A Joyful Work: Insight for Living Ministries Australia

  • A Joyful Work: Insight for Living Ministries Australia
A Joyful Work: Insight for Living Ministries Australia

“Let the nations be glad and sing for joy.” (Psalm 67:4)

While spending her days incarcerated at a women’s correctional center in southern Australia, she’s made it her daily habit to listen to the Insight for Living radio broadcast. God’s Word is helping her view life with a totally different perspective, as the Holy Spirit works in her heart to make her into a totally different person—one dedicated to following her Saviour, Jesus Christ. Recently, she wrote these words to our Insight for Living Australia (IFLA) office:

I’m one of your many listeners. I’m currently incarcerated...and I find that your radio program helps me deal with what I’m faced with on a day-today basis.... Waking up with Insight for Living each morning really makes me feel humble and grateful that I can start each day with your teaching. I’ve always been an angry person and very short tempered, but [now] I’m happy most days and I’m learning how to be patient.... Thank you for your support during my time in prison. You have no idea how much it means to me.

The Christian’s work is a joyful work, with the goal of producing joy in the lives of others. The kind of joy Christ produces differs from all other kinds of happiness. Indeed, the Christian’s joy has its roots in Christ Himself and flows through our spiritual connection with Him, which cannot be broken because Jesus Himself cannot be broken.

“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11)

If there’s anything a person needs to journey through this treacherous world, it’s the joy of Jesus Christ. Pastor Chuck Swindoll put it this way, “I know of no greater need today than the need for joy. Unexplainable, contagious joy. Outrageous joy.”1

Seeing just one person taste Christ’s joy for the first time makes it worth a lifetime of effort. For that reason, Insight for Living Ministries (IFLM) has worked diligently to send out the joyful news of Jesus Christ all over the world—beyond our local neighbourhoods and cities in the United States. One such place is THE LAND DOWN UNDER. In fact, our office in Australia is IFLM’s second regional office, which is why that country, filled with such exuberant people, is our focus for this newsletter.

A Joyful Beginning

Writing to the young church at Corinth, which was over-run with skepticism and ignorance, Paul unveiled the motive behind his ministry to them, “We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). The same motive impels the work of IFLM as we continually seek to proclaim the Word of God in new lands and new languages.

After establishing an office in Canada in 1984, our young organization began looking to the next territory in which we could fulfil our calling. Australia quickly seized our attention since it, too, uses English as its primary language. Yet, though a Christian broadcast presence was already there at that time, it didn’t mean the Australian government or radio industry would receive us with open arms. Attaining access to the radio airwaves in Australia is no easy feat—especially for programs that don’t originate locally. But through the working of God’s providence, IFLM partnered with the Australian director of Trans World Radio, John Reeder. Through his strategic relationships with radio stations, his insight into the radio industry, and his devotion to Christian ministry, we knew we were in good hands.

In 1987, IFLA officially opened its office doors in Blackburn, Victoria, and launched its first Insight for Living broadcast in THE LAND DOWN UNDER.

IFLM’s current executive producer and board member, Roger Kemp, offers a special perspective into this time because he served as vice president of US broadcasting and international ministries from 1991 to 1998. Reflecting on IFLM’s beginnings in Australia, he said:

We wondered how the listeners might respond to a preacher who hailed from Texas, but the Australian audience responded enthusiastically to Pastor Chuck Swindoll’s Bible teaching. They appreciated Chuck’s candour, wit, and wisdom. His sometimes-unfiltered style connected with Australians as his winsome manner drew them daily into the study of God’s Word.

In its first month of existence, IFLA received 12 letters in the mail. From the very beginning, the correspondence sounded just like the correspondence we received in the United States. So we knew God had prepared a place for IFLA to reach the people of Australia with biblical truth. Our radio partnerships continued to grow and, by year four, IFLA averaged 300 letters per month. Roger Kemp continues:

We wanted our listeners in Australia to know it was local Australians who brought them the Insight for Living broadcast. To that end, we gave the broadcast a distinctly organic flare by appointing an Australian host, Ian Young, in 1989 to begin introducing and closing each broadcast.

When Pastor Chuck and Cynthia traveled to the new office, they quickly developed a strong connection with the people of Australia. On one occasion, a church in Brisbane—whose worship center, large by Australian standards, nestled among the eucalyptus trees—hosted a live event so the listeners in the state of Queensland could meet their new radio pastor. We didn’t know how many would attend this live event or how it would be received.

Pretty soon after Pastor Chuck and the staff arrived, cars by the dozens began pouring into the parking lot. Hundreds of people filled the building so that it was standing room only. Young people sat on the floor all over the auditorium. The event kicked off with a diverse choir singing an array of beautiful worship music. Then, before Pastor Chuck walked on stage, the audio technician played IFLM’s opening theme song which caused quite the surprise: an eruption of applause with a standing ovation. Though Pastor Chuck was initially caught off guard with this measure of celebrity, he received the warm welcome and quickly felt at home as he entered into his sermon. They all hung on every word.

Afterward, Pastor Chuck and Cynthia stayed at the church into the late hours of the night, connecting with the long line of listeners who shared their stories and appreciation for the ministry. This connection only cemented the growing affection of Pastor Chuck and Cynthia for the Australians while also sparking some lifelong friendships.

One very special friendship was with a local couple Mac and Di Hawkins. Such a warm bond arose between them and the Swindolls that the Hawkins family attended the Mount Hermon family camp, hosted by IFLM, in California throughout the 1990s. The Hawkins proved to be a godsend. Mac owned a business and served on the board of IFLA—eventually becoming its chairman. He worked with local donors and other businesspeople to build awareness and expand this new ministry. Mac even appointed representatives in every Australian state so IFLA could have a local presence throughout the country.

Such sacrifice is a common theme throughout church history. For instance, read how the Apostle Paul described the sacrificial Macedonian churches in his letter to the church at Corinth:

Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. (2 Corinthians 8:1–3)

Our abundant joy in Christ overflows into a rich generosity of time, effort, and resources for the joy of others. Had it not been for the sacrifices of our early staff, board members, and the many financial donors of IFLA, the Insight for Living broadcast would not have reached the multiple-thousands of people during those early years of its joyful beginning.

A Joyful Increase

A struggle common to young, expanding organizations often lies in operating out of the right office space. Initially, IFLA moved from John Reeder’s garage to a home office that was donated to the ministry by a supporter. There, the operations began to stabilize under office manager Molly Duffield. During IFLA’ s next two decades of growth, God moved the ministry office no less than four times—all within the suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria—like Bayswater and Boronia.

Of course, some moves created more uneasiness and discomfort than others, but each one presented a new opportunity to trust in God’s faithfulness to provide the right kind of space, in the right location, at the right price for the ministry...and sometimes that price was free!

When God keeps His children moving like this, it creates a very real awareness that we’re, in fact, always on the move in this life. Because here, “we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come” (Hebrews 13:14 NASB). The energy that sustains us while we’re on the move derives directly from our joy in Christ, which is why the author of Hebrews immediately followed this fact with the exhortation: “Through [ Jesus] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (13:15).

God has not only faithfully provided the right space to base IFLA’ s ministry operations, He also provided the right leaders, during each season...leaders who brought the right set of skills and spiritual gifts to take the ministry to the next phase. The reins of leadership passed from the hands of John Reeder to executive directors Graham Permezel and Guy Williams. Guy especially brought a heart for the lost, which led him to focus on spreading the broadcast into new locales to give the unchurched opportunities to hear the priceless treasure of God’s Word.

Then, in 2003, Peter Tyrrell became the new executive director. He channeled his exceptional work ethic and exquisite attention to detail to help IFLA bring the regenerating truths of Scripture to people of all ages. He held support dinners across Australia while also organizing in-person events for Pastor Chuck to visit this lively listener-base and offer fresh insights from God’s Word.

Peter also helped the ministry achieve a crucial milestone in 2008 when he, with the help of lawyer and board member Murray Baird, turned IFLA into a tax-deductible entity. Within just a few years of supporters receiving donor gift receipts, the ministry’s donations grew by 35 per cent! This growth opened the door for IFLA to increase its radio partnerships and expand its reach via IFLA’ s own website and mobile app. Peter faithfully served 2003 through 2013 as IFLA’s executive director—and then in 2013 he stepped into the role as IFLA’s chairman of the board. With the ending of his day-to-day involvement, IFLA embarked on a new chapter in which God not only brought on a new executive director but also a new local pastor.

Joyful Leaders on a Joyful Mission

Chris Littlechild became IFLA’ s new executive director in 2013. From his years with Campus Crusade to his experience as a chaplain for sports teams and a board member at Trans World Radio, Chris has used his eclectic background, along with his vibrant and inviting personality, to help IFLA transition into a new phase of ministry. While Chris has witnessed the growth of secularism in Australia’s culture, he remains hopeful and enthusiastic because of the invigorating power of God’s Word. For 30 years, God has grown IFLA into a trusted source of biblical truth in Australian Christian media, drawing in new listeners to the Insight for Living broadcast.

Starting at the same time as Chris Littlechild, Nathan Potts joined the IFLA team as its regional pastor to provide a local presence and voice to our listeners in Australia. From the time Nathan and his wife Julie married in 1990, their passion and goal has been to serve Christ in full-time vocational ministry. God brought that yearning into reality and now, for almost 20 years, Nathan has pastored multiple churches and devoted himself to the faithful exposition of Scripture and the equipping of church leaders for the work of ministry.

Today, Nathan pastors the Church of the Paravista in Adelaide, South Australia while also providing biblical counselling to IFLA listeners and overseeing IFLA’ s Bible teaching material. In 2015, he stepped in as chairman of the board.

Because of COVID-19, Australia now more than ever needs fervent Christian leaders like Nathan to spread the bright message of Christ’s joy and hope during dark times.

Yes, it’s the joy of Christ that keeps the IFLA team, consisting of three full-time and two part-time staff, running hard after The Great Commission. These local Christians diligently bring the message of God’s Word to their country week in and week out. Heather, a listener services representative for IFLA, expressed it well:

Daily we depend upon God and pray for our listeners and those who contact us...that
they would have strength to continue during this difficult time...and we pray that we
would have strength to speak the right words to them and to continue in this important work which God has called us to do.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. (3 John 4)

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Laugh Again (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 19.