Troubleshooting Outreach

M.T. wrote in recently with an issue she’s faced when
trying to share GoodSeed materials with others. We answer below.

Study the Bible

The Quandary:
“I have given the books to many Christians to read, and for whatever reason,
they don’t want to even try reading them.”  — M.T.
Our Advice:
Hi M.T. — Though we don’t know the circumstances surrounding your quandary, here’s some general advice we can share.
  1. It helps to be hungry. Often if people don’t see a need to grow their knowledge in a certain area, they won’t put in the necessary effort (such as reading a book). While we do hear of those who will accept a big book, sit down and read right through it, often it helps if the person first has a hunger to know what they’re about to read.
  2. Sometimes you have to create the hunger. Share how learning about the Bible this way impacted you and why you think it’s important. Another idea is to give them the very small booklet, No Ordinary Book, first. This 48-page booklet was written for those who aren’t sure it’s worth their while to know the Bible’s message, but presses the point that the Bible is unique in many ways and worth studying. It’s meant to “whet the appetite.” It’s also a much less expensive book to test the waters to see if your friend will actually read a more in-depth book about the Bible.
  3. Ensure you are sharing the RIGHT material. Some people just aren’t big readers. Perhaps No Ordinary Story series might be better, since it’s split up into small, bite-sized booklets. Or share a video series that they can listen to for free here. Or perhaps they’d be willing to listen to a gospel drama and musical while they’re driving–No Ordinary Story Radio Theatre is ideal for this. Also, consider their worldview. If they are coming from a different background than you, you may want to consider the lens through which they see the world and offer something that addresses their specific worldview.
  4. Start a Bible study or book club. People often have the best of intentions of reading that book “some day,” but never seem to get around to it. This is where it’s helpful to arrange a time to meet to read through the book together. Many people will happily join a book study, but won’t make time on their own to read. You don’t have to be a great leader, teacher or even very knowledgeable about the Bible. Instead, consider yourself a facilitator who will provide the discipline and accountability to journey with your friend through the message. This is the most effective way to ensure someone learns the material.

Bible illiteracy and what it means for the Gospel

I recently read an article in Christianity Today regarding staggeringly poor Bible literacy rates found in the US and UK.

“Around 30 percent of [British] parents don’t know Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, or the Good Samaritan are in the Bible. To make matters worse, 27 percent think Superman is or might be a biblical story. More than 1 in 3 believes the same about Harry Potter. And more than half (54 percent) believe The Hunger Games is or might be a story from the Bible.

“But it’s more than simply not knowing stories from Scripture. Our lack of biblical literacy has led to a lack of biblical doctrine. LifeWay Research found that while 67 percent of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45 percent believe there are many ways to get there—including 1 in 5 evangelical Christians. More than half of evangelicals (59 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being—in contrast to the orthodox biblical teaching of the Trinity being three Persons in one God. As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.”

This article dates back to 2017, and in my limited experience, things have not improved.

GoodSeed was created for ones such as these, those who are biblically illiterate. Whether from an IslamicNew AgeSecular or even a Christianized background, most people these days do best with an approach to the Bible that assumes little or no prior knowledge; that builds foundations carefully; that takes into account worldviews and their common hang-ups; and that gives a creation-to-cross overview of Scripture.

Multiplying the Gospel

Recently we received phone calls from two different men who are multiplying the gospel using our materials.

Reaching out to Family and Friends

Gary* received his copy of The Stranger in the mail on a Friday and once he began reading it, couldn’t put it down. He finished it over the weekend and was so impacted by the message that he immediately ordered 5 more copies to give to family and friends. Pray that Gary’s loved ones will also be gripped by the good news of the gospel.

Reaching out to the Nations

Matthew* has trained lay leaders and pastors in Liberia and Ghana for many years with Equip2Serve. He trains these leaders to teach a clear gospel and disciple new believers, multiplying his efforts throughout these countries. One of his main tools for training and evangelism is By This Name. It speaks directly to the worldview of those his group is teaching and gives them a strong foundation in the gospel. Matthew has also begun using The Captive and the King’s Will to train their core group of leaders to lay a strong framework from which they can effectively disciple others. With hundreds of these books headed his way, in addition to visual aid kits, we pray the Lord will use these materials powerfully as the clear gospel message is taught.

Whether by the ones or by the thousands, it’s immensely encouraging to see believers around the world becoming impassioned about the gospel message and eager to share the Good News with others.

How we’re working to keep costs low

Making materials financially accessible

We’re all feeling the impact of rising costs. At GoodSeed, we work hard to make the gospel as accessible as possible to those seeking the Truth, including in the area of cost. We we are doing what we can to keep our costs as low as possible. So far, our prices remain unchanged.

Here are some things we do to keep our materials as affordable as possible:

  1. FREE materials: Some simply cannot afford to buy a book. Others fear for their safety and do not want to have to explain a religious book purchase. For those people, we offer our e-books free of charge. You can also stream the entire video series of The Stranger online, as well as find other resources freely available on our website.
  2. Our staff don’t earn money off GoodSeed materials. Not even our authors. Instead, staff members either work as volunteers or raise funds as missionaries in order to keep GoodSeed operational.
  3. We charge as little as possible. GoodSeed isn’t looking to make big bucks; we simply want to be financially responsible and cover our costs to reprint and create new resources.
  4. We opt to keep our prices low rather than offer free shipping. We know shipping prices are shooting up. While free shipping is awesome, usually the shipping costs are instead hidden within the price of the item, making the items more expensive. Instead, we keep the prices of our materials as low as we can and don’t cover “free” shipping by raising the prices of our books. What it means is that you only pay for what you need, whether that be books or how much it costs to get them to you. No more and no less.
  5. We looked ahead. We could see that print costs were about to skyrocket, so we stocked up on frequently purchased books months ago. That’s how we’re still able to offer materials at the same prices as a year ago. We will continue to offer materials at those prices for as long as possible.

Here are some things you can do to save when you purchase from us:

  1. Purchase in bulk. For most of our materials, you receive significant discounts (often between 20-50% off) the more you purchase. In some cases, if you just buy another book or two, you will find your cost doesn’t change much – but you get more books.
  2. Try to purchase more, less often. This is why: shipping on the first book or two is significant compared to the cost of the books. But the more you purchase, you will see the per-book shipping cost drop significantly. So if you think you will want more books in a few months, consider saving yourself quite a lot in shipping by buying it in one go.
  3. For USA Residents: Americans save a significant amount due to exchange rate. Because we operate out of Canada, you currently save 20-25% off Canadian prices (including shipping) simply because the US dollar is that much stronger than the Canadian dollar. Also, you do not pay any taxes, Canadian or American.

25 Years of “The Stranger”

It’s amazing the impact one book can have.

When The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was published in 1997, author John R. Cross could not foresee it would be the catalyst for a global ministry. It’s clear in hindsight the birth of The Stranger was guided by God years before it appeared on the horizon.

John didn’t plan to be an author—he didn’t even like paperwork! So God led John into a position where he gained unique knowledge of the gospel being taught in a wide range of circumstances, all through observation. In the 1980s, John’s role in New Tribes Mission (now Ethnos360) took him to some of the remotest places on earth. He saw firsthand the Bible taught to isolated tribes previously ignorant of the Bible’s message.

He saw that success wasn’t about numbers, but about understanding.

In some locations, he observed whole villages putting their faith in Christ. In others, he saw that only a handful became believers. In some situations, tribal people came to Christ without the age-old problems of syncretism and being “rice Christians*.” In others, new believers struggled with those very issues.

As John visited these locations, he asked the local missionaries and national Bible teachers questions—many questions. Without really seeking it, John received a God-engineered education in cross-culture communication—what worked well and not so well. He learned what it meant to cross worldview barriers. He observed that when the Bible was carefully presented from creation to Christ, it made profound sense; God would be at work and lives would be transformed. He saw that success wasn’t about numbers, but about understanding. He witnessed how the Holy Spirit always worked through his Word. When the Word was taught with clarity, the Holy Spirit would bring conviction and enlightenment to the heart. It became clear that an understood gospel is a powerful gospel.

When the Word was taught with clarity, the Holy Spirit brought conviction and enlightenment.

Then, as John interacted with people in North America and other areas of the developed world, he realized that often those he rubbed shoulders with differed little from remote tribal people. Here too, people knew little or nothing about the God of the Bible. They didn’t understand who Jesus was or why he came to earth. The western world had become a post-Christian culture.
Building on the experience gained overseas, John began sharing the Bible in North America using many of the same methods.

It was in this environment The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was birthed. John incorporated into the book four principles of learning that proved so effective with tribal groups. He designed The Stranger as a stand-alone book, to be given away on its own. It could also be used in small groups as a guide for teaching a clear gospel.

An understood gospel is a powerful gospel.

Within weeks of The Stranger’s release, requests came pouring in. “Can we have a German translation? Do you have an audiobook? Can you adapt this for a Muslim reader?”

Thus, GoodSeed International was formed.

More than just one book

GoodSeed’s mandate is to partner with churches and ministries around the world, creating tools for different:

  • Ages (children, teens, adults, elderly)
  • Worldviews (Christianized, Islamic, Eastern, Secular, Children)
  • Learning Preferences (read, watch, listen; individual or group)
  • Needs (sight, hearing, literacy, etc)

As part of that mandate, visual aids are a significant component in communicating to these groups.

In the last 25 years, GoodSeed has become an international ministry. Books, videos and curricula are used in homes, churches, kids clubs, VBS, camps, prison ministries, retirement centres, community outreaches, rehab programs and Bible colleges. They have been translated and printed in scores of languages.

The impact and power lie in the gospel itself.

In 2001, All that the Prophets have Spoken was published to address the Islamic worldview. That same year, The Lamb, our fully illustrated children’s book, was released.

No Ordinary Story

In 2007, By This Name was produced for the Eastern, New Age, post-modern worldview, which includes those from atheistic or agnostic backgrounds.

Sensing a rapidly developing, disinterested/secular worldview, the No Ordinary Story series was written in 2019. In 2021 GoodSeed released an adaptation of No Ordinary Story as a radio theatre.

Each tool follows the same structure as The Stranger. All are creation-to-Christ presentations of the gospel, tailored carefully for different worldviews, ages and learning preferences. Hundreds of Scripture verses are incorporated into each book, allowing the reader to constantly interact with the Bible and get direct exposure to its life-giving message.

In 2019, a sequel to the evangelism books was released called The Captive and the King’s Will. Written for new believers, it gives a logical next step for those investigating the Bible. A training curriculum in worldview evangelism and discipleship was created called TERM for Small Groups (TERM=The Emmaus Road Message).

We regularly receive stories and testimonies of how people from around the world have come to faith in Christ through reading the books or being guided through a Worldview Rethink course. And it is not only unbelievers who have been impacted. Longtime Christians have been strengthened in their understanding and faith.

Twenty-five 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 lie in the gospel itself. It is God who does the work, bringing people to understanding and faith through his Word. We simply get the privilege of participating in bringing him glory.

An understood gospel
is a powerful gospel

Even long-time believers have gaps in their understanding that need filling

A better understood gospel made all the difference

A pastor who has trained hundreds of other leaders in the gospel shared:

“We’ve found that, when teaching believers, you never know what and where the gaps exist in people’s minds. But when you teach from Creation to Christ, most of those gaps get filled in. Then you have true understanding, and an understood gospel is a powerful gospel.”

  “…an understood gospel is a powerful gospel.”

This certainly was the case for Todd*, a young man who found that those gaps in his understanding were the difference between eternal death and life.

I have been a church goer all my life. Thus, Jesus … has always been a part of who I am … I question and look for evidence and proof before making decisions. This inherently led me for a few years to occasionally ask the questions, “Do I really believe this?” or “How can I be sure?” I began to look at church as a chore and something I had to do…

Although I was a church-goer, it wasn’t until I went through Soteria [Church’s] Starting Point Class that things began to click. The factual nature of the “Stranger on the Road to Emmaus” started giving me the insight I was looking for. The ever-lingering questions of “Do I really believe this?” or “How can I be sure?” began to fade and were replaced by requests: “Lord, help me understand,” or “Lord, use me to do your will.”

In summary, in the past I could put up a good front and say the right things when asked, but it wasn’t until recently that I truly believed for myself that Jesus died for our sins and credited us his righteousness. There is a new energy in who I am. I am excited and eager to go to church, be part of a growth group, and spend time in the Word. I look forward to growing and strengthening my faith in the years to come and leading my family in a God-fearing, God-first manner.”

Our blog highlights similar stories from other churches. While the approach varies, these churches desire their entire congregation and any newcomers to go through a creation-to-Christ curriculum. This has a number of advantages:

  • This ensures no one slips through the cracks, thinking they are saved, but are not due to an incorrect understanding of what that means.
  • When an entire congregation shares the same foundation of knowledge, the pastor is able to go deeper in his teaching without leaving people behind.
  • Believers have a strong foundation on which to build their Christian walk. B
  • elievers have a more comprehensive understanding of the gospel and thus, are better able to share the gospel with others in the community.

An understood gospel is powerful. What difference might it make in our churches if everyone grasped a clear gospel message? Let’s ensure the foundations are strong so the lives built on them can be lived with confidence.

*Name has been changed

Walking beside those who hesitate to believe

Last week we looked at the story of Robin, a woman who was taught through By This Name, but seemed hesitant to acknowledge her need for a Saviour.

This week, we’ll take a look at some things that helped Robin move towards Christ, as well as things we realized we needed to avoid.

  1. Be willing to re-teach. Robin wasn’t necessarily interested in learning new material; she wanted to get the same material firmly established in her mind. Another couple (we’ll call them Joe and Della) volunteered to teach her through No Ordinary Story. As they studied, they took time to discuss Robin’s questions. Don’t assume that the gospel truths will be easily absorbed by your student. The Bible stories that seem so basic to you may require much more effort for your student to understand. Don’t underestimate the darkness of the unsaved mind and how much it may obscure the truths of Scripture. Only the Holy Spirit, prayer and exposure to God’s Word can break through that darkness.
  2. Give time. Robin needed time for the Holy Spirit to work; time to process everything she’d heard; time to weigh the truth and consider how she should respond. Don’t push for results, especially if it’s simply for the sake of being able to announce a new believer. Often we feel pressure to see our student make a decision right away, but we must be sure we’re allowing the Holy Spirit to guide the process.
  3. Be available. If Robin needed to discuss for the 5th time a particular hang-up, Joe and Della took the time to gently point her to Scripture. Slowly, we saw Robin trust her questions to God and choose to believe his Word. Don’t get exasperated and be careful of a judgmental or condescending attitude towards your student. Patience is key.
  4. Keep the spiritual battle in mind. Pray compassionately for your student. Don’t forget there is a great struggle going on that we can’t necessarily see or understand. Only the Holy Spirit is mighty enough to break through the darkness and oppose the obstacles thrown up by the enemy. Pray for them!

There came a point when Joe and Della realized that Robin no longer held the gospel at arm’s length. She began to respond in faith, even if she didn’t fully understand everything. Robin started to identify herself as belonging with those who believed the Bible. Sometimes, they’d read a few sentences that pertained to the gospel and Robin who say, “That’s what I believe.” She began to acknowledge that her former way of thinking was wrong.

She stopped attending her New Age classes. After years of despising organized religion, Robin was now interested in attending church. She spoke with unbelievers around her about the Bible. Her speech and demeanor began to change. She grew hungry to learn the next steps in the journey.

This all came gradually over the course of many months. There was no “lightbulb moment,” no clear hour of conversion. It simply became apparent over time that Robin was a believer. At some point, Robin crossed over from death to life, the exact moment known only to her Saviour. But it was undeniably clear that we now had a new believer in our midst. Oh, the rejoicing!

Next week, we’ll look at the next steps taken with Robin as she began her new walk with the Lord.

How should I view a vague response to the gospel?

It’s been about a year since our Bible study with Robin, using By This Name. Robin is an older woman who knew a few Bible stories, but not much more. She had gotten deeply involved in spiritism and was dismissive of the Bible for most of her life.

I think it was curiosity and a desire to be informed that caused her to join us for a Bible study. She was a respectful student and we were hopeful as we finished By This Name. When the time came to ascertain her understanding, however, she gave us a somewhat cryptic answer: “Yeah, I agree with all this. It’s what I’ve believed all along.”

Now, there was a part of us that really wanted to assume her answer meant that she had become a believer and we could move into sanctificational teaching. But, we didn’t feel that was actually the case. What should we do?

Here are some factors we had to consider:

  1. Pride. We felt that pride was a stumbling block for Robin. It seemed she wasn’t ready to admit she needed a Saviour.
  2. Teaching. There was one area of teaching that Robin seemed stuck on. She needed more teaching.
  3. Blindness. Robin was dabbling in New Age teaching even during the time we taught her. We underestimated how spiritual darkness poses such a barrier to accepting the gospel.
  4. The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s work is unique in each person’s heart. It seemed he was at work, but things weren’t as far along as we had hoped.
  5. Personality. Robin is a deep thinker. She doesn’t make decisions lightly. It wasn’t in her nature to make this monumental life change quickly and without great consideration.
  6. Space. We realized we shouldn’t push her. Robin needed to work through some things and have time for the Holy Spirit to work in her heart and bring her to conviction. She just wasn’t there… yet.
  7. False Assurance. We felt that if we moved on with Robin in the assumption that she was saved, this might give her a false assurance and even bolster the pride already at work.

Robin’s story is still unfolding. Next week, we’ll see how her understanding developed and how it can help us interact with those we seek to reach.

When a student is reluctant to believe

“Do you believe this message?” Elaine asked Rose upon completing their study through By This Name.

Rose hesitated. There were a few things holding her back. Her entire family was antagonistic to Christianity; she feared their derision. She also had some lingering questions she wanted to look into more. And since she wasn’t the type to make decisions lightly, she needed time to think.

For weeks, Elaine and Rose’s visits consisted largely of small talk, with only occasional discussions about the Bible. It was discouraging for Elaine. What should she do? Should she push harder for a decision? One friend even suggested that because Rose hadn’t believed in Christ right away, her hesitance exhibited a hardness of heart which meant that Rose wouldn’t ever believe. Elaine didn’t want to view Rose in that light, but the doubts niggled.

Many weeks later, Rose finally made a clear statement of her belief in Christ. It had taken time, but Rose’s decision was now clear.

In truth, Rose’s response is common. Most people don’t make life-changing decisions (whether a house purchase, marriage partner or becoming a Christian) without at least some reflection. We have found several weeks of consideration to be fairly typical in the studies taught by our staff.

Rose’s fear of derision from her family was well-founded. She did become an object of mockery, but she had taken the time to count the cost and still chose to trust Christ. More than 10 years later, she consistently walks with the Lord, despite scorn from her family members. Two other close family members have also recently become believers.

C.S. Lewis, famed author and thinker, also spent a long time wrestling with truths about Christ. On the night he made his decision to believe in Christ, he wrote that he was “the most dejected and reluctant convert … a prodigal who [was] brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape.”

Reluctance to believe should not be seen as a failure on the part of the teacher, nor viewed as a reason to give up on our student. We must not fall into the trap of pushing our students into a decision they are not ready to make. We must remember, it is God’s job to do the saving; we are merely the messengers. Our responsibility is to ensure the message is given clearly and accurately; the convicting is the Holy Spirit’s part.

So, what should we do when a student is slow in coming to a decision?

  1. More teaching. Some students get hung up on a particular topic. Often they need time and a little more information to work through their questions. Some may want to go through the material a second time as they work to put the pieces together correctly.
  2. Remain in touch. At this point, your friendship may feel a little awkward, but it’s crucial that you stay in your student’s life however you can. You want them to know that your friendship is not conditional on the decision they make and you want to be available for questions that may come up.
  3. Don’t push, but do gently remind. This requires some discernment. Remember it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. You want to stay out of his way. However, there may be a moment that naturally arises when it’s appropriate to remind your student that a choice does need to be made. Ultimately, you want your student’s faith to be an act of conviction by the Holy Spirit, not due to pressure from you.
  4. Don’t give up hope. When a decision isn’t forthcoming, we may be tempted to relegate a person to the “hopeless” list. How God works is as varied as the individual; sometimes it just takes time.
  5. Pray. And then pray some more.