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.