I visited Bro. Bill overnight, last night, dashing off at 10:30 a.m. today when the winter storm hit Henrietta. It was bad all the way to Sherman and then most of the way home to McKinney!
Bro. Bill was bursting to tell me about our CSI ministry that stretches from Romania, to Yakutia, and on to China as you can imagine, it was not the first time I heard most of it. I was privileged to see new pictures and get new reports of the different locations of this effort. I am always impressed by Bro. Bill’s passion for the Great Commission and the practical ways this passion works out in his life—and, through his life, in different measures in our lives. As I returned home, I felt led to write to those of you for whom I have email addresses, because something more important is happening, I believe, than what first meets the eye and I feel it important to express that to you.
Bro. Bill’s plan to reach the world in the manner he is working is unconventional and could be a cause for concern, but he has pointed out the lives lived and the recorded testimonies of the National leaders speak volumes to their image and integrity. (See Teams at www.churchstarts.com.)
Bro. Bill and increasingly I myself face growing limitations that come with age. American culture is not altogether kind in regard to our generation and less likely to pay attention to us. This could happen among us in CSI as well. As I heard Bro. Bill, however, I came to a clearer understanding of what God is doing through him for CSI. For us, for practical reasons and not just sentimental ones, Bro. Bill remains our “national treasure.” Bro. Bill has three special qualities that have made CSI what it is today—including what its offshoot, the Church on the March is today.
- His unabated passion for church planting and growth through disciple-making in every nation of the world. This is what wakes him up every day, and Henrietta is only the balcony from which he sees the whole lost world and yearns deeply for its salvation.
- His amazing ability to innovate successfully and radically, using very limited resources to accomplish what most others can never accomplish even with many more resources.
- God’s ability to use him to ignite great enthusiasm among nationals, especially, to get out and literally fulfill the Great Commission.
God used him to innovate in Romania, training missionaries in their churches to go out and start new churches, close to one hundred of them. He had to withdraw from Romania, but his vision and strategy continue to flourish there. I believe God has done more through him for Romania than many other missions put together. CSI is greatly successful in Romania and will continue to be because God, through Bro. Bill, planted something that has life in itself. Bro. Bill inspired the starting of RAM, the Romanian American Mission, of Alabama, that has now worked for 20 years in that nation. They reported last week that their associated Romanian churches have started 400 new churches during that time. Directly, and indirectly, CSI is greatly successful in Romania and will continue to be because God, through Bro. Bill, planted something that has life in itself.
In the American pastorate, he innovated in surprising ways, as some of you know. Romanian work was innovative even as it included very typical and traditional evangelistic team efforts. He is now unable to travel, has little budget, no one to go do his work on the fields and very little help in the office, where he, himself, does not operate a computer. So, he has discovered Skype and from his small office in Henrietta, has vital movements starting all across the globe’s eastern hemisphere! Meanwhile, he operates a literature preparation, translation and publication work that is enabling everything we are able to do today. This includes, besides Europe and Asia, our discipling children in over 500 public classrooms every week in Guatemala and a rapidly-spreading prisoner-led church planting effort already in 25 Texas state prisons as well as 19 or 20 missionary training centers started in Vietnam with over 500 trainees. These are very unique and powerful ministries that reflect the innovative gift we see in Bro. Bill.
In our American ministries, we pull and shove, trying our best to move the gospel cart forward in our communities. Most IMB missionaries, I suspect, are frustrated by the same lethargy and lack of vision among the Christians in their lands. From his office in Henrietta, at 91 years of age, Bro. Bill is exciting Baptist leaders, Baptist women and Baptist youth in fast growing numbers in Europe and Asia with a vision, joy, and task they lacked before he discovered Skype. This vision with joy is perhaps the scarcest gift of all, and the Lord has given him a great measure of it! May his mantle fall on our shoulders as well! The paucity of joyful vision is our greatest poverty as American Christians, and, in CSI, we have a millionaire in our midst! Let us stretch our minds, believe what our eyes are seeing, try to keep up with the leader God has given us, and be prepared to carry his torch in the decades that lie ahead, short of Jesus’ sudden return.
With love, respect and gratitude for each one of you as servants of God and faithful supporters of Bro. Bill and Church Starts International,
Ted Lindwall 1-7-17