Joan and I just completed our first “One Minute Bible Studies” ministry trip. We left Monday morning about 3:00 am and arrived in Colorado Springs around 4:00 pm. We bought some food for our cook out meal that night and got our first glance at Maggie’s Farm and its sign for overflow parking. We headed out Hwy 24 climbing to 10,000 feet and set up our tent and camp. We had some rain during the night but we managed, having no problem sleeping, with the thunder and pelting of rain going on.
We had our morning coffee, using our “his and hers” Italian coffee makers, over the fire with a bowl of cereal, this would be our morning routine for the next 4 days. I drink usually just one cup of coffee these days from my Italian pot. John Robinson had introduced it to us cooking coffee over a fire in our safari adventure in Zambia. We then visited the park’s museum and got some recommended hikes. We took off for the highest point in the park finding a geocache at the top. Beauty as far as the eye can see. We then hiked to another geocache at dynamite cabin underneath a grassy knoll.
We showered up in our coin operated showers and headed for Denver for our first meeting. I had organized these meetings as a “cheap date”. I would cover costs and be quite content with any love offerings that were taken. I was surprised to find an alternative route to Denver taking Hwy 67 north. Traveling along Trout Creek northward was good Colorado driving, until our highway turned to a dirt road. We had left plenty early but the unknown took away some of the enjoyment of the ride.
We met with Pastor Donovan Dez and his wife Chrystal. They were an army of 5 counting their three young children. Their church had not gotten off the ground yet and so here we were offering them a new tool in the toolbox of evangelism. I should point out that I believe in evangelism in all of its forms. Most Christians would love the opportunity to have a heart to heart conversation with another person about the things of God. Creating that opportunity is rather the job of the church in evangelism or a miracle encounter orchestrated by God. It really is a combination of the two. I have had two encounters with a Christian trying to communicate the gospel to me since my first encounter that led to my salvation 32 years ago. One was a woman asking me if I knew Christ while we were shopping. I happily said yes, and that was that. The other was a Presbyterian lay minister who had made a point of knocking on all the doors of Sparta once and asking if he could pray for any needs. When he knocked on my door I was pleased to recognize him from previous times together and I encouraged him in his endeavor by praying for some needs with him. If my life is an indicator of American Christian trends; most Christians do not look to orchestrate encounters with others to share the gospel.
That makes evangelistic Christians and churches a kind of vanguard fulfilling Christ’s commission to take His gospel into all of the earth. Pastor Dez was a little disappointed that I was not there to help him get rid of the flyers he had for an upcoming revival. No, this would be a different kind of outreach for him. I would explain that we were not here to advertise to the community but to find individuals within the community and take the time to communicate the word of God to them. He had put the “one minute bible studies” document on his Evernote, but I showed him how to use the links at “Just Pick One” on the website. I explained this would be casual outreach and we had no agenda or quota; but were just going to make ourselves available to what God wanted to do. Pastor Dez and I went out in our car and Joan went with Chrystal and the kids in their car.
In our car we stopped where a young man was shooting baskets and he happily did one with us. We then went to a local park. I went to where the young people were sitting together and Pastor Dez went to the skaters. Neither of us made any headway, although a man barbequing took notice of what I was doing and did a bible study with me within the hearing ears of the young people, who all chose to listen verses moving away. It turns out this man was a Navajo just like Pastor Dez. They would compare notes later before leaving the park starting with which families they each were part of.
I went to the basketball court and did my first bible study using the Spanish version on the web page. Our Spanish friend took over the reading from me after the first verse. I then did one with six young men playing a game that led to some good questions and answers. In the meantime, Pastor Dez was at the playground talking with a man there with his kids. They did a “one minute bible study”, they talked, the man prayed and Pastor Dez got his phone number with the hope that he could make the upcoming revival with Pastor Richard Brooks. We exchanged experiences and he said he could see how this could work and we returned to rendezvous with the girls after about 40 minutes.
Joan took the lead in the other car as Chrystal listened from the car. They did one with one young girl and then another with a Muslim girl. Finally, Joan did one with a man with Parkinson’s who invited her into the house to do one with him and his wife. The wife refused and Joan found out that their daughter had been murdered many years ago. They did the bible study, they talked about his life and finally talked about forgiveness. Joan prayed for him and as she was getting back in the car the man came out and asked her who had referred her to talk with him. The answer was no one, but God probably was involved he was told by Joan.
When back together I asked their oldest daughter (maybe 7) what was her favorite restaurant and it was off to McDonald’s we went for a time of fellowship. It was a great time hearing their testimonies of salvation and overcoming marriage difficulties with God. Pastor Dez had been a sermon illustration a few years back by Pastor Tom Payne. Life was difficult and the numbers didn’t add up from working his Walmart job. He wanted to return to his good paying bull-riding life even though he knew it would not be good for his family. He was encouraged to do what was right and trust God. Sure enough, doors would open and the numbers started adding up. They were headed for a small town in Colorado but God had led them to the big city of Denver where they are establishing a colony of God’s kingdom.
That night we drove through thunderstorms getting down to Colorado Springs. A car would do a double 360 in front of me as all of the traffic slowed with a semi just missing him as it slid past him. We hiked into our campsite that night pleased that the rains had missed our camping spot. More pleased about out time with the Dez’s.
Wednesday we went into Woodland Park and parked ourselves at a Starbucks. Our enjoyment of Starbucks going back to our days in Seattle in the late 80’s had been disturbed by reports that Starbucks was a major contributor to Planned Parenthood. I am under no illusion of the liberal bent of most corporations; but it was still disturbing under the shining light of the videos being released. It turned out that all they gave were matching funds to any employee who contributed. A pro-life organization challenged Starbucks employees to donate to its organization via its web site and sure enough at least one person did and Starbucks came through with matching funds. Joan’s research made sitting and sipping the coffee much easier on our psyches.
I needed the time to do some tweaking on my science slide show. I would be showing it Friday night and Sunday morning at two different churches that week. I wanted to add some slides illustrating the Bethlehem Star seen with the convergence of the King planet Jupiter and the King star Regulus in 3BC. I have been trying to add some emphasis on what DNA was responsible for and not responsible for. I added a slide of Bruce Jenner on a Wheaties box, DNA determines sex, and a slide of Bruce Jenner on Vanity Fair, DNA doesn’t determine sexuality, you do. I added some notes about LGBT youths in Minnesota where studies found that these gay and lesbian youths were five times more likely to get pregnant or get someone pregnant than straight kids. Just for kicks you can check out this article and its sources.
That afternoon we showered up at our quarter operated showers at the state park and headed to Pueblo for a mid-week service with Pastor Roy Garcia and his wife Shirley. Pastor Garcia introduced me with an inference that I was going to introduce something that would energize their outreaches, saying that the church was certainly in need of this. I went into a short sermon sharing evangelism stories, the power of the word of God and how to use the “one minute bible studies” website in speaking the word of God to another person. We then divided up in five groups and went out. One group was Spanish speaking and I was able to set up their phones before going out.
I was with Pastor Roy and his adopted son and another young man in the church. I am torn as to what is the best way to highlight the strengths of this outreach idea. Go for numbers so that we can say we spoke the word of God to 30 people in 30 minutes. Go for quality as one bible study leads to one salvation. Let the pastor and his church just have at it. I think the last idea is best, but this night I hadn’t arrived at this point and had four no’s without a single yes. I was eating up our 30 minutes and I had nothing to show for it. Pastor Roy and I sat in the car and talked while his young men did a bible study on a front porch by the church. They took their time and came back with news of having prayed with the man for his salvation. That night several people prayed with different members of the church and we went back to Pastor Garcia’s house for a meal and fellowship with a spirit of accomplishment. At dinner we enjoyed the company of the faithful man of God, the political savvy wife and the bold Christian daughters they had raised.
Thursday was Pike’s Peak day for us. We took the cog rail to the top enjoying the ride, the information and the views. We ate out at our guide’s recommended restaurant in Manitou Springs, Manitou Brewing Company, and began our exploration of the carbonated springs of Manitou. At 4 we headed down to Pueblo again to meet with Pastor Jonah Cruz and his wife Gwen. Pastor Cruz is a personality plus type person and his wife is the daughter of one of the pastors I respect, Ray Rubi. Pastor Cruz is one of those people you can’t help but like. We would go out together with one of his disciples, Sami who had that same winning personality that he had. I thought this would be an interesting outreach.
First I did a bible study with a group of people waiting for their children to finish dance class just outside the church. A no became a yes and we had some dialogue, but it was a little forced on my part trying to make the outreach tool look good. It got us talking as we made our way to a park. Every encounter gives God something to work with and makes a person acknowledge God in a negative or positive way. “Would you do a one minute bible study with me?” It is a very up front statement. The yes and the no and the spirit they are said in tells you a lot about the person. “Pick one.” Using the phone watching a person scroll down the list; you realize they are engaging in the activity. The choice tells you something about where they are at. You read the scriptures in under a minute. This is where a Christian has to try this to understand why I love this means of communicating the gospel. You can sense a presence of God, an anointing of His word and a dominion established for further conversation. I introduce myself and ask their name. I can politely break it off if I feel the “I am not ready to deal with anymore God stuff” spirit. But, usually just the opposite happens. They seem more than willing to talk about the scriptures, their lives and their relationship with God. It is more than me just preaching at them it is engaging them in the things of God and if you listen you can hear the music coming from their hearts (Prov 4:23) and minister to them.
At the park that is just what Pastor Cruz and Sami did. I was trying to lay back a bit and not try and prove anything about the outreach method. I did a couple of bible studies in the park, but really I just sat watching the clouds and the trees move as the two men did their thing in the park. They both confidently went from group to group. The young disciple spent a long time talking to a couple at a table and then the heads all went down as they prayed together. He effortlessly moved on to a single young man at a table who would be joined by a couple of friends as a healthy conversation was taking place between all of them for quite a while. Meanwhile, the pastor had done a couple of bible studies as he moved across the park. I joined him at the far end of the park, we talked, he moved onto a group of young kids and I let him to it. They were both in gospel heaven. The young man now having the people come to him and the pastor (also a young man) having another group of young people show up as he continued his time of ministry with all of them but eventually spending more time talking with a young man he had played basketball with.
We had dinner that night at Pastor Cruz’s house. I learned more about the young convert Sami and his past with a Muslim father and a Christian mother. They got me talking about myself which always makes a person feel good. It was just a pleasant time together. Still, I could feel some of the angst that goes with being a pioneer pastor. That desire to see much, yet have little when it comes to church growth. I feel it as a small church pastor in Sparta, but it is more acute as a pioneer pastor with the expectations that you carry when you go out to start the church. This became one of the blessings of this trip. A chance to minister, without cost (although Pastor Cruz gave me some gas money), to the pastors that needed a boost the most. This way of thinking goes back to my conversations with other evangelists in Prescott when we talked about how to help these kind of churches. A week’s revival with a hand full of people or finding a different way to help and encourage them. I hope this can be that different way. I explained to Pastor Cruz before we left that this can be an easy outreach for him and his wife. They can all get in the car, drive around, do some bible studies and see what happens with no stress and actually even enjoy it.
I couldn’t reserve the campsite over the weekend so we had to move into a cabin in Manitou Springs for Friday and Saturday. Pastor TJ Horta had insisted on putting us in a motel Sunday night after preaching for his church all 3 services Sunday. So we packed up, huffed and puffed, with the higher elevation and moved down the mountain. We finished exploring the different springs with Joan collecting the water from each spring in a bottle. That night we headed down to Fountain for Pastor Ian Kline and his wife Priscilla.
Pastor Ian actually took college classes with Joan while we were both in Prescott. His brother, Dietrich, edited “James Tembo, Detective” down to 58 minutes so I could show it during Sunday schools before I started preaching that Sunday morning. Dietrich is now teaching English in China, and Pastor Ian and Priscilla have their two children in Chinese immersion schools in Colorado Springs. They have a young church full of excited people. We did the slide show Friday night and had good response and some excellent questions afterwards. One question had to do with an arsonist who had a son and even though he never had any contact with the son; the son became an arsonist also. DNA or what? This question gets to the challenge that our legal system and our acknowledgement of God as judge will have to deal with as study after study desperately tries to connect our actions to our DNA or the way our brains work. If DNA caused the father to become an arsonist and he passed it on to his son…how can we punish them for something that was preordained to happen? How can God be a just God, judging arson, if his DNA made the decision for him? My response acknowledged the possibility of sin changing the makeup of the DNA and thus being passed down to the generations to follow as mentioned in the bible. I lean and got the questioner to lean towards a spiritual look. Sin has personality (Rom. 6:16) and in the Ten Commandments God talks about visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation (Ex. 20:4). My thought is that we inherit and pass down spiritual associations, some to righteousness and some to sin. Had a good night and we all went out for a hamburger.
The next day we gathered for our “one minute bible studies” outreach. I preached a short sermon describing the different evangelistic endeavors of my life and then we got the web page on our phones and went out in 5 different cars. I had some young people in my car. We went to a park with no luck and then cruised the neighborhood doing four bible studies. We gathered back at the church and everyone compared their experiences with people genuinely excited. We took Pastor Ian, Priscilla and kids out to the International House of Pancakes afterwards and had a great time of fellowship. Ian was meeting his one disciple who was working at 5 to go out and do the bible studies. I said I would come back and go out with them.
We picked up Anthony. Anthony was a homeless kid who got saved and has a personality that is worth a million bucks. He reminds me of the actor Steve Zahn. Right away we gave a ride to two kids walking fast to beat the coming rain. We did a bible study with them while we gave them a ride home. We went to a park where all the skaters were taking refuge from the rain. We ran into two kids crossing the parking lot. They said they would do a bible study. They picked “Rapture”. I asked them why they picked that one. He said he had seen some rapture films on TV and he wondered if he would make it. We ended up praying with both of them. We then went up to the skaters where Pastor Ian took the lead in challenging them to do a bible study with us. One young man accepted the challenge and chose “Vengeance is Mine”. It is actually a beautiful set of scriptures centering on love and forgiveness. It started with one of the 8 listening while the normal loud noises of skateboards hitting the cement got less and less until all 8 were sitting before us listening to Pastor Ian as he expounded on the scriptures. He passed out some literature but they were all still sitting there waiting for more so I shared my salvation testimony and let them know that they could pray anytime and anywhere and God would hear and undertake for them. I finished and asked Anthony if he had anything to add. He talked of the frustrations of being homeless and powerless as a victim of the baser instincts of man. He talked of a church where he is loved and he can love. He talked of God who loves and protects him. He said it all and there was a moment of silence before we excused ourselves and walked back to the car. As we walked you could feel the personal joy wanting to burst forth from all three of us. For the Christian warrior it doesn’t get much better than what we just experienced. I said my goodbyes and headed back to Joan to get ready for our final day.
It was off to Aurora, a suburb of Denver. We had met Pastor TJ Horta and his wife Christina in Chinle when we were coming through with 12 of us from the church to Prescott Conference. Pastor TJ is a rapper. I talked with him a bit here and again when I heard he was heading for Detroit. He was called back from Detroit to take the Aurora church. Joan had breakfast with Artie’s wife Sandra and Christina and had spent time talking with her at another conference. Pastor Horta is one of those A plus personalities. He is a mover and a shaker. He remembered me as the man who smiles, but I think he wanted more action than I was giving during the Sunday school slide show. In my sermon that morning I left the pulpit and walked to and from among the congregations describing my salvation, Wickenburg outreaches, march against the Seattle homo parade and finished up with our experience with the skaters the day before. People got saved and we got ready for our outreach that night. Pastor Horta let me know he knew everything would be alright when I left the pulpit. They took us out to fantastic Italian lunch and let us know we would be on our own that night as they were going to preach at another church.
That night we got everyone’s phones linked to the web page and headed out in 5 groups. Our group went to an outdoor commercial area with some restaurants and a Starbucks. We did bible studies with a bunch of people. Joan would do the Spanish version and pray with a family with the help of their New York Bronx member of the church. Pastor Horta’s daughter would end up praying with a girl and everyone came back to church encouraged. Had coffee with Pastor TJ the next morning and then we headed home to Sparta.
Results, numbers, salvations, follow ups…what can I say. I am just chopping wood and I will leave the rest up to God. It was the best week of ministry I have ever experienced!