“Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
As Rosie, my wife, and I stood next to our Insight for Living Ministries United Kingdom booth at the 2019 Word Alive Christian conference in North Wales, Judith made a beeline in our direction. It was clear she had a story to tell, and she recounted enthusiastically what had happened to her:
It must have been at least 10 years ago when I read Chuck Swindoll’s book about Esther. It deeply affected me, making me think that if Esther had a special thing to do that only she could do, then perhaps there’s something God has for me to do as well. I mulled it over as to what it might be, but no commitment or quest that crossed my mind seemed to fit, but Chuck’s book stayed with me.
Judith continued her story with glee:
NOW I KNOW WHAT IT IS! Media companies pay me as a consultant to write character briefs that explain how a Christian character might act and think. So, essentially, I’m hired to teach the entire script crew, including directors, about Christianity. All my work experience, passion, gifting, and faith is coming together—just like it did for Esther—for such a time as this.
God has positioned all Christians, whether we sense it or not, for such a time as we’re in. By grace, Judith sensed it deeply. Even while waiting, she prepared in faith for the time of acting. She knew, like Esther, she was called “for such a time as this.” At IFLM UK, we live and serve with that phrase planted deep within our hearts. As we reflect on the way God’s orchestrating hands perfectly timed the ministry’s arrival in the UK, we see how God has perfectly positioned us to minister to His people in the UK.
I never would have imagined the formation of IFLM UK when Rosie and I were sipping tea on a porch swing over 20 years ago with Pastor Chuck and Cynthia Swindoll in Paris...Paris, Texas, that is.
God’s Perfect Timing
During my time at Dallas Theological Seminary, I often wondered where and how God wanted me to minister once I graduated with my Master of Theology degree. The graduating class of 1999 that final semester went on a retreat at a ranch near Paris, Texas. Pastor Chuck, the president of DTS at that time, shared his ministry insights with us all when we weren’t enjoying food and funny stories around the table with him and Cynthia. After dinner, Rosie and I joined Pastor Chuck and Cynthia for tea—iced tea, mind you! “When in Texas...” as the saying goes. We sat on that porch swing and chatted to the buzz of crickets and the glint of lightning-bugs starting their dance among the oak trees. Cynthia shared her IFLM vision for opening a local office in the UK...someday. We left it at that, nothing more than a casual conversation, before turning in for the night.
Then, in 2006, that someday came. Chuck and Cynthia tasked Scott Bean to oversee the establishment of IFLM UK as a registered charity that would serve IFLM listeners in the UK and English-speaking Europe. Scott had worked in IFLM’s International department for five years and had a missionary heart along with a keen gift for details. His first task? To find and recruit a pastor to represent Pastor Chuck in the region. That person needed the right seminary training at DTS and the right ministry experience as a pastor—not to mention the right passport! It didn’t take Scott very long nor did he have to look very far before pitching the idea to his own pastor...me. At the time I was shepherding a lively and eclectic flock near downtown Dallas, putting to use my DTS training and preaching with a British accent!
I said yes. But not instantly. Rosie and I had to carefully pray, consider, and seek counsel. We would have to uproot our family to move back to our homeland, England. While the whole idea seemed daunting in every way, the call eventually became undeniable. “If I must die, I must die” (Esther 4:16). Esther seemed fearless when she stood before the Persian king. But not Rosie and me when faced with the daunting task of returning to England! Nevertheless, we knew God had used our journey to the US to bring us to such a time as this.
With the full support of the IFLM team in Texas, Scott and I began operating in Surrey. The UK charity was up and running. Without the specialist knowledge of company law or charity law, we immediately looked for wise legal counsellors.
Ron Stewart and Arthur Torr were the first to join the IFLM UK board of directors. Ron and Jackie, his wife, were IFLM enthusiasts who had met Pastor Chuck and Cynthia on an IFLM Alaska cruise. Ron had just retired from a successful career in the UK banking industry before he joined the board. Arthur was a close friend of Ron’s who knew more than a little about accounting and operating a successful business in the UK. To their number came Greg Anderson, an American pastor with expertise in a variety of international settings, and Steve Brady, a respected leader in the UK’s Christian circles, who was serving as principal of Moorlands Bible College. Had God not brought these men to labor alongside Scott and me, IFLM UK would not be where it is today.
God’s Perfect Positioning
Scott and I quickly began working together like two barrels of the same gun: striving in our differing roles yet all the while aiming at the same target...to expand and contextualize the mission of IFLM in our corner of the globe as we communicate the truths of Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ in a clear, accurate, and practical manner so that people will come to know God’s plan for their lives as well as their significant role as authentic Christians in a needy, hostile, and desperate world. Pastoral care, live preaching and teaching, broadcasting, and serving are the channels through which IFLM UK adds a personal touch to Pastor Chuck’s special brand of grace-filled, theologically sound, practical-natured Christianity.
From Saint Patrick’s mission in the AD 400s and Augustine of Canterbury’s ministry in the AD 600s to the better-known Christian leadership of C. S. Lewis and John Stott in the 1900s, the UK shares a very rich Christian heritage. Nevertheless, every generation, including today’s, hungers for God’s truth spoken not only with clarity but also with contemporary relevance. God has positioned IFLM UK to bring that relevance through radio as well as our online media presence.
Listeners write to us all the time telling us just how vital our biblical teaching has been for their spiritual growth at crucial moments in their lives. One friend at a church where I have frequently preached recently sent a note saying:
The clarity of Chuck’s preaching, as well as yours, has molded and shaped me in my over 41 years of following Jesus.... Chuck has been faithfully preaching a good word even in this most difficult of years in all our collective human memories. I just wanted to express my deepest gratitude to him, Cynthia, you, Rosie, and all the staff at IFLM for the integrity and excellence of a faithful ministry which has honestly helped us grow in the Lord. THANK YOU ALL!
Here’s another that especially encouraged me:
Through this ministry I was drawn into the saving grace of Jesus Christ.... In my low moments I have often referred back to the archives, most especially the video moments to encourage myself in the Lord. I shared Chuck’s CDs with my dad which slowly brought him to accept Jesus as Lord over a course of seven years.
Many listeners share with us their sadness over the struggle to find deep, trustworthy Bible teaching in their cities, towns, and villages. While the UK certainly enjoys strong, well-grounded voices behind the pulpit, we also have our fair share of ear-ticklers and opinion-pushers.
For example, my family and I attended one church several years ago where the minister delivered to his Scripture-hungry flock a sermon based on a few episodes from a biography he had been reading on Florence Nightingale. After the service, as we walked to the car, my eldest tugged my sleeve and asked in all innocence, “Do they ever talk about the Bible in the churches here?”
So while threadbare patches show through what was once the glorious gospel tapestry of the British Isles, IFLM UK’s broadcasts fill the gaps for thousands of listeners every day who don’t have the opportunity to worship at a Bible-based church. As our presence has grown in the UK, we’ve also seen the Lord preparing us to use our ministry to fill another gap: pastoral training.
God’s Perfect Working
Many times, I have been told by pastors (half-jokingly) that they wouldn’t know what to preach the following week were it not for Pastor Chuck’s broadcasts. Some pastors like to use our free, online Searching the Scriptures Bible studies that accompany each of Pastor Chuck’s sermons to help them outline their sermons. Other pastors, who have little to no training, have shared with us how they rely completely on Pastor Chuck’s messages for their entire Sunday sermons. For them, it’s no joke. That’s because in many places around the world, reliable and practical training for pastors is only a dream. There are no Bible colleges or seminaries to help them fan the flame.
Realizing this need, IFLM has made pastor training integral to our global strategy called Vision 195. We have developed curriculum to teach untrained pastors how to study the Bible for themselves as well as how to prepare spiritual meals for their flock. This curriculum focuses on the tried-and-true Bible study method Pastor Chuck has used in his more than fifty-five years of ministry.
Because IFLM has international pastors in several countries, this training curriculum is being offered in several key regional languages, and plans are taking shape to hold seminars in many parts of the world later this year, as travel restrictions ease.
We could not be more excited about this opportunity to help pastors become deeper followers of Jesus and more effective shepherds of Christ’s flock.
God’s Perfect Empowering
Through God’s perfect empowering, Pastor Chuck’s Bible teaching has gone out without pause or hindrance from the early years of shortwave transmission out of Monaco to the high-fidelity signal of today’s digital audio broadcasts along with cable and broadband streaming.
In His grace, God has even given us the strength we need to thrive amid the COVID-19 pandemic. IFLM UK, like much of the West, has creatively refashioned how we work, as we get things done from home, to serve the aim we’ve always had: to preach and teach the Scriptures so that the divine grace of Jesus Christ might be known far and wide. People are as spiritually hungry as they have ever been. Based on our correspondence in the UK over the past year, more people are listening to Pastor Chuck—and listening more closely—than ever before, as they strive to grow closer to God and walk in step with the Spirit each day.
Insight for Living Ministries United Kingdom would not be able to serve our Lord today, in the capacity in which we are serving, if you had not faithfully encouraged us, prayed for us, and financially supported us. Our firm confidence that God has raised up the IFLM UK office for such a time as this extends also to you, as our partner in the ministry, which leads me to leave you with the inspiring words of the Apostle Paul:
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:58)