This is not really a monthly newsletter as much as it is a basic ministry focus letter. We have done many things over our forty plus years of ministry. I am glad the Lord keeps track of these things since I haven't maintained a detailed list.
As I said, many things have been done but one thing we have always focused on, above all else, is the training of people for Christian service. The Lord told us to go into all the world and make disciples, this above all else is our main focus of service. We've accomplished that in many ways. For many years we had live teachers come on ministry trips to Haiti that taught classes held every three months. It was a great experience having the live fellowship with those that taught as well as the students that attended. It was also very expensive, air travel, hotels, and no matter how spiritual everyone was, they wanted to eat.
These human needs were financially limiting, as you may imagine. There was only so much money available. The bigger limitation was teachers having to be there in person. Being in person is very constricting when trying to teach people. Schedules are a big factor as well as all the logistics required for people to be there in the flesh. I knew God could help us reach more people.
About thirty years ago I felt the Lord wanted us to establish video Bible schools. It would solve a lot of problems associated with live teachers. Through video, teachers could be available, day or night, good weather or bad, and they wouldn't need hotels or food. Their teaching sessions could be selected for content rather than them teaching whatever they felt in the live setting. In other words, we could present a specific, sequential curriculum that would guide students from one Biblical truth to the next. The curriculum subjects would not jump all over the place but bring into order all God has for us, one truth at a time.
I went all out, 30 years ago, trying to put together a curriculum and the organizational requirements to accomplish these goals. Without a long explanation, it crashed and burned. Video tapes disintegrated in hot humid climates, people could not operate required equipment and there was almost no useable curriculum in video format. I made attempts at producing our own but it just didn't work out. The whole vision was shelved but not forgotten.
Twenty years later, in the year 2000, the Lord had me on an exploratory trip to Guyana, South America. It was my first time there and I had no idea what the Lord wanted me to do. I went out in the jungles to minister and also visited churches in the city. I tried to get a full picture of what was going on. One thing I knew for sure, the Lord wanted something done.
After the trip, I was still not sure what the Lord wanted but He eventually brought me back to the idea of video Bible schools. Guyana spoke English, which was a big help for me communicating with people and it was obvious there was little or no training available, other than from untrained pastor's doing their best to serve. I believe the Lord was saying it was time for an upgrade for Guyana.
I began investigating ministry possibilities and realized technology had greatly improved so that video was now on DVD's and virtually unaffected by climate. Also, many people had teachings on video that were available in this type of format. I eventually produced a curriculum we could use.
We started schools in several remote locations in the jungles of Guyana. Three times a year we would bring all the equipment needed into these villages and hold classes for a week. This was a learning time to better know how to establish and run video Bible schools. It took three years and a lot of money and effort before we graduated our first class. It was a GREAT learning experience. Even today, classes are held in remote Guyanese villages, three times a year, with the goal of training ministry leaders to reach their own people in their own cultures.
Since the small start in Guyana in the year 2000, there have been 1,000 video Bible schools started world wide in 34 different countries. We have also greatly improved the curriculum since that small start many years ago. Although the original curriculum was good, subjects tended to jump around and were not always sequential in subject matter. This caused some confusion, especially when used with people in some foreign countries with limited education.
Today's primary ACTS curriculum is divided into three specific trimesters with the specific goals to bring students into the fullness of God's Word as it applies to their life.
Trimester one has teachers like Dr. Charles Stanley, A.R. Bernard, Dr. A.L. Gill, Bayless Conley and others. The main theme of this first trimester is to build the foundation of faith and believing. One thing I've observed all over the world, people have very shallow foundations to their Christian faith. Most people receive very little foundational teaching after they accept Jesus Christ as their savior. They get preached at but most of what they hear has very little foundation for them to build upon. People hear the truth but don't know how to apply it because they lack proper foundational teaching to build their personal faith in hearing, believing, and acting upon God's Word. Good seed hits unprepared soil so there is little or no growth.
Trimester one has the goal of changing that in the lives of both students and those they bring the Gospel to through their individual ministries. Trimester one has the specific goal to build a well sculpted foundation where a clearly defined structure can be built that will honor the Lord. Trimester one has the focus of building faith and believing.
Trimester two begins to build that structure on the well built foundation of trimester one. Trimester two has the goal of bringing knowledge or aptitude to the students. Before anything can take place in our lives, we must "know." I don't care if the subject is math, science, or pounding nails. We need to know specific concepts before we have any meaning in our lives. These sessions will teach many specific things in God's Word that most all of the students have never heard before, at least not in the detail given in these sessions. Knowing is only the beginning to what God has in mind. We may know how to speak English but just knowing it does not make us an English professor. I know a lot of people who can pound a nail but they can't build a building. Knowledge is literally useless unless we know how to use it. Knowledge is like having a big lump of money in our pocket without having a way to spend it or even understanding it's value. Having just knowledge of math is like not being able to know if you've received the right amount of change from the clerk in a store after a purchase. Knowledge is of little help in life if you don't know how to apply the knowledge you've accumulated. In trimester two, however, the goal is to give students the knowledge they need before launching their ministries. Although knowledge is not of much use without knowing how to apply it, you will never apply something you have never learned. Leaning is the first step.
Trimester three should be the goal of all Christians, properly applying all you have learned. Trimester three, building wisdom or application of God's Word, is intended to teach students how to put into practice all they have learned in the first two trimesters. This is of course only the beginning as God will continue teaching students many things throughout their ministries. Application of the Word is probably the weakest concept taught in modern day churches. People get preached at but little time is spent on application of what is being said. Truth is found in application. You don't really believe it until you do it. If something is true, it works. If you don't put the Word into practice, it is only theory in your mind. You can't have full conviction of something being true without personal application of what you think is true. It's fine to say, "God said it and I believe it." The REAL truth is God wants us to be doers of the Word, not hearers only, deceiving ourselves. I am very observant of how people "act" upon what is being said. That is the true definition of learning.
We also have an Advanced ACTS curriculum that takes students even further into all God has in mind for them. The main focus in the advanced curriculum is to bring students into perfect harmony with all God has created, other people in particular. Too many people are uneffective in ministry for no other reason than they have poor relationships with others. As disciples of Christ it is our obligation to have all people know we are His disciples because of the love we have for each other.
The beginning sessions in the Advanced curriculum deal with the marriage relationship. Many people are trying to serve in full-time ministry while having a shakey marriage relationship. The importance of having all relationships in order, if a person wants to be a minister of the Gospel ,can not be over stressed. That is why relationships are emphasised so much in the Advanced curriculum.