ENDANGERED ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY

Prayer, Preaching and Obedience

The three pillars of the church are God’s Word, prayer and faith linked with obedience. Thousands of martyrs willingly sacrificed their lives rather than disregard these important tenants of Christianity. The great missionary and revival movements of past centuries were fueled by those who were faithful to proclaim the Word, to pray and obey.

Jesus taught and preached everywhere he went. He used many parables, but the central focal point was God’s Word. Jesus also spent plenty of time in prayer. Even when the throngs gave him little time for rest, he would depart to a mountain or desert place to pray. He commanded his disciples to preach the Word and also to pray. His final hours before the crucifixion were spent in prayer while his disciples slept. His emphasis on obedience (commitment) cannot be overseen.

Paul was not ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16) and in his writings to the churches, he underscored the value and importance of preaching, praying and obedience to the faith: For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed ? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard ? and how shall they hear without a preacher ? And how shall they preach, except they be sent ? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:12-17)

God has made it clear in the Bible that all should be taught the Word; all are to pray and all are to believe and obey.

FIRST ENDANGERED SPECIES: PRAYING

I am concerned about the lack of true prayer in today’s churches and among Christians. Prayer meetings are usually the least attended services if they even exist. There is probably no reliable information on how much time the average Christian spends in prayer, but some sources claim that as a rule, the majority of Christians spend no time whatsoever in daily prayer, and those who do rarely spend more than five or ten minutes per day in prayer. Even those engaged in full-time ministry have little time for prayer. Pastors and missionaries often tell people how busy they are and I sometimes wonder if they are really making excuses for their meager prayer lives.

What is true prayer according to the Bible?

First of all, prayer is conversation with God. We share our thoughts, feelings and ideas with Him and ask for His opinions. That is why prayer and Bible reading are inseparable. Someone has defined prayer as “My stupid stammering before an all-knowing, all-powerful and understanding God”. This may be the case at times, but I should hope that we think carefully about what we say to God.

Secondly, prayer includes thanksgiving and praise. I enjoy hearing my wife and children telling me how much they love and appreciate me, but it could get pretty boring if that is all I hear, especially if spoken in the language of Canaan. Many prayers of Christians are almost completely comprised of worship, praise and thanksgiving. These elements certainly belong in our prayers, but prayer is much more.

Thirdly, prayer is asking or seeking. We ask God for wisdom, help, guidance and opportunity to serve. We pray for the needs of others, whether these be spiritual or physical. In prayer we recognize our own insufficiency and God’s greatness. Unfortunately, we often pray selfishly. When I hear some Christians pray, I suspicion that they view God as the genie in Aladdin’s lamp!

The Bible contains many admonishments and promises pertaining to prayer. No experience, training or special gifts are required for praying, yet it is the greatest source of power in the universe! We often hear people say, “I can not give, but I can at least pray.” Without questioning the pretext, I would definitely call the conclusion into question. Praying is the greatest thing we can do!

Prayer is closely associated with the study of God’s Word and obedience. If one of these aspects is neglected, the other two will also suffer. A person who doesn’t spend time in the Word will have little time for prayer and serving the Lord. A person who is not obedient to God, will lose interest in the Word and prayer. The study of God’s Word “influences” (changes, forms) us; Prayer seeks God’s intervention and interaction; thus our prayers “influence” God’s working in and through us. Witnessing, preaching and our obedience “influence” others.

SECOND ENDANGERED SPECIES: PREACHING

During nearly four decades of missionary service in Austria, I have found that preaching and witnessing are slowly vanishing. Few Christians have taken notice of this trend, but verbalizing God’s plan of salvation (witnessing and preaching) has become increasingly rare.

Austrians have an expression which says, “Speech is silver; silence is gold.” If this is true, there is plenty of silver in circulation, but Christians seem to be infatuated with gold! When the Apostle James wrote about all the terrible things our tongue is capable of, he was certainly not suggesting that we disobey God! We are commanded to preach the gospel and be witnesses of Christ. The shelves in my office are full of Bibles and other books, my filing cabinet is filled with sermons and many more are stored on my computer; but unless the Word is shared with others, it produces no fruit. Seed must be planted in order to bring fruit.

The devil is very much aware of the power of speech and he makes good use of it. The infamous Austrian politician Adolf Hitler captivated beer-hall audiences with his rhetoric. Another Austrian politician of our times, whose name also begins with “H” and ends with “R”, does the same today. When Joerg Haider gives one of his populist speeches, he always draws a crowd. We prefer driving into the country to enjoy the scenery which helped make “Sound of Music” the all-time box office hit. But there is still a bunch of Austrians that would rather sit in a smoke-filled hall sipping beer and listening to a man whose main contribution to society may be providing the framework for a sequel to “Sound of Music”.

It is tragic that many or perhaps most evangelical Christians who have much to say about politics, sports, TV shows and even religion, neglect to verbalize God’s Word in a world that desperately needs to hear it.

Evangelistic Preaching

When we arrived in Austria back in 1964, nearly all churches conducted at least one evangelistic campaign or outreach per year. Most older church members are the fruit of these efforts. A number of Christian organizations in Austria were dedicated to evangelistic preaching. Word of Life, Janz Team, Neues Leben, Bible Scripture Union, Operation Mobilization, Church on Wheels and other groups worked together with churches and missionaries in order to reach Austrians with the gospel. Although films, literature and other means were also implemented, the verbal proclamation of God’s Word was the primary means of sharing the gospel with both individuals and groups.

Billy Graham’s “Euro-70” campaign marked the beginning of a new era of evangelism which uses technical innovation. Television cameras projected the Graham Crusade in Dortmund, Germany per cable hookup into scores of theaters, churches and public halls all over Europe and even behind the Iron Curtain. Similar campaigns, such as “Pro Christ” followed. During the seventies, the once popular tent meetings faded into oblivion as new methods of evangelism emerged. Coffee Bars, Tea Rooms and Gospel Concerts became increasingly popular.

The decade of the eighties introduced other unique methods of evangelism. Christian psychologists or marriage counselors began to conduct public seminars on themes of interest. A gardening specialist presents elaborate multi-projector slide shows on organic gardening. He sells Bibles and other Christian books along with seed and his own books. I have shown a multimedia show about the Amish of Pennsylvania at least fifty times throughout Austria. “Women’s Breakfasts” are also quite popular. Although these new methods of evangelism are legitimate and even necessary in a culture where the average person is repulsed by anything that smells of religion, we need to do some serious thinking about the effectiveness of our evangelistic efforts. Is there no longer room for preaching the gospel to the lost?

“Evangelism Lite"

What these new methods have in common, is the fact that the preaching of the Word is kept to a minimum. Evangelism used to mean preaching the Word. Older believers remember the familiar pose of Billy Graham holding his Bible in the air and saying, “The Bible says...”. Some of today’s evangelism is destitute of any kind of preaching and contains a bare minimum of God’s Word in any form. A Bible is seldom seen, let alone preached from. Generally, there is no prayer or any mention of a church. One tends to avoid anything that might ring of religion or betray an evangelistic motive behind the program. Evangelistic meetings in which the preaching of the Word is the central point of focus have become rare. I could count all such meetings in Austria during the past few years on one hand. Most evangelistic events commemorating the 1000th birthday of Austria (“Ostarrichi” 1996) contained little direct preaching of the gospel.

Fritz Meier, of the Every Home Crusade, is to my knowledge the last Austrian evangelist and he is well past retirement age. Furthermore, I know of no Christian organization in Austria today, which makes the verbal proclamation of the gospel through witnessing or preaching its primary objective. Every Home Crusade, “Neues Leben”, Operation Mobilization und Bible Scripture Union are still effectively spreading the gospel, but mostly in nonverbal forms. Open Air Campaigners comes closest, but even here, sketchboards are used to hold attention and the message is also “sketchy”.

Most evangelistic events are musical concerts with plenty of wattage, in both sound and light. Texts are frequently in English and the gospel message is so well camouflaged that even I hardly recognize it. This method of evangelism is so attractive and popular that admissions are frequently collected and applauding audiences demand at least one encore.

“All Things to all Men”

One could argue that more people will listen to a homeopathic gospel than to the undiluted Word of God, but I seriously doubt that this was what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Paul also said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek..” Paul was “compelled to preach”, but this is not typical of evangelistic efforts today.

Now please do not misunderstand me. I am not an enemy of new and modern methods of evangelism. I taught a course on “Packaging the Gospel” in our Bible Institute. I personally use multimedia presentations, give lectures on Church History, do „Chalk Talks“ and use the internet in order to reach the lost for Christ. Before Christmas we set up a tent and invite the public to dip candles. While they wait for the candle to harden, we share the message of Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate. There are good reasons why we need to package the gospel for the world. Jesus used parables and stories almost exclusively, but when the Word of God plays only a marginal role in the church and in evangelism, this should give cause for grave concern.

From Word to Worship

For decades, many of our evangelical churches were weak on praise and worship. The emphasis was on “doing” rather than “being”; on man’s accomplishments rather than on God’s unique attributes. Along came the charismatics, who reintroduced praise and worship. They grew while mainstream evangelical churches criticized.

Eventually, evangelical Christians learned that worship and praise belong in our church services. The course correction was needed, but in many churches today, we can witness an over-reaction. Worship leaders and musicians are more important than pastors, teachers and spiritual counselors in many churches. The investment of time and money is rapidly shifting from ministry of the Word to the ministry of worship.

Music is Great, but not Indispensable

It must be understood that certain elements of missions are of utmost importance and dare not be neglected, while other matters are secondary or even trivial. We enjoy times of worship and praise ourselves. My wife and I like to sing, play instruments and listen to cassettes or CDs in our home and car. Music is a great and important ministry in the church and an effective tool in evangelism. People can be saved or blessed in Christian concerts too, but it is not the music which convicts of sin and brings salvation. Although music played a role in both the Old and New Testaments, I believe it is safe to say that music is not absolutely indispensable in churches and in evangelism. We cannot say that about God’s Word.

There are only two references in the New Testament, which encourage Christians to make music. Both are closely associated with the teaching of God’s Word. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit, Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:17-21) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)

Let There be “Lite”

“Lite” is not only a popular term in the grocery store, but it has also come to characterize the daily spiritual diet of many Christians. If they have any personal devotions at all, it is likely to come from a simple devotional calendar. Sunday church services include numerous choruses, announcements, special numbers and sometimes spontaneous testimonies. The “sermon” is frequently a single elaborated thought of the pastor or speaker, which may or may not be derived from God’s Word. In extreme cases, a verse or two is read from a modern paraphrased Bible, which serves as a springboard for ideas which are hardly associated with the text. There is little spiritual nourishment in such “fast-food sermons”.

I have preached in several churches recently, in which the preliminaries (if you can call them that) lasted more than an hour and a half. When I was finally called upon to bring the message, people were already looking at their watches. Under such circumstances, it is important that one make the message short and illustrate it well.

Some would argue that Bible teaching takes place in home Bible study groups. My experience has been that churches with easy-to-digest worship services lean toward small groups which are also heavy on fellowship - small talk over coffee, tea and cake, but light on biblical teaching.

The Main Thing, is that the Main Thing is the Main Thing

I worked several years in an art gallery and among other duties, I made hand-carved and gold-leaf frames for old masterpieces. It was important that the frame fit the period and style painting, but it was not to distract from the painting. A frame should enhance and draw attention to the picture.

A common problem in churches and missions today, is that many Christians seem to misunderstand or even ignore Christ’s missionary call. He didn’t say that we should try to attract, impress, entertain or trick the lost into the kingdom. He sent his disciples out to proclaim the Word, into the highways and byways, checking the hedges, markets or other places where we might find the lost. He sends us into both villages and cities, in our homelands and unto the end of the world (chronologically, geographically or both). Lest we have the wrong impression of what awaits us, Jesus said, “I send you forth as lambs among the wolves.” On the other hand, Jesus promised that He would personally accompany us - a “no-lose” situation! Through the work of the Holy Spirit, there is a pretty good chance of turning a few wolves into sheep, as was demonstrated by the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.

Not a few Christian leaders seem to place more value on methods, public acclamation, psychology and culture than on the power of God’s Word. God promised that His Word would “not return to Him void, but accomplish His purposes” (Isa. 55:11). In other words, when I speak God’s Word, it will not be ineffective, but rather accomplish whatever God pleases, effectively carrying out His purposes! What God says should be the criteria for our methodology. What wicked men think of us and of God should have little influence on our mandate.

The de-emphasis of the Word in evangelism and the church should give us cause for alarm. I certainly don’t want to generalize or even contend that most evangelical churches have taken this route, but it is definitely a trend which has affected many churches, including some which have traditionally been strong contenders of the faith. I will leave it up to my readers to assess the situation in their own churches. What role does the teaching of God’s Word play in the children and youth ministries; or in the ladies missionary circle and men’s breakfasts; in evangelism?

Cause and Effect

If church members are not particularly interested in the preaching of God’s Word, they could hardly be expected to share it with the lost. If they don’t like fellow Christians to “meddle” in their own personal lives, they would not be likely to witness to the lost.

Christian missionary organizations thrive on gifts from believers, so these too tend to cater to the wishes, tastes and desires of the churched. For this reason little effective evangelistic literature is available. In order to sell, it must appeal to the Christians who pay for it.

I spent two years encouraging and helping Austrian churches set up websites. I repeatedly stressed the value of this medium in reaching the lost for Christ. A few churches eventually published websites advertising their regular services, but they were designed to appeal to the membership. There were few if any elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ or features that might speak to unbelievers. In surfing American church sites, I find the same to be true.

Who Says, “They Won't Listen”?

I am not convinced that the lost are any more allergic to the clear teaching of scriptures than most believers. Sin is the main problem among believers and unbelievers. The best medicine for sinners in either camp is a healthy dose of biblical preaching and teaching.

During the seventies, we operated a youth center in Linz. One summer, the center was open six nights a week, but this proved to be too much for us, so we went to Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. On two nights, we had activities, refreshments and entertainment such as concerts, films or special events. The third night was reserved for in-depth Bible study. This soon became the most popular evening - not just for Christian youth, but even for kids off the street, some of them drug addicts!

At the same time, Bible teachers from Klaus Castle, operated by the Torch Bearers, conducted weekly Bible studies in the YMCA which were attended regularly by 50-100 youth. I can hear someone saying, “But that was back in the seventies! Times have changed!” Yes, times have changed, but not people or the Word.

Recently, I had an experience which showed me that young Austrians who never darken the door of a church are still willing to listen to the gospel.

A woman who came to me for help because of an alcohol problem received news that her 24-year-old son had died. After a night of drinking, he choked on his own vomit. The distraught mother called and asked if I would speak at his funeral, which was to be conducted by a Catholic priest. I agreed under the condition that the priest allowed it. He was obviously not excited about the idea, but said that anyone can speak at the grave side.

In addition to about fifty relatives, over a hundred of the youth’s friends attended the funeral. Most of their lives centered around disco dancing, drugs and alcohol. These youth seldom if ever attended church and for the most part, had nothing good to say about religion. The names of divinity are merely swear words and church the subject of jokes. I was interested to note that nearly all of these young people went through the ritual of crossing themselves at the appropriate times and moving their lips when the congregation chanted the Lord’s Prayer and “Hail Mary” during Mass and the processional to the cemetery. What they had learned as children had not left them.

One youth set up a powerful “boom box” and played loud rock music while the casket was being lowered into the grave, but the undertaker was able to persuade him to turn it off while I talked. I had prayed much about this opportunity the night before. I knew that I only had a few minutes to speak to a hostile audience.

I began by saying that five of the last six funerals I attended in Austria were of young people under 30. One of these was a drug addict, killed by an overdose. A 21-year-old youth had shot himself after the girl he was living with left him for someone else. A third and fourth were killed in automobile accidents. The others were children that died in infancy. In each case friends and loved ones asked how a loving God could allow a person to die at such a tender young age.

I then told of a young man who was executed for crimes that he never committed. His own father could easily have prevented the murder of his son, but did nothing to prevent it. Interestingly enough, no one asked why God allowed such a thing to happen, for God himself was that Father. No one asks the question “why?” because the Bible clearly states that Jesus came into the world for that very purpose.

I then said that the occasion of this funeral should cause each one present to consider the real meaning and purpose of life. We cannot blame God for allowing bad experiences, without giving him credit for the good things we enjoy. If we ask why God allowed this young man to die, then it is only fair to ask Him why He allows us to live. The answer to that question is also given in the Bible. Life only has purpose when lived for Jesus Christ. If someone present should repent and turn from his godless ways to follow Christ, then the death of this young man was not in vain.

When I was finished speaking, the radio-recorder remained silent as did the youth. The undertaker invited all present to a meal in an adjoining restaurant at the expense of the family. Nearly all the young people remained, but very few ate. I had good opportunities to share with some of them in more depth and to my amazement, they were very receptive.

“Light”, not “Lite”

Light, regardless of how small and insignificant it may seem to us, is powerful enough to dispel the greatest darkness – if it isn’t hidden under a bushel. Many churches serve as bushels rather than lighthouses.

Although Christians readily agree that the Bible is of primary importance for Church and missions, deeds speak much louder than words. Materialism, comfort and entertainment obviously rate higher. With “evangelism lite” and “fast food churches”, who needs Bible training? It is no wonder that an increasing number of Austrian churches have found that they can get along quite well without trained pastors and teachers. And with no need for these, enrollment has dropped dramatically in Bible training institutions.

Untrained and unskilled workers can land a job at McDonalds. They can make and sell hamburgers as well as anyone with a doctorate in culinary arts (if there is such a thing). But we are called to build the Lord’s church. A carpenter who thinks he can save time, energy and money by doing away with the tedious job of sharpening his tools, is seriously misguided. There is no dearth of potential students in Austria. Christian concerts and youth rallies are attended by more young people than ever. The problem lies with church members and especially with church leaders, who fail to recognize the real problem and seek God’s cure.

THIRD ENDANGERED SPECIES: OBEDIENCE

The founder of Word of Life, Jack Wyrtzen, made some anonymous poet famous by frequently quoting his words:

Only one life; ‘twill soon be past;

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

I was converted in 1957, but even before that, I often said that I wished I had a dozen lives to live, so I could do all the things I wanted to do in life. Architect, building contractor, inventor, mechanic, welder, farmer, boat builder, musician and artist – these were only a few of my interests. Following my conversion, I took the above mentioned ditty to heart. I wasted no time enrolling in a Bible college to prepare for whatever the Lord wanted to do with my life. I wanted to obey! Looking back over nearly four decades of ministry, I can say that as a missionary, I did most of the things I had dreamed of doing as a youth. Some invest in things and have them only as long as they live, but we invested in people who will be with us for eternity! Incidentally, we also have so many "things" that we don't know where to put them all!

Obedience is Learned

Kids don’t need to be taught to do wrong. Obedience, however, must be learned. Even the sinless Christ learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8). It is no sin to trip and fall when learning to walk, or to make a grammatical mistake when learning to talk, or to bend a nail when helping in the carpenter shop. These belong to the learning process and Jesus went through this just like we do.

I was anything but a good student in High School, but God changed my attitude towards learning after I became a Christian. I had to work 20 to 40 hours a week next to my studies during Bible College, but I still spent lots of time in the library doing extra work. I often got disgusted with fellow students who signed up only for those classes which were easy or required. Once, I asked a roommate if he was seeking the least education for his money. His reply left me speechless; “Sure, I want to get paid for working, not pay for it!” The price for that piece of paper called a diploma was around $15,000 in 1962, and the school wasn’t even accredited!

Upon our arrival in Austria, we promptly enrolled in two language schools simultaneously. In order to expedite the learning process, we also hired a Germanics student in the University to give us private tutoring. If we were going to be obedient to God’s commission, we needed to learn the German language. We can learn from our critics and even from enemies of the gospel. My critics taught me good German and I can only blame myself for the bad German.

After eight years of grammar school, four years of High School, four years of college, two years of language study and four more decades of learning in ministry, I am still not educated. I am presently devouring books on church history and there is much more that I would like to learn. But I hope and pray that learning does not become an obsession or end in itself, but that it rather leads to obedience.

Obedience is Expressed in Propagation

I have already mentioned the importance of witnessing and preaching, but the gospel can be propagated in other ways as well.

A German invented the printing press and another one translated the Bible into German and had it printed. For a dozen years, I operated a mission print shop, producing tons of literature for Austria and Eastern Europe. My verbal output was multiplied many times over, but printing multiplies the potential of the tongue both positively and negatively. You don’t make a single mistake in the printing business; you make thousands or even millions of them! But there is no denying the fact, that Christian literature has had a powerful impact on this world.

Other means of propagating are through radio and TV. Today we also have Internet. No Christian rejects printed literature because of all the pornography, yet there are some who argue against the use of internet for evangelism because others use it for evil purposes. In 1999, I was among the 2 % of those over sixty, who were linked to the web. Today, senior citizens are the fastest growing group getting online. Most of them are just consumers, but I am a producer, managing several websites and helping churches to get on line.

Obedience is Hard Work

The farmer who has the cleanest and sweetest smelling barn, probably has no cows. The most hated person in the workplace is the one who does too much. He or she is a threat to less motivated workers and sometimes even makes the boss nervous.

Many Christians seem to believe that the surest way of avoiding mistakes is to make the biggest mistake of all: do nothing! If we are attempting to obey God, He is very gracious when we make mistakes. A farmer might criticize the sower of Matthew 13. He wasted lots of good seed by spreading it or at least allowing it to fall along the highway, on rocks or among thorns. But did the Lord scold him for that? No! He simply said that sooner or later, he found good soil and it produced fruit.

We too have seemingly wasted a lot of time, money and effort in our 38 years of missionary work, but we have also seen fruit. Our first church planting project in 1966 would have exhausted most senior pastors. In addition to preaching and conducting three weekly Bible studies, there were children and youth meetings, visitation and evangelistic outreach. Shoveling tons of snow and coal in winter and cutting hay for our rabbits in summer were welcome diversions! From all the coal we shoveled and rabbits we fed, not much is left of our hard work today. But the church is now self supporting, self propagating and even supports missionaries in other lands.

We could say the same about our youth ministry in the city of Linz. We reported in 1972, that at least 40 youths had accepted Christ during the summer months. Today, only a dozen of those are still following the Lord. One is a pastor, another teaches in a Bible college and others serve their churches in one way or another.

Our print shop produced countless thousands of tracts, invitations, posters, leaflets and even books. Only the Lord knows how much of this produced eternal fruit. Some of the literature was smuggled into Eastern Europe and I recently met a man who helped distribute it on the other side of the Iron Curtain. His moving story alone, made our printing ministry worth the effort.

The Bible Institute we founded in 1984, has had many ups and downs. We have lost track of many graduates, but a good number are serving the Lord with great blessing. We know of some who are pastors, missionaries and mission leaders. Two are magazine editors and another established a Christian publishing house. Obedience is hard work, but it pays eternal dividends!

True Obedience is Voluntary

I often feel frustrated that I don’t get half as much done as I intend to do. This is perhaps one reason why I crashed in the fall of 1995. They call it a mid-life crises, but I was 58 then and I doubt if I’ll live to be 116! People keep telling me, “Don’t do so much!” On the other hand, the same people keep finding more for me to do.

During the eighties, Christian friends told me I was wasting my time trying to generate interest in establishing an Austrian Bible Institute. Four such schools had already failed and I should have known better, for I was personally involved in three of the failed projects. But God gave me a burden for training Austrians, so I kept planning, praying and wanting. The Austrian Bible Institute opened in 1984 with me serving as Business Manager, which means I was responsible for raising money to pay the bills. When people saw the problems and difficulties I had to face, they often said, “Well, you asked for it!” They were right too, but I have never resented asking!

I always liked working with youth and when one of the Bible Institute students shared his burden for beginning an organization to establish junior youth clubs in Austria, I volunteered my full support. We established the “ABÖJ” (an organization similar to AWANA) in 1987 and within ten years, we counted sixty local clubs and 500 trained workers in Austria. The work has now expanded into 17 European nations. Obedience is voluntary, but it can also be rewarding and even fun!

Obedience Pays

In secular work, people only do what they get paid to do, but when we obey Christ, we are always looking for things to do. That usually costs money, however. Although we refrained from making debts, we were repeatedly amazed at how God provided! When we obeyed God, people would ask, “Can I help you?” or “Can you use this money?” If we didn’t have needs at the time, the question usually put us on a guilt trip and we felt we should start another project!

Before we departed for Austria in 1964, I was offered a lucrative job in New York City, making and gold-leafing custom frames for museums and wealthy art collectors. Do you think I would be happy there today, had I accepted? After arriving in Austria, Mattel Corporation wanted me to set up franchises throughout Europe for the distribution of their Frisbies, Barbie Dolls, Matchbox Cars and Hula Hoops. Can you imagine what a hectic life that would have been? In 1982, I was asked to take on a monstrous printing project involving 10 million Dollars over a period of ten years. Money was available for anything I needed and equipment worth half a million would belong to me at the completion of the project. I turned these offers down because we knew where the Lord wanted us and what He wanted us to do. We would not have been happy anywhere else with all the money in the world.

I have raised lots of money - well over half a million Dollars for various mission projects; a print shop, Bible Institute, refugee aid etc., but God’s blessings are not always material. He makes us happy with what we have.

It pains me to see Christian young people investing their time and talents in occupations for the sole purpose of getting money. I can only call on them to pray and study God’s Word in the hopes that they will learn obedience. There is nothing better for anyone than prayer, proclaiming God’s Word and obedience!

”Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Ralph V. Harvey, 1999