A Ministry about the Bible…
For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, and is discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 KJV
On the campus, in Bible schools, seminaries, churches, overseas and online-in October of this year, 2008, the Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership and Into Thy Word will be thirty years old! We will also be celebrating twenty years in missions with many ministry partners including Mission America, Gospel Communications, Into Thy Word, and many well known great men and women such as Francis Schaeffer, Ray Steadman, Chuck Miller, and Robert Munger to name a few, and many others you may have never have heard of like David Hill, Peter Farmer, and Paula Beckman, or the many ministers and church leaders all seeking, how can I glorify our Risen LORD? Plus, we can't leave out the countless churches and twenty-five hundred committed pastors and Christian leaders who work as associates for us. All these people are dedicated to unpacking the Bible and training pastors, using our materials. We now have over six thousand unique people going to our main websites each day. This has been an amazing roller coaster ride, seeing what God has been up to and what He is yet to do. We are a ministry that was birthed in necessity and in humility, first as a church guild that then became an international mission that continues to walk under the radar with the prime intent of glorifying Christ and to point His people to His Word and discipleship. We are a ministry that desires to empower you and to count you as partners with us to help further Christ's Kingdom.
The First Ten Years
It was the 70's, you know dazed and confused, conflicted (at least I was), and just starting out. Who we were, what we were about and many other questions did not become fully answered in those years. But, the Bible thundered in our hearts, and with souls grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ and an impacting Holy Spirit to move us, we were given a passion to help people know God's Word better. Personally, I was just one of many helping this ministry at its start. I was in High School, the youngest doing my first project on Bible literacy. Now, all the original founders have passed on and left us a legacy that we continue to follow.
How did this all start? An uncle of mine, a pesky, overly-bright, sandal wearing (when he did not have his "knickers" those big white knee socks) man who, sporting a goatee, kept pestering an apathetic, purposeless, extremely broken high school youth to do something with his life-me, the broken one, and Francis Schaeffer, the one with the Birkenstocks and knickers and a fix for my purposelessness-a plan to use me to make the Bible come alive for generations. After many years of mentorship, he inspired me to an impacting faith and a purpose that I-and anyone that is associated with us-must strive for. He told me the most important thing others and I could do to serve our Living Lord would be to teach people how to study the Bible. If this does not happen, the Church, and then western civilization will fall. So here I am, the little Dutch boy with a finger (or Bible) in the postmodern cultural dyke. At the same time, 1978, Schaeffer was lecturing at my home church, All Saints in Carmel, where he galvanized many of us to forget liberalism that held no answers and only empty promises and faulty outcomes and embrace "True Spirituality." This motivated us to form a new ministry about right Christian thinking, and then we realized we already had that ministry, "The Christian Society of Christian Thinkers" (1958-1984), so we rebooted it with passion and a new direction to "a proper understanding and conduct of the Bible". So, in one respect this ministry is fifty years old. For those first twenty years, we were just a club in a church, reading books and dialoging over them, but no application took place until 1978. This ministry is all about application! Then a faction occurred over purpose and direction (should we do research or practical endeavors), and a new ministry was soon birthed-Into Thy Word. This originally was the "practical arm," a Bible Literacy project that Schaeffer commissioned me to do: learn how to study the Bible and then teach others to do so. When he passed on in 1984, we renamed our "society" the "Francis Schaffer Society Guild" (1978- 1995), and in 1995 we merged with the people and resources of the former "Charles E. Fuller Institute" and became the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development (FASICLD).
Into Thy Word (ITW) went to be on its own in 1981 with the conducting of Bible seminars while FASICLD started to do major long-term studies. Although I had the honor of facilitating many of them over the years, we underwent different paths. Schaeffer himself continued to be more than a profound influence and mentor to me. He had me read and read, research and research to make sure the information I gleaned and distilled for others was comprehensive, complete, excellent, and of course, true. He made it clear: no shortcuts. Learning to pastor must include diligence and commitment with one's education and personal spiritual growth. Such disposition, I hope and pray with all assiduousness, still pours from me and our ministers and ministries. My mom also instilled a valuable lesson for me at that time: if you want to do something right, find out who is the best at it and learn from them; do not do it half baked.
So I read and read, researched and researched and picked my uncle's brain. I had two pages of tips on how to study the Bible and did my first seminar in January of 1979; I was barely seventeen. From there, I kept developing this curriculum further for you to use through literally years of research and conducting countless seminars. I sought out the principles and resources that a good pastor uses to preach a sermon or lead a Bible study. Why is one preacher boring or awful and people go away with nothing while another captivates people and instills vital information and a call to action? Same Bible, even sometimes the same denomination and schooling-so what were the missing ingredients? My original mentor, Schaeffer, who was then mostly away or living in Switzerland, put me in the hands of Ray Stedman who further mentored me. I then interviewed hundreds of excellent Bible teachers including Charles Swindoll and R.C. Sproul and these insights were distilled for my book, Into Thy Word. It has been my quest to see the gold nuggets that needed to be found and by what means they could be developed to help people learn and then teach the Bible. The materials and books on our websites are the results of these endeavors. This has been the foundation of our ministry-to provide you the best materials by which to learn and grow in the faith.
The key? Every good Bible teacher must first a learner before he or she can become a teacher! Being a growing person of faith and learning your materials and the Word are paramount; there are no shortcuts or substitutes. Many want to lead a church or teach, but not many want to be impacted by God. It is our call to be impacted before we point the church back to Him!
Believe me; I tried to find those shortcuts. There are no corners that can be cut leading to good biblical learning and teaching. We have to make the effort to render ourselves ready. There are tips and easier ways, but we must put in the time and struggle. Our primary purpose was and still is to show you "how" in a logical, clear, and concise way to study His Word, the Bible, deeper and make it more impacting for others too. We come along side of you like a guide and provide you with the "map" of questions, tools, and a chart; but you must provide the will. To surrender our will to God's will is the essential element of living as a growing Christian. God's Word provides the way; we simply provide the means. And for the following ten years, ITW consisted of just a few others and me doing seminars. I was on staff at a couple of churches, finished seminary, and began my doctoral work-and the ministry marched on.
In 1985, a year after Schaeffer passed away; I was taking a computer class in college and got hooked to online Bulletin Board Systems, like the Whole Earth, Lectronic Link, The Well and others. We posted our online Bible studies there, and then newsgroups like: "alt.bible," and then I merged them to Web boards and chats through 2002. Now these are the online Bible studies we have posted. And, in the dedicated systems used by scientists to communicate to each other, in the year 1985, I made contact with a Christian Russian scientist that proved to be a prelude to missions in the Iron Curtain. I posted my studies and outlines, sometimes getting an astonishing 30 visits a day. I never thought it could get bigger and better than that.
The Next Ten Years
The big change came when we went from a church guild to a full international ministry with humble beginnings. In 1988, I was a seminary student at Fuller, an intern at my present church, and I was working at ITW part-time conducting those Inductive Bible Study seminars. At that time, I had been doing all that for ten years. My senior pastor, Paul Cedar, now the head of our association, Mission America, tapped my shoulder during a seminar at my new home church, Lake Avenue in Pasadena. My first thought was what did I do or say; I must be in trouble… and I was. He said, Richard, you need to do this in Russia. Pastors there are thirsting and they need this. Oh Boy, Yes, I was in trouble. The iron curtain was up, this was the evil empire, Ronald Reagan was the President... just then, a precious man of God, short in stature but big in presence asked me to join him along with some others from my church on a short term mission trip to Holland. He was Brother Andrew. We went to Amsterdam, and then we boarded a train to another city and somehow ended up on the wrong train. It kept going east and east and east. We found ourselves in Germany, then East Germany, then Poland, then Ukraine, where we were finally questioned about our destination. We said, distraught and confused, that we got on the wrong train and asked how we could get back. We were escorted to another platform for the westbound train, but we got turned around and accidentally re-boarded the train we were previously on (by the way, I should mention I am dyslectic and bad with directions). After a day and a half of our journey in an old crowded ramshackle train with bad food and no showers, and where the toilet was a hole in the floor, we were in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Not the vacation destination, you would think.
This journey left us a little dazed and confused-at least I was. And I should mention this small item: we had several suitcases of Bibles with us, Russian translations no less, and serendipitously a group of pastors met us at the train stop and coincidently, they needed Bibles. This was good for us, as we did not want to lug them back with us. This is nice, I thought, as malicious looking solders with AK-47's and funny fuzzy hats were very nearby, snarling and nosy too. I also had several copies of my inductive seminar book, called Into Thy Word and gave it to them too; they also had been a heavy load gladly relieved. I never did find out why we had those Bibles with us and how we got on the wrong train, and I am sticking with this story-it is as we agreed as a group then-lol. A year later, which was a few months after the wall came down, a couple of us were invited back by those pastors. We were greeted like rock stars (but without the girls and money), swarmed, and my book, not published here in the US until 2000, was out by the tens of thousands (I am still waiting for my royalty check). This is how we became a mission organization, committed to help pastors-and you-learn how to study the Bible, and to help equip pastors by teaching them how to outline and prepare sermons and Bible studies. Most pastors worldwide do not receive formal training and those who do still do not learn the skills needed to lead a church, solve a problem, or prepare a message.
During those second ten years, FASICLD concentrated on research, and opened a center in Carmel for retreats and study, hosting lectures and such, which continued until the end of 2006 when funding was lost. Meanwhile, ITW grew and grew; we concentrated on training Russian pastors under various umbrella originations and Bible schools. Then, we went to China and provided materials for house pastors, discovering that they had the same issues-conflicts, power struggles, stress, burnout, and a lack of Bible knowledge and practical leadership helps. Thus, ITW started to tap into FASICLD research and worked with the Fuller Institute to develop church leadership curriculums that were printed out in booklets and distributed; we continue to do so today, mostly via the Internet.
The Past Ten Years
The computer revolution impacted us greatly. We started to use computers right away. In 1980, I had a Radio Shack PC and a "Heath Kit" PC that I built and we used that for mailings, stats, and sending our curriculums via modem to our church leaders in Russia, China, and many other places. Then we got an Apple computer that Lisa donated to us that we used for years. In 1988, we developed an early version of the Internet with an index page at "Raytheon" here in Southern California. From 1988 through the 90's, a defense Contractor along with Hughes, who invented most of the infrastructure to the WWW, also used us for testing. Some say we were the first ministry online...but I really do not know. A board member was a top manager there and set it up for us; he said we were the first Christian site or ministry on the Web when it went live in 1994, but what we really had was just a "page" on their site not an actual site of our own. Then, people could dial in and read our materials. In 1989, the holy grail of computing was developed and we jumped at it, and by "cut and paste," we could send documents and save thousands of dollars in printing costs as well as be more efficient. In 1992, we went on Prodigy with an index site and in 1994, we were the first or second ministry on the Internet, I believe (there many people with sites that had Christian materials, but no ministry online). But this was enough to radically redesign how we "did" ministry. Instead of printing out booklets, we had downloadable fact sheets, outlines, and a few articles. We sent refurbished computers along with our materials all over the world from 1998 through 2004, when it became more cost effective to just get computers there.
Then we dealt with tragedies. Founders of our ministry started to die off, and I was a pastor on staff at churches and could not put the needed time in. We also started a few for-profit Christian businesses online to help fund our missions. These included Christianity.com, a project with the Fuller Institute where we built some of the first and best Christian websites for the main ministries like Focus on the Family, family.org, the Salvation Army, and many others. Then, when investors at Sequoia Capital started to pour lots of money into it, a more qualified CEO was needed and hired to manage it; ironically, we lost it to mismanagement and nearly went bankrupt. We then lost our main donors, and the events of 9/11 further crippled us as we had our big pastors and internet ministry convention that week and had to refund the participants registration fees since the airlines were grounded while we still had to pay all of our bills. A plane might as well have crashed into us too. We lost all of our assets and had to start over in 2001. Richard (I) stepped up and left his (my) full time pastoral work and went with ITW full time as a missionary, raising his own support. Even though we are not funded anymore and relied on "tent making," the ministry has actually exponentially grown! It is amazing what God is doing! We serve hundreds of Bible Schools in over eighty countries; over ten thousand pastors are trained annually that we know of (perhaps many others too) by our materials and your partnership. Our websites have become the main front of our ministry with tens of thousands of hits and over six to ten thousand unique visitors each day.
We merged with "With the Word Ministries" in 2002 and "Discipleship Tools" in 2004, and this past year, January of 2008, we merged back home to FASICLD. And May of 2008, Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development finally had a website, www.churchleadership.org/. And just a few weeks ago, after five years of litigation and prayer, we got one of our first domains and websites back: www.francisschaeffer.org/. It had been stolen by pornographers in Brazil. The ministry marches on; we are struggling to maintain it because giving is way down, and we had to cut staff and be creative in how we managed our affairs. Everyone works at home and we have a virtual office. We all have to raise our own support, even me. Axing the office alone is saving us over thousand dollars a month. So what next? Pay for funding!
The Next Ten Years
At one respect, the main one that it is, only God knows. But, Lord willing, we will thrive and continue for His glory. We have plans to build a new Pasadena L'Abri and research center. We are looking at building a new Bible search engine to be a top tier Christian website, since the main one, our ministry partner Bible Gateway, lost it's funding and may be going away. We also want to develop more Bible Training Schools worldwide-and all this needs funding. With funding we can do so much more. Without it, we may carry on. Either way, we feel blessed to be a part of such an amazing ministry! Of course, it would be nice to get paid for this.
What Do we Do?
Into Thy Word Overseas
As a mission, ITW trains pastors overseas, and in partnership with FASICLD, we also provide research and resources for discipleship and leadership training. We bring to pastors, church leaders, church planters, seminaries, and Bible schools biblical curriculums, research, encouragement, and sometimes resources and equipment. We are not a conventional Missions organization. We do not send or mobilize; rather we equip those who do. It is our call and mandate to be a "paraclete" which means to come along side. Thus, we provide you and others the Bible literacy materials, discipleship tools, leadership development, and the resources that pastors and church planters need to help build their congregations and grow further in the faith, and outfitting pastors and churches all over the world. A "paraclete" (Parakletos) is a Greek word meaning one who consoles, or a comforter or advocate from John 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7. It refers to the Holy Spirit who comes alongside us as our comforter. We see this as a role model for our actions. There are many great mission organizations out there doing the work of our Lord. But many of them do not have the research facilities, experience, training, and/or resources that we do. So we offer ourselves, our training, and our experiences to bring other mission organizations what they need in Bible training and leadership development resources as well as our church research.
In these last twenty years with many partners like my home church, Lake Avenue's help, we continue in missions! It is mostly done covertly, as we are in countries I cannot name. We provide Bible resources and curriculums to countless thousands. This amazes me, a guy who was told I could never graduate from High School or go to college. No bragging intended here; this is foremost and primarily a work of our Lord; I, and all those associated with this endeavor are just on it for the ride on our Lord's coat tails. We have over two thousand people who distribute our materials, two Bible Schools in a south central Asian country, and another two in another central Asian country. We have also led several teams on short-term missions projects. We provide research and resources for discipleship and leadership training. We bring pastors, church leaders, church planters, seminaries, and Bible schools biblical curriculums, and research from the Schaeffer Institute, as well as encouragement and sometimes resources and equipment. Last year, with all of your help, we collected over 10,000 Bibles and Bible resources and shipped them to one of those SC Asian regions. The tears of joy when these resources and financially impoverished pastors received the needed materials that they did not have before were amazing.
'Into Thy Word' is geared toward challenging you to learn how to better study the Bible! We seek to teach people to use logic induction, reasoning, and good inductive and deductive principles by examining the particulars, facts, and essence of a text first before making any conclusions, thus lead a mature, meaningful, fruitful, character driven life for Christ's glory!
Into Thy Word at Churches
For the last thirty years I have been teaching an in-depth inductive, verse-by-verse Bible study with discussion, now called "Journey Bible Study." We were two years in Revelation, just finished up Hebrews and now in the fall, we will engage Colossians. This is the beta site of our materials that you can use. I first research it, teach and refine it, then, it is edited before it goes out. As one participant said recently, "I struggled with trying to understand the Bible for years; the Journey Bible Study helped me. Now I understand and apply as I never thought I could ever be able to. And another…There is so much wonderful insight in this Bible Study; this is a must for any Christian who is serious with the faith and wants to grow more in Christ!" Countless other pastors and Bible study leaders use our materials every Sunday to build sermons and so to have solid, biblical, well researched curriculum for their small groups and Bible studies during the week.
Into Thy Word Online
Since 1994, we have been online, perhaps the second Christian site on the Internet. Our nine websites combined receive over 10,000 honest unique visitors each day (hits are over 40,000 a day); this makes us one of the largest Christian content sites online! Check us out; these are resources you can use too: www.churchleadership.org and www.intothyword.org are our main sites. We also have:
What do I do? Richard (I) went full time with ITW in 2001 and his (with my) primary role being to research and write curriculums and manage the ministry and the overseas staff. Mary has a supporting role and Ryan, their (our) son bangs things. We have three others who work out of their homes full time and a few more who are part-time, like our editor. Due to some vandalism and threats we have received, we are not releasing the names of our workers, board members, or associates.
Yes, I was in "trouble," serving the Lord as a pastor and missionary for over twenty years! Thanks to your partnership, resources, prayers, and blessings, countess thousands of Christians, pastors, and church leaders are learning how to study the Bible. Because of you, we have been (are) able to show thyself approved...!
With your help, we have not only taught Bible studies and pastors, taken the Bible overseas and online, but we are teaching people how to use it and get the most out of God's most precious Word. Thank-you partners, donors, pastors, and so many more for making this happen! We are not just a ministry that goes out and away to serve; we also serve you! With your investment and partnership, we have a ministry birthed from synchronicity of serving our Lord, meeting people's needs with what we have, and now a necessity as a way to show Our Lord's Way to others through His Word.
Maybe in another twenty years I will be wearing knickers too…
© 2008, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/