If you met Adrien* today, you would never guess that just a few short years ago, he was an atheist who battled inner loneliness and emptiness. All you will see is a fulfilled father and husband, who is now a missionary along with his family. How did this transformation occur?
Adrien grew up in Quebec, going to church on Christmas and Easter but it was by more by obligation than by choice. Early in his teenage years, he totally rejected the idea of God and came to despise religion. He turned to science for an explanation of the world and for the purpose of life. “I was an atheist and I was strong about it. Religious people were fools in my eyes.”
After he finished his education, he joined the military. During his basic training, he became friends with Roy, a guy in his platoon. They ended up getting stationed on the same base. At this point in his life, Adrien had everything the world had to offer—a good job and lots of money. However, he was lonely and empty inside.
Continue reading “Any sign of religious belief was a sign of weakness”
Kent’s story: I now know there’s significantly more to life
Kent was raised in a small town in the heartland of the United States. Growing up, he went to church most weeks, attended the local Vacation Bible School each summer and was generally a good church boy.
As a teenager, he got a part-time job which often required him to work on the weekends. His church attendance fell off till he only darkened the doors for an occasional Easter or Christmas service.
For the next 15 years or so, Kent found himself chasing the next promotion, the next pay raise, the next pursuit, too busy to spend much time thinking about spiritual matters.
But then something happened that became a turning point in Kent’s life. A question was raised by his grandfather in the midst of a seemingly mundane conversation. Kent’s grandmother had passed away not long before, so Kent was checking in with his grandpa, chatting about the usual things: hunting, fishing, gardening, cars. But then Kent’s grandpa got real quiet and turned to him, “Do you think I’ll go to Heaven when I die?”
Just picturing the scene still brings a rush of emotion for Kent. At the time, the question completely stunned him, as he had never discussed religious matters with his grandpa before. “I wasn’t really sure how to answer the question,” he shares, “but it is a conversation I’ve thought about literally every day since then.”
Continue reading “The Murphys: Journeying towards the truth together”
Derek* was just a young associate pastor starting his first job at a church when he crossed paths with Nick. Derek’s zeal for sharing the gospel had led him to hand out numerous tracts and speak to many people about God’s love in sending Jesus to earth to die for them. His presentation of the gospel generally started with the cross. But with Nick, Derek suddenly found himself needing to shift gears in his approach. Here was a guy who literally knew nothing about the Bible. Nick didn’t even know the difference between Jesus and Moses!
It was at this point that Derek realised that he would be unable to simply tell Nick about the cross and expect Nick to understand the gospel sufficiently to put his faith in Christ. So, as the two young men began meeting together for lunches at a restaurant, Derek began telling Nick the story of the Bible, starting in Genesis. As they progressed, Derek used napkins to draw illustrations of key concepts and events of the Old Testament.
“After several weeks we finally arrived at Jesus,” Derek later wrote. “The Sunday following our final meeting, Nick came to my office after church because he was ready to trust Christ. I’ll never forget seeing him drop to his knees, confess his sin, and claim Christ as his sufficient substitute. When he stood up he looked me in the eyes and said, ‘The robes of Jesus righteousness have just been placed around my shoulders.’
Continue reading “We need to convey more of the gospel story”
A chronological and systematic approach to presenting the Bible’s message is not only invaluable for leading unbelievers to understand the gospel. It is also a powerful means of establishing believers in their faith and preparing them to share the gospel with others. We recently heard of a pastor who recognizes this. As a result he has used By This Name to disciple his congregation.
Pastor Craig* started by using By This Name as the springboard for a 14-week sermon series. He wrote to us: “I had the congregation read a chapter of By this Name each week as well as scriptures related to the topic of the chapter. I preached on scriptures related to the chapters. Each home group discussed what they were learning from the book and the scriptures they were reading.”
This sermon series was an Old Testament survey—with the specific goal of revealing Jesus Christ in clarity and simplicity. Pastor Craig titled the series “It All Points to Jesus” to emphasize that the Old Testament is not just a conglomeration of random stories, but the critical basis to understanding the identity and work of Jesus.
Continue reading “It all points to Jesus”
It’s an idyllic village nestled in an out-of-the-way corner along the north Atlantic coast. On this early spring evening, a group of about 15 people, ranging from teenagers to middle-aged, have just completed a weekend retreat. They are eagerly anticipating an upcoming missions trip to Central America. The weekend has proven to be pivotal in their preparation as they have spent two and a half days together, getting to know each other and being established in the message of the gospel.
“I wanted to join the mission team to increase my faith in God. This weekend has done that for me.” This comes from Vicky, one of the teenaged participants who is typically very reticent about expressing herself in public.
Samuel, a man in his 50s, is even more enthusiastic: “This weekend was literally the best weekend of my entire life.”
What made this weekend so special? For one thing, it was a great group of people. It was also a well-planned event. But the backbone of the weekend—and the highlight for everyone—was what they studied together: the gospel itself, from creation right through to the Cross.
Continue reading “The best weekend of my entire life!”
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The voice on the phone had a note of concern. “Mom, before you come, I want to let you know that Mei Ling* is coming over shortly. She’s really hurting and she wants to talk.”
After her daughter hung up, Haley paused for a moment. She had been about to leave for Stephanie’s home to see her new grandson for the first time when the call had come. Mei Ling was Stephanie’s neighbour and Haley had met her almost three years earlier. They had become well acquainted with each other as they both shared a passion for gardening. Mei Ling had shared a little about herself over the course of their friendship. Her parents were believers but Mei Ling had never shown any interest in her parents’ faith. Though her parents had tried to take her and her siblings to church, Mei Ling had turned down their offers. Since she had been a child, she was more interested in herself. Now Haley wondered what was causing Mei Ling so much grief. All of a sudden, she felt the very strong urge to take along a copy of By This Name.
Haley arrived at Stephanie’s home which was some distance away. It wasn’t long before Mei Ling knocked on the door. Over coffee, Mei Ling poured her heart out to Haley and Stephanie. Her life was full of trouble.
As Haley listened, she knew she didn’t want to give her friend words of empty comfort. She knew that trite cliches had no value. “I wanted to offer her real hope.” Haley wanted to share with Mei Ling the true hope found in the God of the Bible.
She decided to lay it on the line. She said to Mei Ling, “This world is full of trouble and we don’t have a lot of hope in this world.”
Mei Ling’s eyes flickered. She piped up, “That’s me. I have no hope! You are so lucky, you have hope. You have your God, you got your religion.”
Haley gave a measured response. “We’re not lucky… It’s just that we’ve chosen to put our hope in the living God.”
Mei Ling shook her head as if to preempt Haley’s invitation. “I don’t want to be a Christian. But,” she added with an edge to her voice, “I’ve got some big questions for your God.”
Continue reading “I don’t want to be a Christian”
When Barry* called the GoodSeed office to order resources, he asked if he could pop in for a visit. “I want to share with you what I’ve been doing since the TERM Seminar,” he said.
A short time later, he dropped by at lunch time. He had driven for over two hours but was eager to tell his story. Barry was a busy businessman but with a big heart for evangelism. He had been looking for a simple way to share the gospel but struggled to find the time to train himself to be an effective teacher. But after attending TERM, he realized that the Dynamic Leading-Reading-Modelling method that had been taught was something he could do.
“The first impact [of the seminar] was how it helped me. I’ve been a Christian for many years but never seen it put together like this. The whole concept of atonement, the tabernacle, Adam and Eve, the covering, all coming together is remarkable,” Barry shared with the GoodSeed staff around the lunch table.
He went on to say that, as he sat through the three days of TERM, his level of enthusiasm grew. He saw how easy it was to lead a group with the leader’s guide and after the seminar wrapped up, he asked to buy the curriculum.
Unfortunately at that time, the By This Name leader’s guide had not yet gone to press. So he waited. And waited. In the meantime, he bought copies of By This Name to give to others. When his first case of books arrived at his doorstep, he pulled them out of the box and started handing them out. He ran out before long. When he called to order more books, it happened that our proof copy of the By This Name leader’s guide had just arrived that day. When he learned that there was a physical copy in the office he asked, “Can I buy that one?”
Our office staff sold him the one copy we had. When he received it, Barry wasted no time in organizing groups to teach.
Continue reading “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist in evangelism to do this!”
Rose* looked up as the weekly ladies’ Bible study leader approached her. “Something’s come up. Can you fill in for me?” Rose agreed and took the opportunity to share the gospel briefly as part of her talk. Afterwards, Amy, a native lady, approached her.
“Every church I’ve been to has talked about having a relationship with God. But it’s not a relationship with God I’ve had; it has been a relationship with a church.” Amy went on to express her realization that she didn’t understand the gospel, although she’d attended numerous churches for years and had been baptized in most of them. It wasn’t until she heard Rose’s simple explanation of the gospel that it hit her—what she’d been searching for in all those churches could only be found in the Lord. She’d had it all backwards.
Shortly after, Amy moved in with Marcia who was a friend of Rose. Amy was tireless in her search for truth. She asked so many questions that Marcia became quite exhausted. Finally, the woman offered Amy a copy of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, hoping it’d address her curiosity. Amy lost no time in reading the book. “Now I’m beginning to understand,” she told Marcia. But Amy’s questions didn’t abate. She still needed answers to some nagging questions she had.
Continue reading “I have relationships with churches, not God”
Ever wondered how other churches bring in non-believers to study the Bible? Here’s what a church in Derby, England has done for many years. The church hosts “Just Looking” groups for those who are open to learning more about the Bible. In 2012, our first blog post was a story about these groups. The church had been running them for a number of years and it continues to do so.
The participants of the “Just Looking” groups gather in a non-threatening location (i.e., not a church), for a relaxing and informal time of learning. The leaders have been using The Stranger for several years to guide the course. Those who attend come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but all have one thing in common: they do not possess a clear understanding of the Bible’s message.
Laura* shared that, before she had been invited to the group, “I hadn’t had any thoughts about the Bible. I’d heard of the Bible. I’d probably held one in my hands, but never read it. I didn’t know what it was. Didn’t really have any thoughts at all about the Bible.“
Amir was a young Muslim who attended the group: “I thought [Christianity] was a religion similar to Islam. I thought they all led to God.”
William wasn’t even interested in attending. Now an elderly man, he’d lived his whole life apart from God’s Word. It was his wife who nagged him to come till he finally conceded. “I told her, ‘I’ll go along, see what it’s like. If I don’t like it, I’ll leave.’”
Continue reading “I’d probably held a Bible in my hands, but never read it”
Sometimes it’s in the midst of the mundane that the Lord brings about opportunities and encouragement. Here’s one such story that we recently received.
James* is a missionary in West Africa. He has been using L’Homme sur le chemin d’Emmaüs, the French edition of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, in his ministry with those he disciples.
When the date arrived for his annual vehicle inspection, James did what every other vehicle owner in the African nation does: prepare for a long, hot wait in line for bureaucracy to do its thing. Knowing he’d likely be waiting for more than a few hours, James brought along his copy of L’Homme sur le chemin d’Emmaüs to study and prepare for a coming lesson.
He got his vehicle into the queue and went to the waiting area. James pulled out his book and began to review it, but before long, a stranger walked up to him. “That’s my favourite book!” he exclaimed. James was startled. He wasn’t aware that the book was available in West Africa. The man hurriedly explained, “My colleague and I are going through that book together at work. He told me a young American gave him the book and has been going through it with him.”
Continue reading “That’s my favourite book!”