Great Awakenings Spring Newsletter
Greetings in Christ! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! It is Great Awakenings 15th year. Since 2004, God has used us to spread the gospel to over 3,000,000 people in rural communities, from Kansas to Kenya. In November 2002, when I could not sleep, I got up and began to pray. During that time, God started speaking. I quietly and patiently remained on my knees, focusing on the voice of His Spirit. I felt Him calling me to step into full-time evangelism. I wrestled with questions and fears, then finally, in the early morning hours I said, “Yes, Lord!” Then months later, on April 16, 2003, by faith, I dropped packets of information into the mail, which went to Pastors across the country I had come to know. The letter stated what I felt was God’s call to, “establish an itinerate speaking ministry that . . . shares the gospel with the lost and . . . encourages and equips fellow believers.” Outside of dreams and prayers, I had no idea what lay ahead. (My photo I sent pastors that was taken in our living room – real fancy)
Soon preaching engagements began opening up in rural and small churches, then near the end of 2003, we launched our first official outreach, New Life Campaigns. It was a program for a citywide evangelistic outreach. The preparations took several months and was held in 2004, in the rural Kansas town of Sabetha with the help of the Sabetha Wesleyan Church and Pastor Andy Smith. It was pretty rough, our first time doing anything like that. I was grateful for Pastor Andy’s trust, our team, the volunteers, the people who came and the lives that were impacted. The work of 2003, led to being officially organized in April 2004.
The initial focus of Great Awakenings was broad. It was not until years later that God began opening my eyes, and narrowing the focus, by seeing and embracing a mission to rural communities.
God used Matthew 9:36 to sharpen the call, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.” Villages refers to small towns in the original language. Through this God gave me a vision of going to rural town after town (villages), teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus.
It is exciting to see that Great Awakenings is a tiny part of a mighty move of God that is sweeping across rural America. In the last 10 years there has been a tremendous increase in books, conferences and ministries that are focused on rural communities. The forerunners of today’s movement goes back to the 1940s, with groups like Rural Home Missionary Society and Village Home Missions.
“IT CAUSED US TO EVALUATE OUR PURPOSE AND MISSION”
Last fall we launched our newest outreach, the Rural and Small Church Ministry Tour. As I write, we are close to completing our first year.
One part of our program includes a teaching on mission and evangelism. It is primarily for the pastor and church leadership and often held during the Sunday School hour. I have been amazed how the teaching seems to have been the biggest help to churches.
Chris Visser, a lay leader at Madura Church in Wakefield, Kansas, said “The [teaching of Clint] led for our Sunday School class . . . was good. It caused us to evaluate our purpose and mission.” (Chris pictured to left.)
Pastor Dirk Westerman, of Milford Congregational Church in Milford, Kansas, echoed the same, “Clint’s challenge was to discover ‘how is the gospel affecting who we are?’ I will be challenging our church on a regular basis to make this focus a priority. But just as important–I am challenging myself with the same message. I can tell you . . . following Clint’s visit it has changed who I am.”
Pastor Jay Brandon of Alma Free Methodist Church in Alma, Nebraska, said, “As a pastor, God brought to my attention that we need to step back and take a look at the spiritual condition of our church.”
When conducting our program, I try to be intentional in learning about the congregation. God provided a unique opportunity with the Brantford Covenant Church near Clyde, Kansas. Pastor Michael Osterman said, “Clint was genuinely interested in . . . our church. He asked questions that provoked our thinking about our history, our strengths, community needs, and how we might use our gifts to address those needs as representatives of Jesus.”
The program provides a Sunday morning message with a focus on spiritual renewal for believers, given through an expository style of preaching. Dwight Jurey, a lay leader at Oakley Wesleyan Church in Oakley, Kansas, commented, “Clint’s sermon about worshipping Jesus was encouraging and motivating, exactly what the leaders and members of our small rural church needed. I was moved to a renewed commitment to prayer.” (Having a Valentine’s themed potluck after services at Oakley.)
The last six months have been energizing. I have loved each of these pastors, their churches and communities. It has also been a great education, in learning about rural ministry on a level like I never have. In each church I tell them “The big churches you see on TV aren’t representative of the American church. Your church is. You are what the typical church in America looks like. You matter. You are important.”
“IT HELPED ME TREMENDOUSLY”
Newspapers have been an important part of our rural outreach since the Hope for Today column began in 2006. In our digital age it has been difficult for small town newspapers to stay open. Even though many have closed, there are over 7,000 rural papers still operating. We praise God for the 300 papers He has provided us, but we still have much work to do in getting into the thousands of others.
I am humbled in how God used my February column, Choosing to Love and Forgive My Dad, to minister to others. One man told me, “I read it on Facebook and it helped me tremendously.” Another said, “Beautiful February column.” A woman wrote, “Thank you so much for your February article”, and another person emailed reflecting, “It truly reminds me of what is important.” Jesus said, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15). In the column’s history, it seems the topic of forgiveness has always connected with people. (The Emporia Gazette in Emporia, KS, regularly runs the column)
MARION VEST – A LIFE THAT WAS INSTANTLY CHANGED
On October 6, 2018, Marion Vest fell asleep in this world and woke up in the presence of Jesus. Marion was a ministry highlight when I pastored the Osawatomie Wesleyan Church (1994-1997) in Osawatomie, Kansas. James, one of his sons, was part of the church and spiritually concerned about his parents, especially his mother, Juanita. His mother rarely left the house due to a health condition and was hesitant to let anyone inside. We trusted God for an opportunity to meet with her, which He provided. The day came and James and I went to his parent’s house and began visiting. As we talked God opened the door to share the gospel. As I did, I mainly focused on Juanita. However, little did we know what was really happening. She was not ready to turn Christ . . . but Marion was. As I was talking to his wife, Marion was paying close attention and ended up surrendering to Jesus. It was a shock to both of us, especially James. And when Marion surrendered, he did it with all his heart. The Scripture says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). And boy was Marion! He began reading God’s Word, became an active part of the church and never looked back. His life was instantly changed. (Marion pictured in the top right in 2007.)
God’s vision for us is not just rural America, but rural communities internationally as well. Our focus is to help train rural Pastors and Evangelists, and come alongside them to help share Christ in their communities. According to a survey done at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, approximately 95% of the world’s 5,000,000 clergy DO NOT have formal theological training. Additionally, clergy in rural areas often do not have access to Bibles, training and other resources their counter parts have in larger cities. Coming to their doorstep is a great blessing to them. (I’m pictured, way up front, preaching at a Pastor’s conference in India in 2006)
We praise God for the ministry He has given us in India, Nicaragua and Kenya. At present, we have been invited to an African nation, where we are exploring our first solo international outreach. It will combine a three-day conference on the work of evangelism, along with sharing the gospel locally. As I write, I am working with a small group of Africans, in seeking God’s direction for the topics He would want us to teach attendees.
For each of these newsletters I pray over what God wants me to write. I hope you have been encouraged. And none of this could be done without the prayers, encouragement, and financial support of fellow believers. Because of that, where we go, you go.
Slave of Christ,
President and Evangelist
Great Awakenings, Inc