On Sunday, September 8, I will be teaching a Walk Thru the Bible Old Testament Live Event at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, where I serve as senior pastor. As I reviewed my notes, thought through my applications, reorganized my PowerPoint slides, and gathered my props, I reflected on why I continue to teach for WTB.
I attended my first WTB seminar in 1977 or 1978. Though I have forgotten the exact date, I remember it was taught by Bruce Wilkinson, the founder of Walk Thru the Bible. Despite graduating from Biola College (now Biola University) in 1977 with a B.A. in Christian Education, the seminar was the first time I understood how the Scriptures fit together. The Old Testament Walk Thru helped me see the big picture of what God was doing in the Old Testament. I was so impressed I attended the New Testament seminar a few weeks later.
After graduating from seminary in 1984, I contacted the organization to see what was involved in becoming an instructor. I was still impressed with WTB’s creative approach to teaching. At that time, I was in grad school in L.A. I was told they didn’t need any instructors in SoCal, but if I was ever in Chicago or Minneapolis, we could talk.
Two years later, I moved to Wheaton, IL, and began my first church ministry. I filled out Walk Thru’s extensive application (10+ handwritten pages as I recall), and was added to the national faculty in 1987. I learned how to teach large groups, use humor effectively, master my nerves, and use cutting edge technology (an overhead projector with thick overhead transparencies as each color required a separate sheet).
In 1989, I was fired from my first church position. While I had not anything wrong, I had also not done enough right and the church decided to make a change. The faculty and staff of WTB helped me survive a dark night of the soul. John Hoover, the Dean of the Faculty, called me personally and paid for my wife and me to attend the faculty conference that summer. Maggie and Mary Ann prayed for Carol and me. Maggie called to say she was praying that God would give me hope.
I debated on quitting ministry, feeling I had nothing to offer. That fall, I taught a Walk Thru the Old Testament seminar where nine people trusted Christ. I walked away encouraged that maybe God could still use me in ministry.
During the early nineties, Walk Thru helped shape my teaching and preaching style. I was impressed, challenged, convicted, and equipped by The 7 Laws of the Learner and Teaching with Style. Carol and I attended a pastor’s conference in Portland, OR, where Bruce Wilkinson shared a meal and practical ideas I could use to banish boredom from my lessons and sermons.
In 1992, I traveled to Russia with WTB and the CoMission. I spent two weeks rooming with John Hoover. He mentored and encouraged me to develop a philosophy of ministry that would guide and direct my efforts. He challenged me to open my heart to missions. He said that a short-term ministry trip will leave me “pasteurized.” He said, “You see a nation go ‘past-your-eyes’ and you are never the same again.” I caught the missions bug from John and have never recovered.
In the summer of 1998, my brother was killed in an industrial accident. One of the hardest things I ever did in ministry was to preach his funeral. Two weeks afterwards found me at a WTB faculty conference in Houston, TX. When I broke down telling the story, the faculty and spouses gathered around to lay hands on me and pray for my healing.
Twenty-six years and countless seminars later, why do I keep teaching Walk Thru the Bible events?
- Bruce Wilkinson helped shape how I preach and teach.
- The staff of WTB believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
- Maggie and Mary Ann prayed for me.
- John Hoover took me to Russia and stretched my heart for the world.
- Phil Tuttle, WTB’s President, and Terry Broberg, a fellow instructor in WA, encouraged me during difficult seasons of life and ministry.
- Walk Thru got me into places I would not normally be invited. As a Baptist pastor, my audience is somewhat narrow. But as an instructor for a respected parachurch ministry, I can go most anywhere.
- I have seen more evangelistic fruit through WTB seminars than any other ministry I’ve been engaged in.
- I still get energized when I see the lights go on in people’s eyes when they understand how the Scriptures fit together. When they leave the event saying they are recommitting themselves to read the Bible and pray daily, it makes all the effort worthwhile.
- I am challenged to think of new ways to be creative and get people involved and participating.
Needless to say, I owe a great debt to WTB.