follow Christ. I had good reason to believe that he had genuinely experienced a turn from his old life.
The following Sunday, I told the small church where I was pastoring about the experience. To my amazement, a man from our membership spoke up to say something like this: “I know that man, and I can hardly believe what I’m hearing. We sometimes travel together in the same truck. Many times I’ve tried to get him to listen to my story about Christ and to consider his need to be converted, but he has always dismissed my concerns and refused to respond to my appeal.”
Though we rarely hear how God strings together one person’s evangelistic efforts with those of others, here was one clear illustration of how that works. A man or woman or young person will reject until he accepts. This member surely left the man he tried to reach disappointed many times. But when the time was right, that man was willing, even eager, to come to Him.
It’s about sowing seed, not reaping the harvest. I hope you understand me when I say this. Obviously we all want that person we are conversing with about Christ to follow Him immediately. But most of us will be on the seed sowing side of things—perhaps 10, 20, 50, or even 100 times for every one time we personally see a convert. Some will spend their lives faithfully sharing Christ and personally never hear someone say, “You were the main human instrument in my salvation.” That’s okay. Jesus told his disciples that they would “reap where others have sown” in John 4. “You have entered into their” Think about that. Some are designated to be reapers where others have labored. They are point men and women who have been gifted and prepared by the Lord to help people across the line with
Christ. But most of us will plant and water the seed as our main contribution. We work together, and we shouldn’t be unhappy about it. Almost never will you hear how your efforts paid off, but they do.
It’s really God’s work after all. He is “the Lord of the harvest” (Mt 9:38). “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth,” Paul said to the Corinthians (1 Cor 3:6). We work, but God works in our work. In fact, “No one can come to Me,” Jesus said, “unless the Father who sent me draws him” (Jn 6:14).
Some people have a hard time realizing the above truth. But when we get it, we have come a long way to being a more confident and effective Christian. How often I’ve appreciated that truth. When I’ve done my best to try to convince someone of their need for Christ, I want to throw up my hands and say, “This is impossible!” In fact, though I’ve done the right thing to seek the person’s conversion, it is impossible, without intervention by God. God makes Christians. I’m perfectly okay with the idea that no person has ever become a Christian who wasn’t birthed by the Lord Himself. You should be also.
Well, there is more to say, obviously, but this will suffice to encourage us to throw out more and more gospel seed. I know God will help you to do just that.
All our team is headed south in the next couple of weeks. Steve and Kole will teach at To Every Tribe in Los Fresnos, Texas, for their Center for Pioneer Church Planting. They will demonstrate how narrative portions of the Bible can be studied and used in missionary work. Bryan and I will work together in Clinton, Mississippi, leading a Bible Intensive and teaching on Sunday. We are so encouraged by the number of opportunities God is providing. Please pray with us about them.
We are praying and strategizing about how we can guide leaders in their own personal study of longer books of the Bible through weekly online sessions for a varying period of weeks. Lord willing, we’ll try our first experiment with this idea soon for some pastors. Our typical Bible Intensives are long enough for only a short section, but many would like to tackle whole books with these same methods, such as we do in The Müller Center classes we offer here in KC. We’re optimistic that it can be done. We’ll see how God provides and works it out.
We’re working on Intensives from Maine to Arizona and many places in between for the upcoming months. Even so, we hope we can handle more requests as God brings them to us. This has been such rewarding work. It makes a difference.
We love you all. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement in so many ways.
Yours with joy,
P.S. Do you follow us on twitter and Facebook? We try to share insights about Bible study, leadership and life together as believers through these media. Follow us if you can.
Dear CCW family,
Once I wrote a dear octogenarian friend who had been living in a nursing home in Arkansas. She was a live wire, to say the least. Over the years she had earned the position of resident sage for many searching souls and loved to give her best help to anyone who asked. Well, I didn’t ask, but I got her advice nonetheless.
I wrote my helpful friend a newsy letter to encourage her. Among the sentences, I happened to say that I had “a bad case of the piles.” In a humorous way, I only meant that I was under a pile of paper that demanded attention and couldn’t get everything done. I thought the context was clear. She took this to be “I have the piles,” which, being interpreted, is “I have hemorrhoids.” She stuffed a previously used manila envelope with several old news clippings about how to take care of them, hoping to serve me as a young pastor who didn’t have the guts to tell the doctor about my problem.
Unsolicited advice doesn’t always hit the mark.
I’ll try nonetheless. Here’s my advice:
I do mean this. I don’t think I’m the perfect example, but I do believe I am giving the best advice. My wife is a great prayer. I’m blessed with her companionship in ministry because I can count on her persistent knocking on the door of heaven. Her prayers are answered and her prayers move me to pray. That’s a pretty normal combination.
We have four families depending on God in our ministry. For sure, all believers who have regular jobs trust God as well, but these men trust him without any guaranteed income other than what He provides by prayer. Some have small extra jobs, such as selling a few items on Ebay or waiting tables if there is a free day, and some get a portion from voluntary gifts given to pastors in the church. Yet, these all require faith as well and are not guaranteed. In other words, every cent we receive comes to us directly in relation to faith and, above this, the goodness of God. God supplies what we need, and often at the last gasp of faith. But HE DOES IT! And He does it because we come to him in prayer, with open arms, expecting the real supply to come from Him.
For me, I love the idea of living this way before God and the world. It proves God’s faithfulness. We see that small gifts and large gifts can be just as much an answer to prayer, fitting perfectly into God’s plan for meeting our needs. And we see times of abundance and times when every moment we need to keep on praying. It provides a living relationship with God.
I sometimes wonder if we will be constant enough in our faith. But I have to forget that and look more to the nature of God. He says that He knows our needs before we ask Him and that we should not concern ourselves because He has already chosen to gladly give us the kingdom. If our heavenly Father feeds a trillion birds every day who have no barns with stored up food, then he can take care of us. Our job is to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and He will add all these things to us.
I hope you will take my advice to pray more. I’m going to heed it also. Sometime I see this life like an exciting adventure. We get to see God at work, the one who can do literally anything He wishes. It’s not just about money, of course, but about all things we need to do His will in our lives.
Thanks so much to those of you who are instruments of His will toward us. We love you for it and hope that we will be a clear example that God can be trusted.
With love and joy,
Dear CCW family,
I’ve messed up some potentially great conversations. For instance, before I was married, my brother set me up for a date with a person everyone thought was a very attractive girl. I was so clumsy in our conversation and so preoccupied with acting cool, that I emptied the contents of my sugar packet into my tea and promptly dropped the packet in with it—like I meant to do it. I never recovered.
When I first met the late Francis Schaeffer in front of his chalet in Switzerland, I ducked around some other person like a school kid when he asked me about neo-orthodoxy at my seminary. I didn’t have any idea what he meant. It didn’t occur to me to ask—think of that! Schaeffer had built his work in Switzerland on answering questions!
I started a conversation with a famous international conference speaker we all would know by stepping squarely on his dress shoe to begin our talk. I’ve met top theologians and leaders at the precise moment my tongue rose to cleave to the roof of my mouth. If I could just remember that God views such people as normal folks just like you and me, it would go a lot better.
I’ve had my share of failures in conversation, true. But I’ve also met and talked with dear leaders and “just plain Christians” all over the world, who have talked with me in such a way that the memory remains indelible and the rewards incalculable. And the truth is, impressiveness isn’t always a quality of the famous people I’ve met. I’ve had some of the most meaningful exchanges of my life with ordinary people, believers like you and me, who are sincerely seeking to walk with Christ. That’s my favorite orbit for conversation, in fact.
I’ve just been working through a stimulating article on listening—“Twenty Qualities of a Good Listener,” by Gavin Ortlund. I need it. I wish I had your input on it. My take is that “listening” is a key to that good conversation we all long to have. After all these years, I’ve arrived at one astounding observation: I don’t know everything. I have my moments when I forget that. But truth be known, everyone knows something better than me, and there is much that I haven’t even been exposed to.
Listening to another believer is so profitable that it’s quite amazing that we lapse into believing we can get along without it. We need each other, and conversing is the main way to connect need with supply. We need the ideas, the insights, the life experience, the honesty and vision of other believers. Going on healthily as a believer demands such conversation. Christian community, which we all long for, is about talk and proximity at the core.
So, ready for this question? Are you expanding in your conversation skills, or have you become stale and stuck?
I know that some will say, “I’m more introverted, and conversation is tough for me.” I get that. But actually, you have the most essential ingredient for conversation by being introverted. You don’t want to talk too much. If you can just learn to ask questions instead, then you will be a genius communicator. They need to be thoughtful questions that move the responder to expansive and thoughtful expressions. That’s a bit of an art, but not one that you are incapable of learning. And, for Christ, it will be worth the effort.
For the gospel, for the church of God, for the growth of believers everywhere you meet them, why not resolve to do whatever it takes to become a superb conversationalist? Make a weakness a strength through the Spirit’s help. And don’t give up easily. I’m dead serious. We need to work at this and not give up until we become effective at conversing with each other for the sake of the kingdom. And this will lead you beyond the weather to vital issues that can be life-changing for yourself and your conversation partner.
More Missionary Training Ahead
The week of April 11-15, Steve Burchett and Kole Farney will travel to Los Fresnos, Texas, to visit To Every Tribe for a week of teaching about interpreting narrative portions of the Gospels. By God’s grace, CCW continues to have a good relationship with this missionary training school and sending agency. In 2015, Jim and Bryan were able to teach for a week on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, and Daryl Wingerd just returned from a week of instructing students about Biblical Counseling.
Zika Virus Land
Bryan and Joey Elliff, on the CCW team, are venturing to Zika land before you get your next update. They will be at a Bible School in Colombia where Bryan will, for the first time, lead the nearly twenty Bible Students in Spanish through Titus and Mark. Yes, the Zika virus is there, as in so many countries close by, but they will be taking every precaution, and will trust God for all to be OK. The opportunity is one that we just can’t pass up as a CCW team. Already, Bryan is scheduled for another later opportunity there in the Fall. We hope this will work out very well for the students as they work through these books in our “Bible Intensive” saturation-styled approach for learning the Bible. This is such a transferable method that we love to share it with leaders. Bryan and Joey’s Spanish language ability will open up many doors in the future, we think.
God Thinks of Us
We want to report that God is amazing in the way He supplies. Some of you have been part of that supply. He has the most astounding way of opening people’s hearts to be used to help our labors for Christ. We love watching it! We hope that this honors our Lord as the great provider.
Thanks for your love for us and interest in our work. Through our four communicators (Jim Elliff, Steve Burchett, Kole Farney, and Bryan Elliff) and several websites and books, plus lots of personal conversations with people, Bible Intensives everywhere, along with conference speaking, and teaching in churches, our communicators will be busy giving the truth away. Your prayers are most welcome.
If you have just a moment, watch this video from To Every Tribe, called “Missionary Training: Exposition in Mission in the Pastoral Epistles” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fA4b6sgrGPA). In it, Bryan and I tell about our Bible teaching method as it applies to overseas missionary work.
Dear CCW Family,
Big announcement: We’re now beginning our 30th year as a ministry!
We can add to this that it is the 40th year of marriage for Pam and me, and the 50th year since I preached my first message. So 2016 is, for us, a unique year. How good God has been to us!
God makes a story from our lives to share with others. I’m not always satisfied about how my story reads, but I’ve always wanted to point people through it to Christ. Opening the pages is sometimes alarming. There are pages I wish I had never lived, but, still, in the divine scheme of things, God has sovereignly worked them out for good. Some regretful pages, fully forgiven, have been the source of empathy for others and tears in my prayers.
But there have been other pages that amaze me. How did I end up there? Why did I say that? How can I explain this apart from Christ? It’s hard to adequately re-live those deeply moving moments of ministry in thirty-five countries and almost all the states in our own beautiful country. Turning pages, I see vividly that poverty and disadvantage are no barriers to Christian love and joy. Sitting on the floor of a mud and manure hut in Africa or Bangladesh, or surrounded by the chalky-painted walls of tiny homes in the Dominican Republic, Panama or central Mexico, or gathered around the table with elderly pastors from the communist days in the old Eastern-block countries, or, on the other side of the poverty line, enjoying the extravagant hospitality of generous, wealthy believers—wherever you find Christians, you find love. What people I’ve met! What stories I’ve heard! What encouragement they have given with their big smiles and warm greetings and holy worship.
I’ve sat down at a lot of tables and eaten lots of food. I’ve broken two already-compromised chairs (that’s true, they were already compromised!) at tables, one in India and one in Italy (and a Communist era toilet in Moldova, also already compromised, but we won’t go there). When I was a young man, I remember how perturbed I was that some ladies would stay home from Sunday morning meetings to prepare for the “visiting evangelist.” I didn’t like it at all, but I ate their food. There is nothing quite like a country spread of vegetables and meats and, of course, the matriarch’s famous pie, to a young twenty-something who has been eating at the school cafeteria all week. From Kudu jerky to rubbery octopus, and eel steaks, and elk T-bones—I’ve tasted it all, and have been pretty adventurous—up to a point. I’ve consumed rivers of tea and coffee such as during the daily “onces” in Chile. The Brits in South Africa pour tea all day long. Once I had tea before breakfast, at breakfast, at mid-morning “tea,” just after lunch, at mid-afternoon “tea,” after dinner, and “just one more cup” before going to bed while standing in the kitchen. I always start out without sugar, but by the last few cups I add as much sugar and cream as possible. I loved a pot of rooibos tea in the African huts as well, or a good strong cup of black coffee from the Dutch farmer. Perhaps nothing challenged me like the donuts I ate at an unpainted house in the poorest region of Texas, clutter nearly to the ceiling, chickens coming in and out. The old lady made the mistake of showing me the grease pot she dunked them in.
The beds! Oh, the beds! One in Italy years ago had a spring sticking up an inch and a half right at my hips. The pillow seemed like it was made of chicken heads. I’ve slept on a concrete bed and more than one bed made up with flour sack sheets sewn together. We used to quote the verse, “Me and my bed, we are so pal-y; my head in the hills, my tail in the valley.” The bane of the traveling speaker is sleeping in the kid’s bed when the plastic cover is still over the mattress (with the heat turned up “just a little more because the speaker is here”). How do they do it? Once I slept in a bed that was so slanted to one side that I used three stacks of six children’s encyclopedias each (I promise that this is true) to prop it up even. I wasn’t so smart the first night! I once slept (or didn’t sleep) in a bed that was so wavy you could only relax on your side fitting your hips in the gully just right. It’s no wonder that Whitefield, the Great Awakening evangelist, preferred to sleep on the floor for continuity from place to place. And, it’s no wonder it was called “the Great Awakening!”
The author and my dear friend, J. Oswald Sanders, once told me that he didn’t like the travel, but “he liked what he got to do when he arrived.” True for me as well. Recently I returned from Indonesia travelling through twenty-eight hours of constant pain after twisting my hip on the 4 a.m. taxi ride to the airport. But I’ve had longer trips. Once, because of an airline change, my trip to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, took me 52 hours. I arrived in Africa on another trip, after a long flight via Europe, only to be whisked away to speak immediately. I’m still not sure what I said. The dusty dirt roads, the boats of all kinds, the rick-shaws, the colorfully-painted buses, the motorcycle taxis, the countless trains, the prop planes and super jets—I arrived wherever I needed to be somehow, each time.
Above all, it is the fellowship with true believers that stands out the most. I know that I have met saints that God loved. I love them also. Some were revered by others as great leaders, but I didn’t even know it. It’s true that I’ve been privileged to speak in conferences alongside some of the well-known teachers and preachers whose names we all know, but better than that, I’ve enjoyed the lesser known saints in the hidden places—in the forgotten corners of the globe—in the house churches, the gatherings under trees or in tents, the open-window-and-door church buildings where cows look in and dogs scratch for fleas while you speak. Once I preached nightly in a Bolivian church building where a lone Arabic clock with minarets on both sides hung high on the wall behind me. I’m sure it would have surprised them to know what was written in Arabic beside those prayer towers adorning the clock. There was one light, and the inch-long flying roaches circled around it, and around me, below it. As I made points in my message, I would step on them as they reached the floor. I had a nice pile by the end of the message. Then I got on the Bolivian taxi, a motorcycle, paying a million Bolivianos to get back to my room.
God has led us and supplied us on the journey. We determined to ask no one but God, yet he moved the hearts of people all over to send us what we needed for these 30 wonderful beginning years. We’ve taught and preached, we’ve distributed literature (nearly a quarter of a million copies of Wasted Faith, for instance), we’ve trained leaders to study the Bible, we’ve instructed pastors in true church life, we’ve blogged and supplied large websites to reach others, we’ve talked hours on the phone and by email to leaders needing ideas or help for difficult problems, and we’ve hosted scores of people—I do mean scores of amazing people. All this, we got to do because we are simply followers of Christ, seeking to obey for our lives.
Christ has his people all around the world. It has been a privilege serving them and being God’s instrument to bring many of them to Christ or to a fuller understanding of his words. Our team is all about these two things, just as I have been all these years. And, the best of all, the adventure for Christ continues.
Our team sends its love and appreciation for your help and care which have helped us write the pages of our lives for Christ.
Jim Elliff, for Steve Burchett, Kole Farney, Bryan Elliff, Selamab Assefa, Daryl Wingerd, Shane Griffin, and Tony Barmann.