Risk, Generosity, and the Future of Band of Brothers in Christ

Have you ever felt an immediate unease when someone tells you something? Almost like you knew things were misaligned?

That’s how I felt when I heard that a few young men had considered applying for Band of Brothers in Christ but didn’t because of the cost.

It got worse when I later caught word of another few young men who would be great candidates, but could never afford it due to the socioeconomic background they were born into. They hadn’t even considered it.

Jesus had a few things to say about following him,

“Follow me” John 1:43John 21:19Luke 5:27

“Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me” Matthew 6:24

“Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people” Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17

“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

We want young men to follow Jesus. In fact, the vision of our ministry is to see all young men to become changed by the Word to change the world.

The mission we believe will get us there is to provide discipleship for young men through small-group programs and one-one-one relationships. We’ve experienced the fruit produced from pointing young men to the Word of God, while helping them overcome personal struggles and become the spiritual (servant) leaders God created them to be.

As God has moved this ministry forward we’ve always stuck to our core values. Over the last few weeks, God has illuminated one of them:

Risk.

We’re going to take a financial risk as a ministry and drastically reduce the cost of our programs. From an all-inclusive $1600 to just $300. And we’ll handle transportation on a case-by-case basis, but young men will need to get themselves to the program.

How does this affect our budget? You can probably do the math, but it means we’ll be able to extend an opportunity for parents, friends, and churches to sponsor young men to come to our programs. The primary difference being that it won’t be the responsibility of the new brother to raise over $1500.

Finances should never disqualify someone from discipleship, especially someone actively seeking it. $300 is still a strong investment for most young men, and having a little bit of skin in the game will be healthy for everyone. Our hope is that by removing an intimidating financial barrier, any young man who desires following Jesus will be able to come to Band of Brothers in Christ.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can’t put words to how I’m feeling. This seems like one of those times. It’s a financial move that doesn’t make a ton of sense on paper, but when I read Proverbs 3, it all clicks.

Our God is generous. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world he gave . . .”

We’re going to give BOBIC away as best we can, and trust God with the rest.

I’ve no idea what this might do to BOBIC financially in the long run. I can’t see all the steps that might follow but I can see this one, and after weeks of prayer and council I’m confident that the Lord will make clear what we ought to do next, because the best is always yet to come.

I want to ensure that all young men have the opportunity to become changed by the Word to change the world, regardless of where they come from and what they may or may not have. To put it as best I can, making our programs more affordable is a cost I’m willing to count.

P.S. If you know a future world changer, now is the time for him to apply. Will you take a few minutes to show him our website and encourage him to apply ?  …..He can even call me directly 859-576-5392 if he’d like. Can’t wait to see what God does next! 

The Three Most Important Things My Mentor Learned From Nine Years Working With Billy Graham

In the not-too-distant shadow of a man whose name the world will long remember, another man, whose name you’ve likely never heard, watched him carefully. For nine years Chuck Wenger worked with Mr. Graham, tactfully observing him and gleaning the best of what he saw.

Mr. Graham lived an incredible story.

In the week since his passing, his life has been highlighted on every major media outlet, headlining the evening news and topping the trending charts across social media. The Wall Street Journal even called him perhaps the most significant evangelist since the Apostle Paul. Hard to disagree.

Today Mr. Graham becomes just the fourth private citizen of the United States to lay at rest in the US Capital Rotunda. Suffice to say the world knows his story.

I did not know Mr. Graham, but I did know Chuck Wenger.

After his near decade of discipleship around Mr. Graham, Chuck too went on to live an incredible story. This week, I’ve been reflecting on what Chuck learned from Mr. Graham and what made his story so great.

It wasn’t the Bible studies Chuck led, which started with a few men and grew into the hundreds.

It wasn’t the unimaginable success he experienced in business.

It wasn’t the fact that he made the bank teller and the grocery store clerk feel like they were the president.

It wasn’t even his trips to the Oval Office, the personal gifts from Ronald Reagan, or that he turned down a job from two different presidents.

Even more important, Chuck grew a healthy marriage and become a family man. During his final days in December of 2015, it was clear that Chuck was most proud of his children and grandchildren. But there was still more to it than that.

I once had the chance to ask him if he’d share the three most important things he learned from his ‘BG Days.” Chuck’s answers, in his own words:

1. Spiritual Maturity. It can be encouraged by others but can’t be accomplished by others for you. You can be in the best garden in the world and still become a weed. Your willingness to be tended and fertilized and grow is something you have to choose to do, it can’t be done for you.

2. Integrity is a way of life. Not a weekend visit. It’s 24/7 and is defined by how other people see Christ in you.

3. Don’t expect to get rich if your’e in Kingdom work, but expect to be extremely wealthy in your marriage, in your family, and in the things that last.

Chuck had been a “Christian” since his friend Gene (Eugene Brackett) shared the gospel with him at Fort Lauderdale High School in the early 1950’s. But he didn’t become a disciple until he met George Wilson more than a decade later. George had been a founding member of BGEA and met regularly with Chuck for four months before Chuck chose to follow Christ, “Not just as Savior, but as the Lord of my life” as he’d say.

George M. Wilson (Image: BGEA)

Later that year, World Wide Pictures, the film evangelism branch of BGEA, needed someone to focus on marketing and negotiating contracts. Chuck’s business savvy made him a natural fit, but it took George half a year to hire him. He didn’t bring Chuck into the ministry until he saw how serious Chuck was about following Christ. And so Chuck went to work at World Wide Pictures. He’d attribute those nine years as his primary season of discipleship, meeting regularly with George and remaining attentive to Mr. Graham all the while, growing ever-more aware that Mr. Graham wasn’t just a man in the spotlight, he was the same person everywhere all the time.

Chuck wearing his Film Evangelism shirt in the “BG Days”

Chuck was close enough to be a recognizable face to Mr. Graham, but distant enough for Mr. Graham to have to be reminded of his name before any big meetings. He once recalled a story of a time Mr. Graham called him on the phone and gave him a stern earful over his decision to allocate millions of dollars to fund three new films. “Charles” Mr. Graham declared, “I’ve just given all that money to feed starving children in Africa, don’t you ever allocate God’s money like that again, it is already gone. If God wants us to make those other films he’ll keep providing.” Chuck was more grateful for the lesson than he was embarrassed about the rebuke. And within six months all the money to fund the next round of films had come back in.

When prompted, and if the environment was small enough, Chuck would share other stories from the BG days. Like the time Mr. Graham put Muhammad Ali’s jaw on the floor. Evidently Ali stopped dead in his tracks, wearing a look of disbelief when he’d realized Mr. Graham didn’t have a chauffeur, but instead had driven himself to the airport to pick Ali up.

Muhammad Ali visiting Mr. Graham at his home. (Photo: BGEA)

On another occasion, it was Chuck who was surprised, this time by Corrie Ten Boom, whom he’d worked closely with on the set of The Hiding Place. Corrie sat down beside Chuck and asked how she could be praying for he and his wife Charleen. As quickly as Chuck finished answering, Corrie seized his forearm tightly, head already bowed, immediately praying just what Chuck had requested. “At my age I don’t have time to waste not praying” she’d say to him after.

Chuck had stories like those by the dozens, but he was just a guy in the shadow of the man who lived a life in the spotlight. His legacy is far less known.

In the years following his wife’s passing in 1998 Chuck invited small groups of young men to his home in Fort Lauderdale, brought in some of the best pastors and disciple-makers he knew, put a curriculum together and taught the Bible while affirming in each young man that he was lovable, valuable and capable.

He called the group the Band of Brothers in Christ and before the Lord brought him home, he saw young men from nine countries and nineteen states own their faith and become disciple-makers. I am just one of the many undeserving beneficiaries of Chuck’s teaching, wisdom, and love.

This week I’ve been reminded that Mr. Graham lived a great story, and as much as we know about his life in the spotlight, I’d wager he had an even greater impact on people when he was off stage. I’ll never forget Chuck telling of the time Mr. Graham called an emergency meeting and showed up for it almost an hour late. Chuck had made some family sacrifices to be there and grew frustrated by the whole situation. When Mr. Graham finally showed up he gave no explanation for his tardiness and the meeting lasted just five minutes.

Chuck later found out that when Mr. Graham was leaving his hotel room a cleaning lady stopped him and asked if he was Billy Graham. After listening to her story, Mr. Graham shared the gospel with her and gave her a Bible. She prayed right then and there to accept Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot relate well to the man who preached to millions at a time, but hotel hallways make sense to me.

Kingdom life is mostly lived in the space between where we’re coming from and where we’re going, and in the not-too-distant shadows someone is always paying attention.

On Friday Mr. Graham’s funeral will be streamed live. One last public proclamation of a race well-run. One last moment in front of a global audience.

As you remember Mr. Graham’s legacy, will you do me one favor?

Be reminded of what made Mr. Graham’s story, and Chuck’s story, so incredible. It didn’t matter if the spotlight was on or not, it was always about Jesus and not them. They lived with a confidence that can only come from knowing they had nothing personal to offer outside of the Gospel of the Resurrected Christ.

Thank you, Mr. Graham, for what you said to millions and what you didn’t need to say to a man who kept a close eye on you for nine years. The notes he took helped script an incredible story and help me daily as I live my own. I’ve also got over 100 brothers who are equally eternally grateful.

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” – Billy Graham

 

….P.s. If you’re a college-aged guy and you want to change the world, don’t hesitate.

 

We’re Ministry Ventures Certified

Just before the Lord brought Chuck (our founder) home, he and I were introduced to Ministry Ventures. I wish I could say we were instantly hooked, but those who knew him would tell you he approached every investment with the seriousness of a bull.

After looking into it (and by that I mean digging up everything we could and even interviewing their staff), we realized Ministry Ventures really could help us take what God was leading us to do and go further faster. 

We were doing fun work, but we were taking it seriously. We didn’t just want to make disciples. We wanted to create a world-class program, built on God’s word and relationships, where our alumni would have more opportunities for discipling new young men, and the new young men could experience more adventure, deeper relationships, and a more relevant bible-based curriculum than ever before.

So we began pursuing a Ministry Mastery Certification to bring more credibility, excellence and clarity to everything the Lord was leading us to do, not just in regard to how we operate our programs, but how we operate behind the scenes as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Essentially, Ministry Ventures is recognized for providing coaching and training around the Five Best Practices of Ministry Leadership for nonprofit executives and staff. It affirms our use of Godly principles and Best Practices as we merge a healthy business mind with our ministry heart.

The result?
In 2016 we didn’t just work in ministry, we worked on ministry. We’re now Ministry Ventures Certified and our passion for making disciples has a plan, and even more opportunities for alumni and friends-in-ministry to be involved than ever before.

Thanks for being a part of it, it is a privilege to serve with you. 

-Christian ’09

 

4 Ways Disciples Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions

Given the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, it is easy to feel like God hard-wired us to be attracted to fresh starts. We all like new things, and a new year is no exception.

It is estimated that right now over 127 million well-intentioned Americans set goals for the New Year. Get fit, save money, stop eating fast food, quit smoking. We’ve all had a list, and setting goals is admirable. 

But on December 11, 2016 a University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology study revealed that just 8% of people who make New Years resolutions actually achieve them.

That’s not a typo. New Years resolutions boast a 92% failure rate.

It’s easy to assume why this may be the case; lack of seriousness and accountability, not having an actionable plan, or even sheer laziness. I just wonder if it is not something less obvious. After all, 92% of 127 million is still a lot of million. And this is recurring annually without improvement.

As disciples, how do we fit into this narrative? 

If God put Jesus on earth to accomplish something specific and change the world and you’re a disciple of Jesus, then God put you on earth to accomplish something specific and change the world. If we’re going to be a force for Christ in the world around us this year it only makes sense to start strong.  

The question we ought to ask is how did Jesus begin?

These are the four things scripture tells us Jesus did before his ministry began:

  1. Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21)
  2. Jesus spent time alone with God (Matthew 4:1, Luke 4:1,2)
  3. Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:2)
  4. Jesus used scripture to overcome temptation (Matthew 4:4-11, Mark 1:12, 13, Luke 4:3-13)

If that’s how Jesus kick-started his ministry, it’s worth us considering kick-starting our year the same way. I wonder if 118 million people won’t achieve their goals because they’re not preparing properly?

What if we resolved to take time over the next few days preparing for 2017 the way Jesus prepared for his ministry – spending time alone with God, fasting, and meditating on the word? (And if you’ve not been baptized publicly by water, there’s probably no better way to start your new year!)

I gave this New Year prep method a shot this year, and found not only did my goals not come close to what God had in store, I realized God just wants more of me, not more from me. I’ll close 2016 extending a kind encouragement to you to do the same. 

May 2017 be your most impactful year yet and may you have a Holy New Year.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us.”Ephesians 3:20