In a writing career that spans numerous decades I’ve received some interesting assignments. But none remotely like the one I recently received from my colleagues at Telling the Truth, and which I am about to fulfill.
I’m sitting on the deck of my home aged 83 years old. It’s a beautiful summer’s day, I’m in good health and in full possession of my faculties—so far as I know—and I’m to write to you a letter to be shared with you when I have departed this earthly scene and have gone to my eternal destiny!
Having never done this before—or even contemplated doing it—I’m a total neophyte and no doubt the words that shortly find their way on to paper will reflect that reality.
The request for this letter springs from the fact that I was entrusted by God with the responsibility of founding Telling the Truth more than 40 years ago. It was thought that some words from me reflecting a backward look concerning the original “whys” and “hows” of the ministry and venturing a forward look into the hidden future may serve to encourage those upon whose shoulders the burden and the joy of continuing the ministry would rest.
On receiving the request my mind immediately locked on to three words—intent, content and extent—and subsequently I have had no more enlightened thoughts so that will constitute the framework of what I want to leave with you.
Jill and I came to America with our family at the request of Elmbrook Church. Our assignment was to pastor a growing church. My limited understanding of pastoring included the knowledge that the preaching and teaching of the Word of God was foundational, and so I set to work.
By that time I had been preaching for over 20 years and had done so around the world, so I had seen many evidences of the power of the preached Word to change lives. The thought of being in a situation where I could devote myself not only to teaching but living among the people and seeking to help them apply the Word filled me with great joy.
Shortly after beginning the ministry at Elmbrook, I was approached by a friend, Bob Straton, who asked me, “If your preaching is worth hearing within these four walls of the church, would it be worth hearing outside these walls as well?” The short answer, assuming the initial premise was correct, had to be, “Yes.” So, I agreed.
Bob then added, “Then let me put you on radio.” And Telling the Truth was born because a small group of enthusiastic people wanted to be part of the venture. Our “intent” was crystal clear—we wanted to spread far and wide the kind of biblical teaching and preaching that had been proven to be beneficial in many lives.
Over the intervening years there have been many changes in society as a whole, many new ideas about ministry, many theories about how to “do” church, and even not a few ventures into developing new theologies. But Telling the Truth’s original intent has not changed—we simply want to release the Word of God in the hearing of as many people as possible and to apply it to as many situations as we are enabled.
All the time remembering that as we make the Word available to the masses, only the Holy Spirit can make the Word particular to individuals in their unique situations.
“Style” and “substance” are two major factors in effective communication. Style focuses on the “how” of communicating. Substance is the “what” that is being shared.
With the incredible advances in technology, the means of communicating anything, and the different ways in which it can be done, are such that there is always a danger of the attention of communicators being captured by matters of style at the expense of substance.
Granted, you can have the most glorious substance available to you, but if it is presented in such a way that nobody listens to it, or if they do listen but do not comprehend it, then the rich substance falls on hard unproductive ground.
On the other hand, we have all heard presentations that perhaps warranted the scathing response of a friend of mine who, after listening to a talk commented, “He spoke beautifully and said nothing.”
Telling the Truth has tried to keep in step with the times—we really want people to listen and comprehend—but never at the expense of the content. And that content can best be described in the words of the great Apostle, “The whole counsel of God.”
Telling the Truth first saw the light of day in a small corner of a dark basement! We were a small handful of optimistic, enthusiastic volunteers with no knowledge and less money… but we made a start!
We had learned a solid principle—“the best way to begin is to begin.”
I was recently told by the Director of the ministry that when we started Telling the Truth we utilized three “delivery systems” but now (at the time of writing!) we are using twenty-six systems! I’m making no claims to understand what that means, but I get the picture.
Our capabilities when we started over forty years ago bear no resemblance to the possibilities that modern technology now offers us. “Global” is a grandiose word and sounds vaguely hyperbolic, but in this instance it is the right adjective to describe the extent of Telling the Truth’s reach.
Over the last number of years, this global footprint has only continued to grow as we have increasingly utilized the emerging technology that allows us to reach even more people with the life transforming Word of God.
As I look back, it’s clear that we’ve been blessed with people with the right kind of skills and the means to utilize the right kind of equipment to make the outreach of the ministry far beyond anything that could have been envisioned when we started out. And only God knows where the possibilities will go!!
If I could make one last request, it would be for you to continue your gracious support of Telling the Truth to enable this ministry to continue to proclaim God’s life-transforming Truth to a world in desperate need of shifting their focus from the things of this world to the things of God’s eternal plan and purpose—to help more people experience a Life of peace and hope that can only come through a personal relationship with Jesus.
For that ongoing support, I thank you.
So, with untold gratitude to the Lord for allowing us to do what has been done and utter confidence that this ministry will carry on doing things God’s way as He continues to bring about surprise after surprise, I move on and look forward to you eventually catching up with me. And if we have time—in eternity!!—you can bring me up to date on what happened when I had left you to “Keep calm and carry on.”
God bless you,