Category : Mike Schrage

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Church: The Next Best Thing

Recently I heard Dr. Mark Scott say in a sermon, “We haven’t done everything right as the Church, but we are the best thing to have happened on earth until Jesus’ comes back!”

I agree. Though our local congregations aren’t perfect, there are glimpses into what Christ has called us to be. When you look around the world, perhaps now more than ever, we have tremendous opportunity to make a positive impact on this world for Christ. Though we are imperfect, the One we assemble to worship each week is perfect. He can use us to spread His fame throughout the earth while meeting real needs within our communities. That’s been the model for the Church from the beginning.

Likewise, neither GNPI or any of the individuals who comprise her are perfect (as if you were unsure). Yet we are trying to obey The Great Commandment and The Great Commission. Our objective is to shower the world with God’s love as we go, making disciples through culturally relevant media and media strategies. That’s our special niche in His Kingdom.

The “going” and “making” are imperative commands of Jesus, so our hearts are set on this. It’s who we are. We see it as the best thing that’s ever happened to us on earth, until Jesus comes back.

 

Context

“. . . the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do . . .” — 1 Chronicles 12:32 (NASB)

Context is a key component in understanding the most effective way to share the Gospel.

Never has this been more true than when considering how to use technology in evangelism. Columnist Tom Goodwin recently observed: “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory.  Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”

This is true for ministry as well. Some members of the GNPI staff recently visited with the curators of YouVersion (probably an App you have on your phone). YouVersion team member Kyle Smith shared that in eight years, YouVersion has become the largest distributor of Christian material in the world! Imagine going from not existing to the world’s largest in eight years!

The ability to respond to the ever-changing culture of society (and the Lord’s wisdom to perceive the rate and direction) to the ever-changing context of technology is crucial.

Like the sons of Issachar, let us discern the times and the context and move forward!

 

A Salute to a Special Teacher

Barbara Sachtleben

As a history teacher, Barbara Sachtleben has seen the benefit of technology in the classroom. As a GNPI Board member, Barbara also saw the benefit of technology for sharing the Gospel around the world. She has done her best to learn using all kinds of technology.

Barbara has served as a Board member since 2009. Before that, Barbara was gracious to drive her parents from Springfield, Illinois, to Joplin, Missouri, every year for the annual banquet and Board meetings as long as her parents were able to make the trip. Barbara’s father, John Sachtleben, was one of the original Board members of GNPI.

Barbara meticulously took the minutes for advisory council meetings for years before becoming a member of the Board of Directors. We appreciate the great investment of time, energy, and laughter in the ministry of GNPI.

Congratulations on your 40-year teaching career, Barb! Our staff is praying the Lord will fill your days with joy and contentment and bless you in your next endeavors.

Click here to read about Barbara in the State Journal-Register.

In 14 Years

It’s incredible to note that it’s been 14 years since the 9/11 tragedy that so shaped our nation. What has God done to redeem this tragedy? I can think of a few things, but here’s an important one:

More than ever, Americans are sensitive to and knowledgeable about the Islamic religion and worldview.

But did you know this? According to a recent report, amid all the news that Islam is making great gains around the world, there is another worldview making great gains.

In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation on earth, two million Muslims are converting to Christianity per year. That’s one new convert every 15 seconds.

That is the God we serve! Even when perceptions tell us differently, he is a God who can redeem the lost and turn death to life!

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

God is moving many, including those of us at GNPI, to pray, prepare, and plant seeds of Good News into the hearts of men, women, and children from the world of Islam.

Human Words

“Human words cannot change human hearts.” Dr. Jim Denison

My own life story illustrates this fundamental point. In 1976 I was a college kid in Carbondale, Illinois. I was alone and had no direction.

I was bored with life.

My mother, however, had found a new path and was anything but bored with life. She had just become a Christian and began praying for her children. Once, when I was home from college, she secretly put a New Testament in my suitcase before I returned to school.

I found it as I started work again at Southern Illinois University’s research farm. I was still wandering. With a lack of friends, fun, and family, I began to read this little blue book my mother had hidden in the bottom of my suitcase.

I thought she had just done my laundry, but she wanted something else clean too – my heart!

As a 19 year-old kid, I was totally unaware of the Bible. Out of curiosity and boredom, on a cold November evening, I began to read a chapter in a book called “John.”

At first I thought it was odd. It didn’t really make much sense to me. However, God’s Word moved quickly into my heart. By chapter three I was kneeling at the edge of my bed. I wept as I told a God I did not know of my sins, hopes, and struggles. Then and there I committed my life and future to Him!

No sermon. No five-week Bible study. No savvy evangelistic approach – simply God’s words leaping from a printed page into my heart.

That’s the genius of the Bible.

This Book of Books is filled with words not from a man named John, or any of the other writers; they are the words of God, delivered through men his Spirit moved! That made all the difference for my heart, soul, and the eternal trajectory of my life!

That’s why, 40 years later, I love what we do at GNPI. Here, two of our core values are being culturally relevant and biblically based in every production and strategy.

No, human words can’t change human hearts. Yet, God’s Word can and does. We see it almost every day at GNPI! I’m thankful God’s Word changed my life.

 

National Restoration

I continue to reflect on the March visit we had from Dr. Sergei Golovin and his wife, Olga. As much as we benefited from their trip to share what God is doing in Ukraine and Russia, they were also given a mighty boost from their interactions with so many stateside who provided love, care, and encouragement.

Until displaced by the looming military and political conflict, Sergei lived for decades in Simferopol, Ukraine. It is where his parents lived before him. Last year, when Russia took over the city of Simferopol and the entire Crimean Peninsula, it assumed it could start with the critical sea harbor at Crimea and move westward across all of Ukraine. However, these plans didn’t come to pass.

“What they underestimated,” said Sergei, “was the Ukrainians’ resolve to, ‘not be taken back to Egypt’ or put another way, not come again under the rule of communistic Russia.”

The onslaught has taken its toll on Ukraine. Ukraine is weak, but not defeated. Dazed, but not paralyzed. Young, but not foolish as a nation. Stripped down and almost bare, according to Sergei, Ukraine is starting to find revival because it was forced to do so.

Sergei said it well, “Good governance seeks the rights of mankind; good Christianity seeks a way to gracefully give up those rights.”

It’s from this posture of seeming brokenness that Sergei sees exciting opportunities to build a new nation founded on the principles of God and his Word.

That is national restoration!

 

The Restoration of Peter

Peter was a church planter in Kenya. After the missionaries left Kitale where he lived, Peter began to teach false doctrines to young churches in hopes of earning money in dishonest ways. He continued down this path for almost a decade.

Slowly but surely, after a chain of difficult events in his life, Peter admittedly began to wonder if the way he was living was causing him to miss out on the blessings of God. He didn’t know what to think about his daughter’s miscarriage. He and his wife were always arguing. He was not welcomed by his former preacher friends, and most of his relationships with missionary colleagues were diminished.

One day he arrived early to a leadership training. During a time of worship, he confessed with tears, kneeling to ask forgiveness before the entire gathering. Afterward, for a season, he refused to be a student or teacher. He refused even to eat with his former colleagues. He had to come to a place where he forgave himself, and he could allow others to forgive him.

Today, Peter is fully restored and is a strong leader among the churches in western Kenya. Peter knows the Bible as well as anyone and is a powerful witness of the boundless grace and forgiveness of God.

It sounds a lot like the restoration experienced by another Peter nearly 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem.

 

Baltimore and Kathmandu

A recent natural disaster has left more than 5,000 dead and 10,000 injured in Nepal; these counts seem to rise daily. Yet, close to home, our news media remains highly focused on the sad situation unfolding in Baltimore.

Both situations are serious, for many reasons, but what’s at their core that makes them critical? At the heart of these heartbreaking situations are real people with a real need for Jesus. Only Jesus has the power to transcend despicable living conditions in Nepal. Only Jesus can demolish hateful actions and the misunderstandings that so often damage our relationships.

Consider this: of Nepal’s 28 million people, less than 250,000 are Christian; 252 of its 263 people groups are unreached with the Gospel. Also weighing heavily in the balance is the growing number of people in our land who won’t even set foot in a church today.

The Nepal earthquake and the Baltimore riots underscore the urgency of getting God’s Word to the world while there is still time. While hundreds, even thousands, are ministering to relational and humanitarian needs in Baltimore and Nepal, God has given GNPI the task of speaking into the lives of those who’ve never heard the name of Jesus. This includes the 27.75 million non-Christian people in Nepal and more than two billion others on the earth.

We don’t know when the next disaster will send thousands into a Christ-less eternity. However, we do know that we are all one day closer to Jesus’ return! Lord, help us be aware and sensitive to the physical, social, and eternal needs of all.1

1  Some statistics from Dr. Jim Denison as reported in the “Denison Report” May 1, 2015.

 

Preventing Spiritual Leakage

I recently read “going into a church service doesn’t make you a Christian any more than walking into a barn makes you a cow!”

Attending a religious function (what we call worship in a church, mosque, or synagogue) does not define a Christ-follower or devotee of any other religion. Indeed, even religious practice combined with misguided sincerity of actions (for example, agreeing that all roads lead to heaven) is dangerous and challenging to us as followers of Jesus.

We don’t want to be labeled as judgmental or intolerant. Who does? Yet the tension of compromise for the sake of not rocking the boat is exactly how our lives develop “spiritual leakage.”

“Spiritual leakage” is a term my preacher, Randy Gariss, is fond of saying! At times we inadvertently compromise yruth by giving credence to perspectives we know aren’t in line with God’s Word – instead of considering the very eternities of the people we wish not to offend.

I want to be a friend to everyone, yet the words of Jesus are laser focused. He said he was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one could come to God, except by him.

It all comes back to, as the Apostle Paul said, speaking the truth in love. We do this so we won’t be guilty of thinking we’re a cow just because we’ve walked into the barn.

Well, maybe that’s not quite the best picture to paint after all. But I think you get the point. Truth is truth, and it’s worth sharing – even when it’s hard. After all, eternities are at stake.

No pun intended.

A Missourian You Should Know

Everett Forkner is one of the original trustees of GNPI. He has served on our board for 39 years and is going strong. We are blessed to have his spiritual maturity and business experience. I thought it would be appropriate to brag on someone who has meant so much to us.

Everett Forkner

Everett was recently listed as one of the Fifty Missourians You Should Know in Ingram’s online publication.

Everett Forkner Forkner Farms, Richards

If Missouri’s multi-billion-dollar livestock industry had a face—a human face—it might look a lot like Everett Forkner’s. A longtime figure in both beef and pork production, he’s a widely recognized expert in techniques to improve the quality of farm-raised hogs, as well as in boar testing, carcass and genetic evaluation, and he’s no stranger to the winners’ circle at various livestock competitions.

An animal-sciences graduate of MU, he’s the patriarch of a small family conglomerate that raises half a dozen swine breeds as well as cattle. He also has a statewide and national reputation, having served as chairman of the National Pork Board (2011-2012), and he’s been a member of the Missouri Pork Association and winner of the MPA’s annual Chairman’s Award.

With four of his children, he has established four family enterprises—a 2,000-acre spread devoted to grain crops and grass farming for feedstocks, a trademarked swine-breeding business, a natural premium pork production and marketing business, and a cattle-breeding family partnership.

Congratulations on this honor, Everett! I am so thankful that the people who lead our efforts to accelerate global evangelism through media and technology are also active and making an impact in their communities!

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