Dear Bible Giver,
It’s Christmas 2021, and what a strange year… again! We have spent a lot of time lately in this newsletter looking at the state of the church and the state of society. Not to spread worry or dread over an uncertain future, but to provide context so we can move forward most effectively in our ministry of providing God’s Word.
If you are a worrywart, 2020 & 2021 have been an absolute bonanza for you. As a leader, it has been crazy – how do you lead when you can’t see 5 days in front of you? The pandemic rolls on. The cultural convulsion our nation launched into lumbers on – we’re two years into what sociologists caution is typically a 4-year convulsion. All institutions, starting with the government, but very much including the church, are under scrutiny by a hostile and very skeptical public. Fun times!
Despite the chaos, IBG has moved forward. 2020’s shutdowns impacted how many Bibles we could distribute last year, so we desired to come out of the blocks in 2021 and get a lot more Bibles distributed. In the closing weeks of the year, it is safe to say we have succeeded. We have distributed more scripture to more couriers this year than any year in the past. We provided 3000 Bibles to the most persecuted church in the world. God connected us to Muslim-background church planters from the Oromo people group. The 200 Oromo-language Bibles IBG provided were used in a variety of church plants – right in the middle of a civil war. Lives changed for all eternity.
Do you worry that our effort is for naught, that declining church attendance is going to remain, or that the church has somehow lost its relevance? Sociologist Rodney Stark has made a career of studying the impact of religion on society, and here are some recent conclusions about religious people:
- They are the PRIMARY source of secular charitable organizations funding for social causes
- They DOMINATE the ranks of blood donors and other pro-social behaviors
- They are much less likely to commit crimes
- They enjoy superior physical and emotional health – they are happier, less neurotic, less prone to suicide, and live on average 7 years longer than people lacking a spiritual life
- Religious husbands are far less likely to abuse their wives. They are also more like to be involved in youth related activities.
- They are far more likely to donate their money and time to socially beneficial programs and to be active in their communities
- Finally, urban studies from the present back to the 1920’s find that cities with high church attendance experience significantly less serious crime than cities with low attendance
Is the church losing its relevance? I think not. It is needed now more than ever!
Some years ago, Nick Hall, a young evangelist with Pulse Ministries spoke at IBG. Pulse has grown enormously over the last decade. I was just reading their year-end newsletter. Here is something to give praise for:
- Pulse logged 1.1 MILLION responses to the Gospel message in 2021! Their ministry focus is the next generation.
- Pulse 100 is an evangelistic training program – they are training 83 additional young evangelists to make Jesus known to the next generation. Can you imagine the impact of 84 Nick Hall’s?
How about right in our backyard: a food shelf called Source MN in south Minneapolis. They had started praying with their visitors and desired to do more – so we started couriering Bibles in many different languages. Turns out that people hungry for food are even more hungry for God’s Word. Every Bible has been gobbled up, and Source MN recently asked if we could supply many hundreds of Bibles – $2400 worth in many different languages.
That’s three examples in a page long list I gathered. Much is being accomplished! Don’t let anyone distract you with negative talk toward the mission of the church. We are unified in our desire to make the name and saving grace of Jesus Christ known around the world and right here at home. That work is bearing fruit – amid the messiness of our angry society. You hold the truth that can calm troubled lives.
Give Hope. Give Life. Give Bibles!
And Merry Christmas!