READER FEEDBACK: Can World Bible School reach souls in the U.S.?
For more than 30 years, the name World Bible School has been synonymous with global evangelism for Churches of Christ.
In my travels around the world — and especially in Africa — I have encountered dozens, if not hundreds, of preachers, elders and ministry leaders who first studied the Gospel through the Texas-based ministry’s correspondence courses.
Late last year I visited World Bible School’s offices in Cedar Park, Texas, to discuss the ministry’s history and its new initiative to reach what may be its toughest mission field yet — the United States.
In a video produced by WBS (and available for download here), church members talk about the need to reach souls in the U.S. You’ll see some grim statistics on declining church membership in the States — taken from The Christian Chronicle’s recent “By the Numbers” series.
Globally, WBS teaches about 2 million students, said Kevin Rhodes, the ministry’s vice president for development. Since the ministry’s early days, a large number of students have been U.S. citizens. Since WBS started offering its courses through the Internet about 16 years ago, the majority of enrollees have come from the U.S., which accounts for slightly more than half of its current online student body, we reported in 2009.
The video highlights the WBS Connect program, a new effort targeting congregations in the U.S. The program’s goal is to help U.S. churches “share Jesus with the world’s lost by motivating and equipping a global network of Christians to use interactive Bible studies effectively.”
I’m working on a story for our ongoing Global South series about the history and future of World Bible School. I hope to highlight how a decades-old ministry, known for its evangelistic success in Africa and other parts of the world, is using some of what it has learned overseas to reach souls at home.
Many of you have taught WBS through the mail or Internet. What do you like best about WBS? Please share your stories.
Do you think churches in the U.S. can use WBS to win souls here? Why or why not?
FeedbackI just started using WBS lessons in our newly started jail ministry program in Stillwater, Oklahoma. I have had an extremely good response. And since our graders were already experienced I didn’t have to spend time with them, teaching them how to grade the lessons. We just hand out lessons during my weekly visit to the jail and the next week collect the lesson, give them to the graders and then take the grades and certificates and next lesson back in the next week. Sometimes we get lessons mailed from our distributions in the jail. That is fine too. I have to pull the staples out of the booklets before handing them out and we are inquiring right now about getting some of our orders unstapled. I am quite pleased with our response so far. Approximately 30-40% of the lessons I hand out are returned.Mike HirschApril, 8 2011We were selected to be a one of the participants in the WBS effort to reach people here in the United States. We will run our first public advertisement tomorrow in our local paper. This is just the beginning for us to discover ways to get the word out about studying the Bible through a free correspondence and Internet series. This first ad will feature the Internet aspect of the study. We are diligently praying for quick and large response to this effort. Bill Butterfield, minister, Williamsburg church of Christ in Williamsburg, VirginiaBill ButterfieldApril, 8 2011Yes, it works. But an even better strategy is for Christians to talk to those who God has put around us – our families, our friends, our co-workers. We don’t need a big, organized program to witness to others.Terri SerratoApril, 8 2011I think we all know you don’t need a big, organized program to witness to others. And yes, a personal strategy of sharing with family and friends is better. I just don’t understand what that has to do with WBS. It is a tool. What is wrong with using tools? Jesus did not use WBS as far as I know. But that doesn’t make it a bad tool. As Phil 1:18 says, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,” Paul rejoices at any means of spreading the Gospel.Mike HirschApril, 9 2011I really like teaching on the internet. It’s easier to keep students interested when there isn’t a long wait between lessons. It also helps to be able to chat with them and establish friendships. I’ve been surprised by how many students in third world countries have access to the internet.MarilynApril, 9 2011