Many economic sacrifices force themselves on pioneer pastors. Most have to work at regular jobs (sometimes at great distances) to support their families while doing the work of a pastor. Sometimes it means going without simple expectancies like insurance. These realities all combined into tragedy for Steve Bliss, pastor at Elk Falls, Kansas.
Imagine the range of emotions. His daughter called and he drove 70 miles home to find that the sparks of a forced-air wood burning stove housed in a separate enclosure had reached the house.
By the time he arrived, it was obvious that the volunteer fire department could not save the house, only a few clothes. It was January-cold in Kansas.
I heard about the fire by email and attempted to make phone connections with a neighboring pastor. Failing, I let it all slip my mind – until August 7 when I heard the rest of the story.
Shortly after the fire, Shaun Searle, a pastor in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and Mark Fry, a pastor in Arkansas City, Kansas, began praying and planning. Their elders said that they could rebuild the house; all the skills needed were in the two churches. After organizing the team Mark placed a phone call to Steve Bliss. "Steve, we have the men together. Can we build you a house?"
The appointed day arrived in April. The team gathered and waited in a barn, stymied by the heavy rain and slippery working conditions. What would they do? Pray! They did. In thirty minutes, the rain stopped.
Thirty minutes later, the site swarmed with purpose. In three days, the house was 85% finished. One week later, carpet was laid. A TV station camera crew arrived. People, gape-eyed drove slowly by. Unbelievers walked up and asked to help. Others said, "That sounds like Christians to me." Now, when have you heard that at a building site? Sean Searles described it this way. It was like getting married. One of the best days of your life but you hoped you never had to do it again.
Simple story that I heard rather casually at a pioneer pastors conference in Atchison, Kansas. Thought you would like to know.
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I settled into my aisle seat to fly from Kona, Hawaii back to Los Angeles. A slightly-disheveled wisp of a young lady slumped into the window seat and curled up into a fetal position. Pulling the thin airline blanket over herself, she looked at me and said, "I’m depressed and haven’t had any sleep for two days. Please don’t talk to me."
Since she opened/closed the conversation, I risked a question. "That is a tough combination. What brought it about?" She uncurled slightly and answered, "I am an astronomer. Everyone in the world wants to get on the Keck telescope. After years of application, I finally achieved a two-hour slot on the telescope and it was cloudy for the whole two hours. I am bummed."
After a short explanation of her planned observation, she drifted off into sleep. I pondered her scene and wondered how I would feel if my life’s goal, my dream parade, was rained out. The joy of serving the Lord flows from the knowledge that even the rain fulfills his purposes. What I perceive as failure may be the greatest victory. Chance becomes purpose, coincidence becomes miracle.
I remembered this encounter of years ago because of an article in the Los Angeles Times. Another lady astronomer has discovered using the Keck telescope that stars are double stars as they are "formed" which, in evolutionary terms, means that planets are impossible. Which means our solar system is unique. Which means it must have been created. Hmmm. The whole evolutionary parade seems to be getting rained on.
Alaska Airlines continues to place on each meal tray a scripture verse. The last one I received quoted Psalm 9:2, "I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name O most high." Thank you Alaska Airlines!
Our message shirts have enjoyed a long and fruitful run. Few shirts evoke the conversations or more clearly describe our maker than these. However, we are laying them to rest for a while. Storage and logistic concerns finally overwhelmed. We have a few Jesus Style sweats left and when they are gone....
Some have asked me why we don’t make suspenders available from Servant Quarters, since they have somewhat become a trademark for me. The answer is simple. We can’t get the message on them and the message is what it is all about.
If you listen to our radio programs, you know that our theme song is Duane Clark’s new song "Come to Me." That song is now on an album called Fill My Life. Duane, a premier worship leader and songwriter, only produces winners, so if you want that CD or cassette, you can order it from us (a new service of Servant Quarters). CDs are $15 and Cassettes $10.
Larry and Kathy Stewart have a brilliant, "gotta-hear-this-again" album called It’s About Love. Larry and Kathy wrote most of the songs. If you haven’t heard them, you owe it to yourself to order this CD/cassette ($15/$10).
Ever wished you could listen to old hymns simply played on gentle guitar? Chris Vanover, assistant pastor at Goodlettsville, TN has it and I love it. (CD) Also Chris has a guitar Christmas album that might become your favorite. (Cassette)
Occasionally, Bill Welsh, pastor in Huntington Beach, CA, writes very pointed articles for Servant Quarters. He is also an outstanding song writer and dramatist. He has committed songs and drama to two cassettes. They will unlock many side thoughts and emotions in your heart.
Our letters for this issue begin on the next page. Often I am embarrassed because they tend to be so affirming. My flesh likes that, so I actively fight it. The style God gave me, which seems to help young and old remember the message, is nothing more than a carrier of the message. Please note in the letters that the message of Jesus does the changing. People naturally appreciate the messenger. I know that. If I ever act otherwise, just shoot me. -Gayle D. Erwin
About four years ago I had the opportunity to disciple a young man that I work with. During the course of going through the Pastoral Epistles I gave him a copy of your book The Jesus Style to read. I had no idea what would transpire over the next 4 years.
Brian is now my supervisor and each morning we try to begin the day with a short devotional and a time of prayer. His enthusiasm for knowing God’s Word and the nature and character of Jesus Christ amazes me and God is so faithful as He continues to bless us beyond measure.
Brian and I are both volunteer chaplains here at the hospital and God has given us numerous opportunities to share the love and grace of a Risen Lord with those that God continually places in our paths. It seems like we are given an opportunity to share almost on a daily basis. Isn’t God awesome?
Hey, there is more.
It seems that The Jesus Style has fallen into the hands of our Chief Operations Officer. Last I heard he was well into reading the book and my hopes are that he will open his Bible and if he doesn’t have one, we have extra.
Ted & Darlene Zimmerman
Mount Shasta, California
Recently, I was blessed to be able to purchase your four wonderful books. I was overwhelmed in that God had taught me many of the things you mention in your "Style" books but to nowhere near the depth. I thank you most for showing me that I am not going looney even though I may be out of step with most around me. Thanks most for The Father Style.
I also ordered your "Nature of God" video series but did not realize that we have a different format here in Australia (we use the PAL video format) so I have yet to get them transferred. We really need help here downunda!!!!
At a pastor’s conference several years ago, in speaking to non-staff ministers, you talked about dying. Not death, but that thing we all experience when we serve God—the times you feel you can’t take anything more, that no one has any use for what you do, and you just want to quit. As you said, "Excuse me for living." What a wonderful reminder that dying is OK, because our loving father resurrects us again and makes us ready and fit for his service once more. So, go ahead and die!
One man that went to your men’s retreat from another church, came with my husband, said he had never heard anything like what he heard there. His church is big and traditional. He asked my husband about your ministry and also my husband’s, why you guys minister the way you do and if you are "ordained ministers." John, my husband, said "It’s just Jesus. It’s the spirit of God working freely. Yes, I’m ‘ordained’ for paperwork’s sake, but without the calling and working of the Spirit in my life and in Gayle’s, it amounts to nothing. It is Him you are seeing." The man was amazed and said he had not seen this before. He said "it’s just not like that at my church." Praise the Lord for opening eyes. His spirit is able.
John and Ann Overstreet (smile)
I read about your book, The Jesus Style, that it is in Russian. I am working in Kyrgyzstan and am presently in the States taking care of some business. I am very interested in helping develop the leadership of some of the Kyrgyz young men. I thought possibly some of this material might help them. Can I get copies of this book in Russian as well as one in English for myself?
Is it possible for Gayle to travel to Kyrgyzstan to speak for some of the believers there? I operate a humanitarian organization as well as a radio station in that country.
English edition of The Jesus Style is already on the way to you. The Russian edition has hit editorial snags, but hopefully will be printed this fall. Speaking in Kyrgyzstan? Why not!
To this date, I have copied and given away 25 copies of your message "Hall of Fame." I still get a faith lift and cosmic surgery when I listen to it. One girl I’d given a copy to said, "My sister and I were crying back and forth while listening to it. Don’t give me any more Gayle-force tapes without Kleenex." I gave her another one with a sponge.
Enclosed is a plastic money number for more of those plastic sermons. (Hey, it beats a mark on the hand or forehead.) After the rapture, someone gets a free set.
I was first introduced to your videos several years ago when I was going through a very difficult time. Through the teachings, my eyes were opened to the gentleness and compassion of Jesus which I had begun to lose sight of. Also, I still thank the Lord to this day for the tape, "Dealing with Manipulators."
See the "Special Attention" box in the resources pages.
You are an absolute hoot. I don’t remember laughing so hard at such serious material ever in my life!
You have inspired me, sir. I have always loved using humor in writing and speaking, but wondered if it was really OK in the eyes of God — wondered if it wasn’t tacky or a less powerful means to get a message across. You showed me how it can be incredibly effective, powerful and ever-so-memorable! You have given me the desire to learn, grow and touch others as you touched all of us at the OCW conference.
Could you please email or mail me a list of tapes, prices, books & prices of your work so I can make them available to my church? Our pastor wants to purchase your set of videos because he saw you speak years and years ago. Your impression on folks lasts! Thanks again — it’s funny, but it feels like you’re an old friend.
Linda Barr Batdorf
We were privileged to spend a wonderful weekend with you at the Billy Graham Training Center—truly a blessing from God. We talked about the things we had learned and I felt that maybe the Lord was asking me to be more of an encourager to those around me. Well, it certainly didn’t take the Lord long to see if I truly meant what I had said. We’ve been home only three nights and have met with two different families—one in our home and one in their home. Truly there are hurting people in this world and not enough people to help. Pray for us as we try to minister to our church family—not as a pastor (since my husband is not) but as concerned, loving members of God’s body. The weekend certainly made a difference in our lives.
Steve and Jean Welsh
Frog Eye, AL
For 7 years, I searched for some kind of Godly teaching on Genuine Servant-Leadership in the Body of Christ. After reading 100’s of books—I was left in despair (all of them gave the same company line of hierarchy).
Two years ago (in 1996) I was driving home from work and the Holy Spirit gently nudged me to stop by a used book store which I visit from time to time to look for decent spiritual works to add to my library. I was in a hurry, tired, and didn’t really want to obey, but I did. As I was scanning the religious section, I saw the title, "The Jesus Style" which caught my eye.
When I opened the book, I was amazed to see someone dealing with the subject of hierarchy both from the accuracy of scripture and God’s Heart! I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t alone in the world—an aberration in seeing the huge need for this subject to be dealt with! I bought the book and read it several times over the next week cherishing every word (endeavoring to glean all I could from your wonderful! insight into this topic). Although I had skimmed the surface, I had not seen (from God’s Word) or plumbed the depths of Genuine Godly Servant Leadership in the Body of Christ! God Bless You!
You have indeed hit the nail on the head—a spiritual bullseye, and in contrast to my intensity, you have presented the truths of God’s Word with an incredible balance, perspective, sense of humor and honesty that only a genuine pastor can provide! I mean this sincerely!
I have had a mental block in fully seeing the relation between "Genuine Godly Servant Leadership" and "False Phony Counterfeit Self-Serving Leadership." I saw small pieces of it from God’s Word, but you have enabled me to see a far bigger picture—a beautiful demonstration of the heart of a servant of Jesus Christ, the personal and practical aspects of imitating Our Lord Jesus! Your example of the children’s fellowship was PRICELESS!!
Thank you for putting words to my thoughts in your article on "Fear." Several of my friends have jumped on the doomsday bandwagon and ask me to come along for the ride as well. I knew there seemed to be a change of focus away from the Lord, but had trouble verbalizing my concerns. In your special way you were able to boil it all down and say just what needs to be said in a non-offensive, encouraging way. I often wish the Lord would write in the sky... "she’s not stupid and backward...she just wants what is right!" Your newsletter isn’t the sky, but I’ll take what I can get.
We were all sitting around tonight thinking of you and how much your visit meant to us. We decided to sell everything we own and move to California and live with you, hope you don’t mind. We were going to talk it over with you first but we all agreed that it would be all right with you. Just kidding.
Ron & Yvonne Benfante
Tony & Toni Renee’ Colunio
"Thee front row family"
I’m writing to thank you for your article called "Fear". The y2k bug fear has hit a small part of this congregation. Now they have spent some time preparing for it and wanting others to do the same. I realized they were missing the focus and they have lost their joy. Your article was a blessing and a confirmation.
I’ve been reading your book The Jesus Style and really appreciating all of your insight into the character of Jesus. Especially helpful was your chapter on humility. I am a 20 year old female university student and find it extremely hard to be a good Christian woman (I have a lot of rough edges). Reading your book has allowed me to re-examine why I fell in love with Jesus in the first place
Of the many thousand faces you see each year, mine would surely have been lost somewhere in the group not long after our one and only meeting 15 years ago. I was a student at CCBC and you were a guest speaker. That was a long time ago and my memories of CCBC, let alone each invited speaker, had dimmed. Until only a very few minutes ago I had forgotten your name, your unassuming appearance, and the specific content of the message you brought on that beautiful fall day in the mountains.
I have been caught up in raising a family and pastoring a Baptist congregation here in rural New Brunswick, Canada. The enhanced intimacy of my relationship with Jesus had been lost or at least blurred after years of struggling with rigidity and legalistic formalisms. I have longed to be as in touch with the Him as I was following your talk back in 1983.
Just a few minutes ago while doing some research on the net I came across your name and immediately something was sparked inside me to investigate why I should feel a familiarity and comfort with the name "Gayle D. Erwin". As soon as your website unfolded the reason began to take shape. The more I read of your studies on the attributes of Jesus, the more powerful was the impact upon my heart. The warmth of the Holy Spirit washed over me and I immediately recalled with absolute clarity the message that you brought to the students of CCBC. I remember being profoundly moved by the uncluttered simplicity of your study. More than ever, my heart longs to sit at the feet of Jesus.
I will endeavor to hold onto what you taught such a long time ago. It is even more important to me today and I thank you for being steadfast and consistent.
New Brunswick, Canada
Servant Quarters is published six
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Volume 18, number 4.
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