Participants: Ruthie Jacobsen (Host), Bill McClendon, Tim Garrison
Series Code: IAA
Program Code: IAA000358
00:01 ¤ ¤
00:30 Hello, and welcome back to Issues and Answers.
00:33 Today again we want to talk with you about building bridges. That
00:39 just seems to be something that is very important today because
00:45 we as Christians need to be in the bridge building business.
00:50 Maybe you've never seen yourself as being in that business, but I
00:55 think we all should be. And when we go to work for the Lord,
01:00 building bridges in his name, bridges of love and compassion
01:04 and concern and interest and helpfulness to people around us
01:09 he is there with us. I love this text from Deuteronomy 28:12.
01:15 He says that he will bless the work of your hands. HE will
01:21 bless the work of your hands, so we know it's going to be blessed
01:26 and when it's blessed it has much greater meaning and much
01:32 greater power for eternity than anything you or I could do.
01:36 So we're glad you're with us. Our guests, I'm glad that you're
01:42 with us too. Tim Garrison from Southern California, Camarillo,
01:48 thanks for coming. And Bill McClendon from Oklahoma.
01:53 Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa. You know both of you are
01:59 building bridges. Both of you have a unique calling and
02:07 empowerment. Well I'm excited, Ruthie, to be
02:11 here with Bill because we're both church planters and so
02:16 we've talked a little bit about our common experience and it's
02:20 thrilling to really talk about the joys of planting church, the
02:25 environment it creates and the way in which with church
02:28 planting you can build bridges to people.
02:31 Now a church planter doesn't pastor a church in the same way
02:36 that a pastor of an established church works, is that right?
02:40 Well that's correct. I mean in a church plant you're out in the
02:44 community and you're starting from scratch. You have a small
02:47 group of people, sure, but you're establishing that church
02:51 for the first time in that community.
02:52 And you go to a community where there has not been a church
02:56 before. That's correct, that's right.
02:58 Because you're needed in that community, but the people of the
03:01 community don't know that they need you.
03:04 So you have to, I mean, you're forced to build bridges to
03:09 the community because your livelihood, your sense of
03:12 accomplishment, your establishing that church is all
03:16 dependent upon the degree to which you utilize the power of
03:21 prayer, your relationship with God to create a special place in
03:26 that community. Don't you believe that God
03:28 really wants us to expect big things from him. I think that he
03:35 is disrespected and dishonored when it's like coming to the
03:41 ocean to get water and you're carrying a teaspoon. I don't
03:46 believe that that's honoring to him. I believe he wants us to
03:51 expect something enormous, something that only he can do.
03:55 Otherwise he's not glorified. Bill, I want to ask you, in your
04:00 ministry as a church planter, how has God confirmed to you
04:05 that he had people out there who needed him and he brought the
04:11 two of you together?
04:13 Ruthie, my experience started out as just a person who really
04:16 wasn't even a Christian and shortly after I became a
04:20 Christian and became a part of a church, I was just so excited
04:23 about what God had done in my life as I was looking around
04:26 month after month, year after year I wasn't seeing the church
04:30 growing. You know, good people, very busy doing things but yet
04:35 the church wasn't growing and I just believed, again, reading
04:39 the book of Acts, learning about how the church started there
04:44 in those days, and I just believed that there were
04:46 hundreds and even thousands of people who wanted to hear the
04:50 gospel. So as I'm going through this experience and getting a
04:54 little bit discouraged and I was probably a lot of trouble to
04:57 some of the people in the church you know. Here's this young guy
05:00 all on fire. Now I don't know how many times they said ah
05:03 he'll calm down after a awhile. He'll become just like the rest
05:07 of us. You hear that but that's sad.
05:08 Yeah it is. It is. Well praise the Lord I
05:12 never really lost that and I kept... You know one of the
05:15 things that really happened and brought it home and made it
05:18 personal to me is I kept asking why doesn't the church do
05:21 something? Why doesn't the pastor do something? And finally
05:25 the Lord brought it back to me and said what are you doing
05:29 about it? And through a providence of God I was given
05:33 the opportunity, my wife and I, as a lay person, to start a
05:37 brand new church and the idea of church planting there in Tulsa,
05:42 Oklahoma. How big was it when you stepped
05:43 out to do this? How many people did you have with you?
05:47 The agreement was that we could take five families. Originally
05:50 they said we just want you and your wife to go and I thought
05:53 well she plays the piano and I preach but there wouldn't be
05:57 anybody to listen. Because we didn't want to hurt the existing
06:01 church and so we wanted to take a very small group. The other
06:06 reason is we wanted this DNA, we talk about DNA in church
06:10 planting. We wanted this not to looks just like the existing
06:14 church but we wanted it to have its own personality and it's
06:18 own mission. And so making it small we were able to do that.
06:22 Yeah, I think it's critical. Our group, we have 20, we went
06:28 through a process of meeting together first before we planted
06:32 the church to talk about our purpose, our goals, our vision
06:37 so that we were completely united before we ever held our
06:41 first public meeting.
06:42 And no group can look like another group and shouldn't have
06:45 to. But how did the Lord confirm this to you?
06:48 Well, a very similar experience. We picked up those five
06:52 families. There were about 20 or so on our very first Sabbath but
06:55 we spent six months praying and asking God. We didn't read a lot
06:59 of books. We didn't go to a lot of seminars about church
07:02 planting. I'm thankful I didn't because it probably would have
07:05 scared me off. I didn't know what I was getting into but it
07:08 just seems to make so much sense We'll just believe in God that
07:12 there are people that wanted to hear about the gospel and so we
07:15 stepped out in faith and our very first worship service I
07:20 think we had 27 people there, men, women and children. And we
07:24 were so excited. You'd have thought it was a church of 2000
07:27 the way that we worshipped and what we had put together. But
07:31 you know you talked about asking big things from God. Before we
07:35 ever held our first worship service, it was our hope and our
07:40 prayer that we would grow to 100 people in the first year and
07:45 300 by the third year, 500 by the fifth year. We weren't even
07:48 sure if we were going to survive and we'd already been asking God
07:52 for 500 people after five years.
07:54 Don't you think he likes that?
07:56 Well he does. I think God really asks us to be visionary, to have
08:03 a sense of what he can accomplish, not what we can
08:05 accomplish, but what he can accomplish.
08:08 Bill tell us about this tennis player. How in the world did he
08:14 find Jesus? Wasn't that a God thing?
08:16 You know, everything about church planting and growing
08:20 God's church is a God thing. If we think we can make it happen
08:23 I think God has a way of setting us straight very quickly. Our
08:28 church started with the focus of reaching people and so that was
08:32 what the church was going to be about. There's a lot of things
08:36 that we can do in a church to keep us busy but it wasn't about
08:40 that. We wanted to be a church that would be focused on winning
08:43 the lost and because of that we've adopted a very aggressive
08:49 evangelistic program. We're always inviting people to study
08:54 the Bible, to study about prophecy, to learn about the
08:57 second coming and as a result of that we had an encounter with a
09:02 young man who... God was working independently. You know, so
09:07 often when we get ready to do an evangelistic meeting we find
09:11 out that God has been at work way ahead. I've had so many
09:14 people that walk in the very first night and say I want to be
09:17 a member here, I want to be baptized. And I'm thinking to
09:21 myself, look you don't even know anything yet. We haven't shared
09:24 anything only to find out that God got there ahead of us and
09:28 they were ready.
09:29 I like something that I heard about you, maybe you told us,
09:34 but you are an evangelistic group that does church rather
09:39 than a church that does evangelism. That really says our
09:45 priority is singular here.
09:47 The gospel commission is go ye into all the world and teach and
09:51 baptize and make disciples. It doesn't say go ye into all the
09:56 world and have church. And I think that too often we keep
10:00 that as our main purpose, just worshipping together every week
10:05 and it's a big part of what we do but it's not the most
10:08 important thing we do. We're not called to worship, we're called
10:13 to serve. We worship as we go. So we have tried to keep that
10:17 our focus and the Lord has blessed. You know I set those
10:21 big goals that we have on our third anniversary. We baptized
10:26 our 300th member. In our fifth year, not on our fifth
10:30 anniversary, but in our fifth year we baptized our 500th
10:34 person. Then it makes me wonder what if we'd asked for 1000.
10:39 You know, what could God have done?
10:41 And in your area you have the population.
10:45 That's correct. We have 844 in our town.
10:48 It's interesting. I identify so much with what Bill is saying
10:52 in terms of a church plant really provides a place where
10:56 you can be evangelistic every week and that's the thing about
11:01 established churches. They need to really look at that. To what
11:06 extent is there worship service an outreach service? To what
11:10 extent is it a service that when somebody comes in from the
11:14 community that they feel immediately comfortable and that
11:17 they are connected with what's going on there. It's not just an
11:21 internal, sort of exclusive language that only a certain
11:24 kind of people understand? Is it a safe place?
11:27 Yes is it a safe place? Exactly. So like you say evangelism is an
11:35 attitude or state of mine. Building bridges is an attitude,
11:38 a state of mind where everything you do really focuses in on
11:42 whether or not it's reaching that community person.
11:45 I like what a pastor friend of mine did when he had a little
11:48 team that would go out and clean restrooms. They cleaned
11:52 restrooms in businesses and he went into this carpet store one
11:57 day. He had on yellow rubber gloves and he had his little
11:59 tray with all his stuff in it to clean and he walked in and he
12:04 said to this manager, we'd like to just clean your restrooms.
12:08 She looked at him and she kind of you know like are you some
12:12 kind of idiot. She said I ought to call the police on you. And
12:17 he kind of smiled because I could see my rubber-gloved hands
12:21 with hand cuffs. He just kind of looked at her and smiled and she
12:26 said to him, Well all right. If it makes you happy go and do it.
12:32 So he said to his team, let's do a really good job and let's get
12:37 out of here. We are not going to annoy this woman. So they did
12:41 their work and when they left everything was shining and spic
12:45 and span. When he came back going out to the main entrance
12:49 to leave, she looked at him, she saw him. She said sit down!
12:53 He said I felt like I was a teenager again called on the
12:57 carpet to the principal. He said I sat down and I was wondering
13:02 what is coming next? She said just wait. Well she was waiting
13:06 on a customer. When she was finished she came over and sat
13:10 down beside him. This time her attitude was totally different.
13:14 She had been gruff and the manager and intimidating.
13:21 And now her attitude was open and she said I was thinking
13:26 while you were in there cleaning our restrooms, I wonder if I
13:31 would fit in a church where people go just to be helpful?
13:36 Just go and clean somebodies restroom just to be helpful.
13:41 She said I'm 26 years old. I'm single, I have a daughter, I'm
13:47 addicted to drugs, my life is a mess and she said I just wonder
13:52 if I would fit in your church. And he looked at her and smiled
13:57 and he said, (I love his answer) he said, you know I think you
14:02 would absolutely fit in our church, but if you didn't he
14:07 said we would start a new church for addicted carpet store
14:12 managers. Isn't that good? And she smiled but she started
14:18 coming to church because he was just out there where she was and
14:25 wanting to meet and to be helpful. And you never know when
14:30 somebody is almost attacking you maybe that's the person the Holy
14:35 Spirit is really working on.
14:37 Well, yeah, I think people are really desperate for someone
14:40 that will listen to them and somebody that will just hear
14:43 their story and if people will just start the day with a prayer
14:48 that says let me be sensitive to others. Let me be willing to
14:53 listen, it's amazing what will happen. Let me tell you about
14:58 nine-year-old Sawyer. When we first hung out our banner and
15:03 had our first service, why he came in the door from the
15:07 neighborhood without his parents just him. He saw the sign and
15:11 he was curious. He began attending week after week after
15:15 week. The neat thing about a church plant, and I think Bill
15:18 will confirm this, is that when somebody comes in your door
15:22 you're just grateful that they are there for one and if they
15:25 offer to do something you're just grateful they offered.
15:28 Because you can always use help.
15:30 You can always use help. Nine- year-old Sawyer, bless his heart
15:35 he wanted to be helpful so we allowed him to be a greeter out
15:38 in the parking lot as people would come. He goes out and he
15:43 greets them, hands them a program, and he loves it, and
15:48 not only that but the people who come love to see him. When
15:52 he can't make it for one reason or another they always ask well
15:58 where is Sawyer this week. Well just a few months ago he is now
16:04 14 years old, he's attended for five years and I had the
16:08 privilege of baptizing Sawyer because of the relationship, the
16:13 bridge, that we built and openness that we had to this
16:16 young man who simply wanted to serve the Lord.
16:18 Wow. I love that story. I want to come back to you because I
16:25 heard you tell the story about this pro tennis player and that
16:32 is such an example of the Lord working all of the way at every
16:38 step with you and with him. I just want our viewers to hear
16:43 that. You're not going to let me get
16:46 with it? No I'll come back to this.
16:48 Yeah, we do several evangelistic campaigns a year and we're
16:52 always praying that God will bless. You have to believe that
16:56 God's going to work because you're out there; you're out of
17:00 the boat, you're on the end of a limb and you just believe that
17:04 God's going to do something. This was no different than any
17:07 other meeting that we had and it was unusual that we were having
17:11 a meeting in a hotel. Night by night I would come out and I'd
17:15 share the Bible and this young man, Joshua, came in first
17:17 night and he sat on the first row. If you want to be noticed
17:19 by a preacher sat on the first row. If you want to be noticed
17:21 by a preacher sit on the first row. So many people want to sit
17:25 in the back. But he sat on the front row. Then I preached to
17:27 him. You know I preach to the people on the front row. Night
17:30 by night, you know, he's nodding and enjoying all this, the
17:33 second night, the third night and the fourth night. Well we
17:36 got kind of into the program and we hit a subject where I was
17:39 going to begin to talk to them about making a decision, making
17:42 it personal and suddenly the next night Joshua isn't there.
17:48 And I'm crushed, because even though it wasn't really that
17:52 personal but you'd just see the potential of what someone can
17:56 be. So for the rest of the meeting Joshua didn't come.
17:59 Well it turns out a week or so after the meeting I get a phone
18:04 call and it's Joshua. Joshua had been out of town and he was in
18:08 town and he attended the seminar but he said I had to leave and I
18:11 want the rest of it. Do you have it on tape? Do you have is some
18:14 way I can get it. So we made an appointment and we met together
18:17 and I gave it to him and I just extended the invitation for
18:21 Joshua to be a part of our church family and he just could
18:24 come and worship with us. So I wasn't sure where it would go
18:29 but Joshua took the things that I had given him and I guess it
18:32 was a couple weeks later he called and said would it be okay
18:36 if I started attending your church. And I said well sure!
18:39 Joshua came in and he sat right on the front row, which you know
18:44 doesn't have a lot of people in it. So week by week he stayed in
18:47 there and finally Joshua wants to make an appointment. He said
18:51 I've got to tell you a story. As I made this appointment with
18:55 Joshua it just confirmed to me how God works. Joshua is a young
18:59 man who felt a call to ministry but he was also good at tennis.
19:04 And the life of a tennis player with the money and the girls
19:08 and Joshua was a young man and he just wanted that as well and
19:12 so he put that feeling that he was called to ministry aside and
19:16 he pursued his tennis career. I guess he'd done fairly well but
19:19 something happened in his life and he just went to his trainer
19:23 one day and he said I want to take a break. And Joshua was
19:27 surprised when his trainer said okay.
19:30 Usually these trainers are hard on you.
19:32 That's right. I don't know what he was doing but he was
19:36 traveling and he was traveling across the country and he
19:40 arrived at an airport and he gets on the plane and he goes
19:44 to one of the hubs to get on another plane. He goes across
19:48 the terminal or wherever it is and he gets on his new plane and
19:52 he realizes that he's forgotten his sport coat, the jacket, a
19:55 very expensive one. His plane is getting ready to leave and as
19:59 he's there at the counter he tells the person what has
20:02 happened and she says you don't have time. We're holding this
20:05 plane, you've got to get aboard.
20:07 Kind of like forget the coat.
20:10 Right. You just don't have time. Well some gentleman is listening
20:15 to this and as Joshua turns away and gets ready to get aboard,
20:19 he's an airport personnel like one of the people that work on
20:22 the tarmac. And he said you know this might sound funny but I
20:26 have a question for you. He said if I get your coat back will you
20:31 promise to go to church. And Joshua hadn't been to church and
20:34 Joshua wasn't going to church at the time. He didn't really
20:37 know what to say and he didn't even know how to respond to
20:40 this person and the guy repeated if I get your coat back do you
20:44 promise to go to church? And they're trying to board this
20:47 plane and Joshua is trying not to make a scene and he says sure
20:50 and so Joshua gets on board and he gets kind of near the back of
20:54 the plane, turns around and this guy is following him onto the
20:58 plane and as Joshua looks at him he says now I want you to make a
21:03 promise that if you get your coat back you promise to go to
21:07 church. And Joshua said okay. He just wanted this guy to go
21:11 away. This guy now very loud in front of the whole plane he says
21:15 you guys have heard him that if he gets his coat back he
21:18 promises to go to church. Joshua goes on, I think he was going to
21:21 New York. He goes to his hotel, he gets up in the morning and
21:25 his telephone rings and it's the concierge who said we have a
21:29 package for you. So Joshua goes down and he sees his coat in one
21:33 of the plastic dry cleaning covers and his phone rings.
21:37 He answers his phone and it's that gentleman and all he said
21:41 was did you get your coat back? Joshua says yes; he says
21:45 remember your promise.
21:48 So he must have known what hotel to send it to.
21:51 I don't all of the details but I've got to believe that guy
21:55 was an angel that God had placed in Joshua's life. Through a
22:01 number of other circumstances Joshua found himself in our
22:06 hotel the night our meetings started. So Joshua is telling
22:10 all this story and he says what do you think I ought to do?
22:13 And I said well Joshua what do you think God's calling you to
22:18 do. He said I think I'm to be a pastor. So I said well I think
22:22 so too. So he said can you give me some information. He said the
22:27 things I've learned in this meeting you know I believe them
22:30 all and so I want to teach what you've been teaching. I want to
22:34 do these kind of things. So I gave him a little bit of
22:36 information about some of our colleges and universities. He
22:40 took a trip. He came back and he said Andrews University, I
22:44 think that's where I want to go. And he said do you think you can
22:47 get me in. And I said well, I hate to say this, but I said
22:50 Joshua do have any money. Oh yeah I've got money. I said well
22:55 I think I can get you in. So it turns out that next weekend I
22:59 had the privilege of baptizing Joshua and within three or four
23:04 days he was on the campus of Andrews University doing his
23:07 undergraduate work but planning to go into the ministry.
23:10 You know Bill I love that story because it shows how God sees
23:17 every person as unique. God understands what the needs are.
23:23 I like Joshua's story but I like the way God put the two of you
23:29 together and you became a role model for him. As you were
23:34 teaching and preaching and you know sharing God's word the Holy
23:38 Spirit was saying this is what I want you to do. I want you to be
23:43 like Bill. You can do this. It's just amazing how God works.
23:47 You notice too that there's a chain of activity. In other
23:51 words Bill is a link in the chain. The airport worker is a
23:56 link in the chain. It all comes together as God uses each link.
24:02 When we pray to God let me be a link, let me be a piece of the
24:08 puzzle that connects somebody to you then we become a part
24:13 of that greater picture.
24:14 And the exciting thing of it is it is such a huge thing. I mean
24:19 any step of this is far beyond anything that human devising
24:25 could come up with.
24:26 You couldn't plan it. In so many spots I thought we had failed.
24:32 You know when Joshua wasn't at the meeting the first time.
24:35 Because we are so puny with our understanding.
24:39 That's right. You know as we were establishing
24:43 our church plant we had a lot of things that we needed to take
24:45 care of and get a lot of equipment. We were portable.
24:49 We had to get a truck and trailer and all the accoutrements
24:52 that go with it. So our group prayed and said Lord we don't
24:55 know how we're going to do this. We contacted one company; it
24:58 would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it
25:03 happen. Well we were put in touch through a series of
25:07 connections unbeknownst to us with a former evangelist's wife
25:12 who had a truck, a trailer and all the equipment that we needed
25:16 and it was up for sale. Here's the really amazing thing. The
25:21 daughter of that evangelist lives in the neighborhood
25:25 surrounding the school where we meet. Now you know that is not
25:30 circumstantial. That is not some isolated event. That is a series
25:36 of events that come together when you're willing to really
25:40 put your request before the Lord make a radical prayer and be
25:44 open to his guiding.
25:45 I think of the text in Psalm 20:5 that says that when you are
25:51 walking with the Lord he will give you the desires of your
25:56 heart and your plans will come true. The 20th chapter of Psalms
26:03 is so encouraging and you agree. You were giving the Lord a
26:08 certain number and the Lord said all right, We'll do it, We'll
26:12 work with you. You're serious. You believe me. And I really
26:17 believe that God wants to have us take him at his word. The
26:21 Bible says he's the same yesterday, today and forever.
26:25 Have you found, Bill, in your church planting experience that
26:29 as you go through each of these steps of faith and you see the
26:33 Lord work, that it strengthens you?
26:36 It's a faith-building experience.
26:38 Isn't it? It is. When the Lord takes you from
26:39 A to B you're not the same.
26:41 He gives you a lesson in faith and then he tests you.
26:46 That's right. But there are rewards at every step.
26:50 I can't believe we are just about out of time. But I want
26:54 to thank you for coming. It's been a blessing to hear your
26:58 stories. Will you come back? Of course. We promise.
27:02 Thank you Tim. Thank you Bill. Great to have you.
27:05 I believe that as you've been listening to this today that
27:12 the Holy Spirit has been saying to you, you are unique. You have
27:17 people around you who are unique. I can do the same in
27:21 your home, in your neighborhood, in your church. Ask me. Expect
27:26 me to work. I've promised in the first chapter of Psalms to give
27:32 you fruit, to plant you like a tree by a stream of living water
27:37 and give you fruit in season. We can stand on that promise
27:41 we can take it to the bank because of who has said it.
27:46 What a wonderful God we serve. Thank you for being with us.
27:50 We pray for you. God bless you.