This week we hear from Eric Durbin, Coordinator of the Billy Graham Center Museum.
Always Be Prepared? A Lesson Learned through Shane
Luggage? Check. Briefcase? Got it. Transportation? Reserved. With travel logistics for a recent outing well secured, and work materials for the off-site appointments neatly organized, I set off for the airport. I was ready for the trip.
But I was grossly unprepared for the journey.
My traveling companion entered the airport town car, groggy from the early hour. After complaining about the pre-dawn chill in the air, Shane adjusted his suit coat and buttoned his open-collared shirt just a little higher. He asked if I was headed to Silicon Valley like he was.
My destination of Missouri did not impress him.
A well-traveled salesman in his late 50s, Shane knew how to lead a conversation. He barely took a breath as he released his stream-of-consciousness thoughts on vegetable gardening, techie gadgets, his Irish heritage, his Italian wife, and his attractive housekeeper. Shane was unrelenting in both the rate of his speech and the vulgarity of its content. Racial slurs, filthy language, and misogynistic anecdotes bludgeoned my spirit as we made our way from the suburbs of Chicago to the United Airlines terminal.
First Peter 3:15 instructs me, as a follower of Christ, to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope I have.
But Shane never asked about my hope.
He did, however, reveal increasingly more of his own heart on the duration of that ride. His was a life lost in the circuitous pursuit of pleasure and self-importance.
He was a man who needed Jesus.
I listened for an opportunity to connect my experience with this man’s, hoping that somehow I could masterfully steer the discussion toward a testimony of God’s faithfulness in my life. I stayed poised for a topic that touched on faith or religion, hoping that somehow I could ask a probing question that might lead naturally to a place of transparency. In the end, I mostly did nothing. I was spiritually unprepared.
In managing the Billy Graham Center Museum, I hear daily testimonials that tell of God’s ability to breathe new life into our guests through the inspiring exhibits of his work in the arts and history. I read the daily decisions registered in our facility of individuals turning to faith in Christ Jesus, many for the first time. I have grown accustomed to the environment in which people are actively seeking God. I sometimes forget what battlefields exist in the throes of commerce and industry.
The ancient church in Ephesus received a helpful word-picture about such preparation. The armor of God prepares us for this cosmic struggle. A more careful reading of Ephesians 6 reveals to me the section’s closing verse, one I regularly gloss over: “Pray in the Spirit at all times….to that end keep alert.”
What could I have done differently to better prepare for my encounter with Shane? In all of my preparation for the business before me, I stepped into that town car unaware of how the Spirit was moving.
I could have prayed for alertness.
I could have prayed for my then-nameless traveling companion.
Thanks be to God that he is not dependent on my perfect obedience to accomplish his perfect will!
I neglected to pray for my encounter with Shane before I met him.
I pray for him now.
I pray also for an awareness of the Holy Spirit’s prompting of those nameless others with whom I am to come into contact. For they are the seeds of the harvest, and it is through them that my heavenward journey leads.
Have you ever felt like you missed an opportunity to share your faith and felt regret? What lessons have YOU learned? We would love to hear from you. Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted June 30, 2012
This week we hear from Chris Castaldo, Director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal at the Billy Graham Center.
To Speak Life into Dead Bones
God calls his children to embody and proclaim his good news to a dying world. But it is a daunting task. In a culture haunted by fragmentation, hi-tech distractedness, and the loneliness of individualism, where hearts—even Christian hearts—feel hollow, God's life-giving power is needed more than ever. Along with food and clothing, divine strength is a necessary commodity.
Against the backdrop of life’s harsh realities, we see how Jesus’ resurrection furnishes us with the power we so desperately need. It is a power that not only allows us to lift our heads in hope, but compels us to step into the darkness with the light of Christ.
Of the many places in scripture where we see this movement, a poignant example is in Ezekiel 37. God “brought [Ezekiel] out in the Spirit of the LORD and set [him] down in the middle of the valley… and led [him] around among them…” (1-2). The Lord wanted Ezekiel to take in the reality of death from the very middle of it.
Like Ezekiel, we step into the pain and death of humanity with eyes wide open. But we must not stop there. We believe that bones can live. Crazy as it sounds, indeed, “foolish”, according to Paul, it is true. The most tentative and enfeebled preacher possesses power to speak life into dead bones.
Why? Because Jesus Christ swallowed up death, the Savior who shed his blood and rose victoriously from the grave.
The apple has already fallen, thunderously upon the earth, but the last Adam has fallen with it. Therefore, we need not cower naked in the last branches of the tree of life. We need not build little boats with oars, gathering little dishes and accoutrements fitting for a departing soul. We need not collect little cakes and wine for the dark flight to oblivion.
We need not fear the flood, for the Savior has poured himself out as an atoning sacrifice. This is what we see, and, because it is so marvelous, we joyfully proclaim it to the world.
Hear more on the topic of “How Dry Bones Live” >>
Have you ever felt like it would take a miracle for some "dead bones" to come to life...but you saw God breathe life into a hopeless situation? We would love to hear it! Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted June 25, 2012
This week, we hear from Diane Garvin, Coordinator of the Scholarship Program at the Billy Graham Center.
Is the Holy Spirit Using Legos and Cell Phones?
The short answer is…yes! For decades we have seen our BGC scholars using more methods of sharing the gospel then we can count. In fact, in the course of only one month, we receive approximately 80-100 communications from scholarship alumni updating us and asking for prayer. Many stories within those communications include unique initiatives in evangelism. It is exciting and fun to hear how God is creatively moving in the hearts of these leaders to share the good news! We think of it as evangelism “outside the box.”
Allow me to share two wonderful examples.
Past BGC scholars Nathan and Vera Beck, who are serving in the Czech Republic, are doing the Lego Project Outreach through their local church. The invitation to come together for three days in the afternoon to build a huge Lego city is irresistible to the non-Christian kids who were invited.
There are three goals to this event: first, to point to God as the Creator of the universe; second, to teach important biblical principles for life; and third, to invite them to church youth groups to explore the gospel deeper.
The Becks say that the Lego Project is a lot of work where many kids and thousands of Lego pieces are involved. However, everyone loves it! For some kids, this is how they first hear about God.
BGC scholar Girma Gebremedhin from Ethiopia became involved in a ministry to Ethiopians and Eritreans all over the world via cell phones and Internet videos while recently finishing his studies at Wheaton. This ministry, called Berea Teleconferencing, was started by a group of committed Ethiopian Christians living in North America. This organization has three main areas of emphases: first, encouraging and equipping Christians through Bible study, worship, teachings, and prayer; second, encouraging believers to be a part of God’s mission all over the world; and third, discipling Christians unable to attend church services for various reasons.
Girma says that everyday hundreds of people log onto a site from around the world or call a number from their cell phones. They hear a message for the day and interact with the site coordinators by phone. Girma has led 35 people to Christ in the past four months!
We are excited that this ministry will continue once Girma returns to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and begins the process of starting a similar ministry there.
I pray God would continue to bring this type of creativity and vision to each of us, whether we live in places like the Czech Republic or Ethiopia, or even here in the USA.
What creative means are YOU using to share the gospel? We would love to hear it! Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted June 18, 2012
This week, we hear from Karen Swanson, Director of the Institute for Prison Ministries at the Billy Graham Center.
I Am a Life that Is Changed!
I want you to meet Lillian. Lillian is one of the 5,912 prisoners in Hawaii. Lillian, however, has gone from a place of crime to one of freedom in Jesus. And God worked through the prison chaplains to woo her to himself. This is how she explains it:
God used them (chaplains and volunteers) mightily to help me stay rooted and grounded in Christ. Because they spoke into my life, today Jesus is the rock that I have laid my foundation on. Their ongoing support and love has helped me turn this lesson into a lifestyle of living. Now I am called to do the same. As Matthew 9:37 says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”
I know that it is my turn to give back for the kingdom cause.
To all the chaplains and volunteers who have a heart for the lost, broken, and rejected of society… thank you for your self-less acts of love that are so profound and life-transforming. God has not forgotten you.
Hebrews 6:10 says, “God is not unjust: he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that is changed!
I was recently in Hawaii and spent time with the chaplains, Lillian, and several women prisoners. The prisoners were such an encouragement to me as I watched them interact and share how Christ has transformed their lives. When serving in correctional ministries, we do not always get to see the fruits of our labors or the transformation process!
There are times when we pour our lives into an individual, who initially embraces Christ only to go back to his or her old way of life without God when returning home. I am encouraged by 1 Corinthians 3:5-6 when Paul writes, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”
These verses remind me to be faithful to plant seeds of the gospel and pray for God to transform the life.
With the millions of people impacted by crime around the world, the Correctional Ministries and Chaplains Association, housed at the Institute for Prison Ministries, was launched to bring evangelicals together to fulfill the Great Commission in corrections. With over two million people incarcerated in the U.S., CMCA recognizes the mission field is too large for any one person or ministry. One of the ways CMCA inspires others to fulfill their evangelism and discipleship calling is through the Missio Dei (The Mission of God) Online Corrections Journal. Read the journal >>
Do you have a story of how God took you from a place of bondage to freedom? We would love to hear it! Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted June 10, 2012
This week, we hear from Lon Allison, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center.
To Reach the Many, Reach the Few
Last evening, I had a surprising and delightful experience. I was grading papers. Generally, grading is not at the top of my list of delightful experiences, but this was. I was privileged to teach the Foundation of Evangelism course for 44 MA students at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Several of our team at the Billy Graham Center teach and speak in colleges, churches, and gospel settings all over the world. This is one way we “accelerate global evangelism.”
The class assignment was to talk to 10 people about Jesus Christ and write a report on these experiences. As I read, I felt like an eyewitness to some amazing events. Here is one story:
I wanted to let you know that I delivered my papers for our class to the Billy Graham Center. My wife and I had an interesting experience [while in our area, which is 40 miles from their home]. After going to hear Francis Chan speak at Wheaton Bible Church, my wife and I were looking for something to eat. We decided to get some breadsticks from Pizza Hut. The only one I knew of was in Carol Stream, so we drove there…and as we pulled into the parking lot, there was a car just sitting there. It turned out that the owner’s axle had broken and the car wasn’t going anywhere. We happened to have our minivan (complete with our car seats, which were perfect for the two kids the couple had). My wife took the mother and kids and went to their apartment. I helped (the husband) call for a tow truck, and while we were waiting I had a chance to share my story (of how I came to Christ), and then one of the “Steps to Peace with God” tracts you gave us in class. After sharing, the man prayed to receive Christ!
We talked for a while longer and then made sure their car got over to their apartment. I suggested they try out a church like Wheaton Bible because it’s relatively close, but also because I know that he’ll be able to get some good new believer discipleship there….We’ll be back soon and hope that we can help to get them tied in.
By the way, I grabbed a few more “Steps to Peace with God” from the Graham Center. I only had two left and I’ve found them to be wonderful tools to help in sharing.
This story reminds me of the classic text spoken by our Lord Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:37-38; Luke 10:2).
The harvest is plenty-full. What we need are more workers. We need more of God’s leaders who guide God’s people to gather it in. I’m always amazed (but shouldn’t be) of how God is doing this. I would not have suspected that sitting in a Pizza Hut parking lot was a family in need. They needed tangible help and got it. Even more, they needed to know God, and a faithful “worker” was placed there by God to meet their deeper eternal need.
So you can understand why I enjoyed grading papers. Forty-four leaders are more equipped and inspired to keep the gospel on the tips of their tongues. That is 44 times more people sharing the gospel than one of me. When I multiply this one assignment by many equipping assignments I take each year, and further multiply that by the assignments taken by several more of our BGC leadership team, I am astounded and grateful. This is why we strategically seek to reach the few who reach the many.
May God give each of us the opportunity to guide someone seeking God to the God who is seeking that someone. Please keep our work in your prayers as we accelerate global evangelism by equipping evangelism leaders, building networks, and inspiring all God’s people to have the gospel on the tips of their tongues.
What are YOUR "Pizza Hut" experiences? Where has God placed you to share his wonderful good news? We would love to hear your story! Join the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted June 1, 2012