40 Years of Ministry
||Forty is one of those great biblical numbers. It rained on Noah for 40 days and 40 nights. The Israelites spent 40 years in thb e wilderness. Jesus fasted for 40 days leading up to the temptation.
It seems that the number 40 is associated with testing, and it is perhaps appropriate to point out that trials, tests, and temptations have been one of the themes of BCF’s ministry for the last four decades. We are not talking here about the trials that BCF has been through; rather, that the BCF ministry over these years has been focused on helping people have victory in even the most difficult trials and tests of life by simply going back to the Word of God. That is where true hope can be found.
Sadly, the church has been lured into thinking that the Bible is either not relevant or is too simple for the so-called “complex” problems of today’s society. Jesus taught in simple terms: “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The great fallacy is in thinking that simple is somehow superficial. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s Word, though simply stated, is also much more profound than the world’s philosophies. The more we take Him at His word, the more we see how true this is.
This 40th anniversary newsletter is really a “thank you” letter to the Lord for what He has done through the ministry of BCF starting in 1974. It is also a “thank you” letter to those of you who have been serving with us over the years. Your lives have been a reminder to us of how discipleship works. BCF teachers have taught only a fraction of you directly, but hundreds of thousands have studied biblical principles of living through the Self-Confrontation course, thanks to those who have taken seriously the command to make disciples.
It reminds us of Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 3:2, “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men.” Your faithfulness in teaching the Word about life’s most important questions testifies to the power of God through changed lives
How do we know this? First, we know that there are hundreds of thousands of Self-Confrontation Manuals out there in circulation – books that you have ordered so that you could get God’s Word into the lives of many people we have never met.
More importantly, we have heard from many of you about how God has used his Word in your life through the ministry of BCF. This newsletter provides a very small taste of that. In addition to these testimonies, the newsletter features an interview with “Uncle” Bob Schneider, President of BCF, who has served the Lord faithfully from BCF’s beginnings 40 years ago.
||An Interview with
Bob Schneider started ministering with BCF when it began in 1974. He was 43 years old at the time, and has become affectionately known as “Uncle Bob.”
Uncle Bob has devoted tens of thousands of hours to BCF as a volunteer. He would say that he is slowing down and that his memory is going downhill, but he remains an inspiration of how to use the so-called “retirement years” for the Lord’s work. “Retirement? Where do we find that in the Bible,” he would say. Steve Smith sat down with him in an interview to reflect on what God has done through the ministry over these 40 years. Here are a few excerpts from that interview.
Steve: What would you say is the biggest lesson you have learned as you have ministered with BCF over all these years?
Uncle Bob: What I’ve recognized over the years is that helping people with significant problems is much less complicated than I originally thought, and the simple truths of the Scriptures are more profound than I originally understood.
Jesus taught a lot about the difficulties of life. In the midst of all His teaching, He summarized the Scriptures very simply by stating the two great commandments “love God and love your neighbor.” This directive is both simple and at the same time very profound.
Demonstrating the kind of love that God describes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a often goes against our feelings. We go against our feelings when we are patient in circumstances where we have been treated unfairly or when we are kind to someone who is unkind to us. We know what to do, but our flesh resists doing it. So Jesus taught that even in all of the difficulties that we face in the world, we are to concentrate on loving God and loving our neighbor.
People have been deceived by the world to think that the way to happiness is to focus on self instead of on God and others. So it’s no wonder that people who focus on themselves become less content, not more. We were not created to be satisfied by focusing on self. True joy comes when we get our focus off of self and onto God and others.
Steve: What advice would you give to the next generation of evangelical church and ministry leaders?
Uncle Bob: Return to trusting the Scriptures as completely sufficient to provide answers on how to face and deal with the problems of life. Pastors and ministry leaders need to focus on using only the Scriptures to counsel those who come to them with personal problems. Otherwise, we are neglecting the ultimate source of wisdom and guidance for helping people to live victoriously.
We also need to follow Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 28:19-20 on how to make disciples ‑ baptizing (which implies evangelizing) and teaching them to observe all that He commanded. Much of what He commanded dealt with the trials of life.
True discipleship includes what we often think of as counseling – helping people through problems in their life. When pastors or ministry leaders counsel from the Scriptures, they are really practicing discipleship the way Jesus intended.
Steve: Why would people look forward to taking a course called “Self-Confrontation?”
Uncle Bob: Many wouldn’t. None of us like confronting ourselves. But we decided to follow the example of Jesus. He loved the people, and part of that love was telling them the truth, even though it was not necessarily what they wanted to hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you. This is radical in our way of thinking, but we are most content when we love like God created us to love. To the natural world, that doesn’t make sense.
Jesus said that we are to deny ourselves and follow Him. If we don’t approach life that way, Jesus says in Luke 9:23-24, that we will lose our life, but that whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake will actually save his life. We realize that this is not a popular message, but we are not out to win a popularity contest.
We have been blessed over the years to see people respond to this message and to watch God transform their thinking and their lives even from one Self-Confrontation lesson to the next.
Steve: What would you hope happens with the BCF ministry over the next 10 years?
Uncle Bob: I would hope that BCF would be disciplined to continue in the same direction that we have been going for the last 40 years – depending on the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures alone, resisting the temptation to focus on numbers by wooing people according to their desires. We are responsible to faithfully teach the Word; God determines the results.
There will be different ways to get the Word out, but the fundamental message needs to remain the same.
Paul and Pat Ellis
Paul and Pat Ellis joined Action International Ministries in 1980, arriving in the Philippines in 1981. Since 1994 they have been teaching Self‑Confrontation as part of what they call the “Life Discipleship” ministry, working primarily with poor pastors throughout the Philippines.
"Life Discipleship is designed to equip church leaders in the Philippines for the task of discipling those under their care in the practice of Christ-like character development and spiritual growth. Many believers in the Philippines also deal with relationship problems, anger, bitterness, depression, fear and worry. God has used Life-Discipleship to bring about changes in individuals and churches throughout the Philippines over the last 20 years.
Here is an excerpt from one of the Ellis’s 2011 newsletters: “Pastor Jim trained a 2nd generation of 34 pastors and church leaders in Tarloc, a province north of Metro Manila. He is now teaching another 14 pastors who come from nearby provinces to the south. Sister Thea trained 19 others in Pangasinan, to the far north of Metro Manila. It is exciting to witness this multiplication!"
Gary and Linda Hays
"We came to Christ through a marriage crisis in 1981 and were nurtured by a loving pastor and his wife for many years. As the years progressed, we found that we had a desire to know God in a deeper way and to understand how to truly live by the Scriptures.
In 1994, we started attending a large church that was advertising a course on “how to have peace, joy and contentment in your life”. Bingo! Linda signed us both up! It was then that we were introduced to Self‑ Confrontation. Our eyes were opened to the sufficiency of the Scriptures and the biblical design for making disciples.
We continued with the local ministry in a teaching and discipling role and were asked to attend a BCF seminar in California. A short time later, our church hosted an international BCF course and we were asked to help teach Level 1 (Self‑ Confrontation).
As we became more involved with BCF we were offered the opportunity to travel with the teaching/discipleship teams to various parts of the globe. In doing so, we became aware that followers of Christ in every nation and tongue needed the same training that we ourselves had.
We have had the great privilege of seeing God’s children grow and families and marriages change through the practice of the principles found in the Scriptures. Our prayer is that BCF will continue to be a pliable instrument in the Lord’s hand. Congratulations for 40 years of being used by God to see Him change lives!"
BCF has been privileged to work with chaplains and volunteers who teach Self‑ Confrontation in prisons throughout the U.S., and we have had weekend seminars in several of those prisons. One of the great things about teaching God’s Word in prisons is that many of the prisoners understand their sinfulness and need for forgiveness often much more than those outside the prison walls.
We generally work through the chaplains, and have a program whereby partially damaged (but still usable) Self‑ Confrontation manuals can be obtained for free for prisoners who write in to explain their need. We have had some wonderful letters from prisoners over the years.
BCF staff members Bobbie Van Sant and Cindy Johnson have been teaching Self‑ Confrontation in a prison near Blythe, California every Friday evening for 16 years, driving 1.5-hours each way.
Self-Confrontation is taught in numerous prisons in the U.S. Several years ago a prominent TV talk-show host interviewed a group of inmates in San Quentin. One of the inmates, Jeff, stated the following: “I am not the same person that committed the crime 27 years ago. I have changed. The programs that were provided started that change, and 12 years ago I came to the end of myself...and I turned to the Lord. I came to a place where I didn’t like the guy I was looking at in the mirror. Many of us here come to that place. What makes San Quentin different is the programs. The chapel program here at San Quentin is just incredible, with all the volunteers that come in and volunteer their time. But I have grown tremendously through the classes offered here. I went through and now teach the Biblical Counseling Foundation Self-Confrontation class. I have become a part of the ministry here, and that is now my life. I live my life now for the Lord Jesus Christ according to the precepts of the Bible."
Benjamin Mok and Cherry Wong are BCF's regional associates for the Chinese-speaking people and have been teaching the Self‑ Confrontation course since 2006. The manual and Student Workbook have been translated into both Traditional and Simplified Chinese, both of which are printed in Hong Kong through the generous support of believers there. Cherry and Ben provided the following testimony:
When we started, we taught the course with brothers and sisters who served in the ministry before us, and now we have a team of teachers. We usually teach the 24-week Level 1 course once or twice a year, and have joined BCF teachers to help on concentrated courses when they come to Asia to teach. After teaching the Level 1 course for some time, we also started biblical counseling with individuals as we apply the approach we learned from Level 2.
As we and our co-workers teach, we find that we are also students, being reminded by the Lord of the biblical principles again and again. We realize that God’s ways are so different from man’s ways and understand how much secular thinking has penetrated our local churches. God’s Word is powerful, practical, and life-changing.
We have observed that the students who complete this course have joy and peace, and serve diligently in their local churches. For example, one pastor came to the BCF course in Hong Kong in 2008. He saw multiplication of biblical discipleship by forming a team with us to teach about 40 people in his church. He then selected a few faithful brothers/sisters to teach the Self‑ Confrontation course in their Sunday school to a group of younger Christians.
Also, starting in 2008, we invited BCF representatives to Hong Kong to teach church workers serving in various parts of Asia. These workers came to Hong Kong to receive training, and to take back the course to their own countries so that they could serve their local churches.
Although the responses from students vary, we have found that this biblical discipleship course greatly helps to strengthen churches as people faithfully and persistently follow through. Self‑ Confrontation may not be a popular course that attracts a large number of people, but God definitely uses it to produce the quality and Christ-like character that pleases Him and builds strong local churches.