20th Anniversary of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus

It’s amazing the sort of impact one book can have. 20 years ago, in 1997, the book The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was published. At the time, author John R. Cross and the men working with him had no idea that it would be the catalyst for a global ministry and how many people would come to faith in Christ through it. It was just one book with a simple message: a straightforward, systematic presentation of the gospel from creation to the cross.

The writing of The Stranger was drawn from decades of missionary experience of those working among tribal people in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. These tribes, previously unevangelised and ignorant of the Bible’s message, responded well to a chronological presentation of the gospel. So well, in fact, that whole villages were putting their faith in Christ, without the age-old problems of syncretism and “rice Christians.” When the Bible was presented from creation to Christ, it made profound sense. The people would understand and believe. Lives were transformed.

But was it only tribal groups who responded so well to the creation-to-Christ method? What about the Western world? As John and his colleagues interacted with people back home in North America and around the world, they realized that some of these people were just as ignorant of the Bible as the tribal people. They knew nothing about God. They didn’t understand who Jesus was and why he came. We live, for the most part, in a post-Christian culture.

The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was, in a sense, an experiment. It was a book that used the same method that had proven so effective with tribal groups—a chronological approach to explaining the gospel—except this time for the Western world. It was designed so that it could be given away or used to guide people to a clear understanding of the Bible. But would it be relevant and effective?

Within weeks of The Stranger’s release, requests came from all over the world: “Can we have a German translation? Or how about French? Do you have an audiobook version?”

Suddenly the corner of a basement wasn’t big enough to manage the printing and shipment demands. Just a few men and their wives could not handle the requests for translation and world distribution. Thus, GoodSeed International was formed.

In the last 20 years, GoodSeed has grown to be an international ministry with six offices around the world and over 60 full-time staff, volunteers and representatives. We now have audio and video resources, as well as a comprehensive curriculum. The books and studies are being used in homes, churches, kids clubs, VBS, camps, prison ministries, community outreaches, rehab programs, and Bible colleges. We have books translated and published in 26 different languages, with dozens of others in different stages of translation and checking.

The Stranger is no longer our only, or even primary, resource. In 2001, All that the Prophets have Spoken was published to address those with an Islamic worldview. That same year, The Lamb, our book for children, was released. In 2007, By This Name was published to address the Eastern, post-modern worldview, which includes those from an atheistic or agnostic background. And then in 2009 and 2014 respectively, our mass distribution titles What are Christmas and Easter All About? and The Story That Matters were published.

Each of these books follows the same structure as The Stranger. All are chronological, systematic presentations of the gospel, tailored carefully for the different worldviews, backgrounds and belief systems of the individual reader. Hundreds of Scripture verses are incorporated into each book and over 1,500 Scripture verses are in By This Name alone. This way the reader is constantly interacting with the Bible and getting direct exposure to its life-giving message.

Our TERM Seminars (training in evangelism and discipleship) are held yearly across Canada and the United States. Hundreds of participants have had the opportunity to be strengthened in their faith and given tools, training and courage for their evangelistic efforts. We have partnered with churches to equip missionaries, ministry leaders and laypeople for outreach and discipleship.

We receive weekly, sometimes daily, stories and testimonies of how people from all around the world have come to faith in Christ through reading the books or being guided through the Worldview Rethink courses. And it is not only unbelievers who have been impacted. Christians too have been strengthened in their understanding and faith by going through GoodSeed’s resources.

And the story is far from over. New frontiers of partnerships and opportunities are opening on many fronts—with multiple language groups in India, with the First Nations people of Canada, among others. Wisdom is needed as we determine how and where to channel our resources. Your ongoing prayers mean everything to us as we seek to make a clear gospel known.

20 years. Yes, it is amazing the sort of impact one book can have. But ultimately, it isn’t the book at all. It also isn’t any of us–writers, teachers, staff, volunteers or those who give and guide through the materials. The impact and power lies in the gospel itself. It is that which changes lives. It is God who is doing the work, bringing people to understanding and faith. We just have the privilege of participating in bringing him glory.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 ESV)

Author: Michelle Hiebert

Staff writer at the international office.