Monday, June 29, 2009

Remembering Dr. Ralph Winter, a truly great man!

I work at a mission organization, you know a job that I work at fulltime, spent nearly twenty years in higher education at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars, that I still pay on, to prepare for and I receive no salary-lol. Why would I do this?

Yes, I was the guy who started this endeavor, but it was not me who wanted too or knew how to do it. I was more of a marionette, whose strings were guided by really great men of God. Like Francis Schaeffer gave me the vision and the kick in the butt to do this, and for ten years we coasted as a part time gig. I was in school and could not afford more time. Then Schaeffer passed away in 1984, leaving an unfillable void until, I met Dr. Ralph Winter. Then, for over twenty years, my life has not been the same. I think every aspect of my life, thinking, mission and ministry has his influence and guidance infused upon me! Yes, I am a Schaeffer guy, a L’Abri brat, but last night I realized this man was more than a mentor, more than a friend, so I guess I am also a Winter guy too!

So much is going through my mind I can’t get the words down. I am so deeply moved and still further inspired by one of my mentors and innovators without we at Into Thy Word would not exist as a mission, Dr. Ralph Winter. He was named one of America's most influential evangelicals by Time magazine in 2005 was a personal dear friend of mine and mentor of our ministry. I still can’t believe that. We both served at the same church, taught in each other’s Bible studies and classes, talked on a regular basis, I even took him for granted. When we were just getting started as a mission from being just “the seminar folks,” it was, he who inspired us and helped me to get ITW formed as a mission organization. He connected me to the right people and brainstormed us into being. It was his idea to use our inductive resources to train pastors overseas. He passed away to Glory on May 20th. I miss him greatly! He will be remembered for his visionary work for missions, probably the person who has impacted the world for missions more than any other leader of his time, perhaps for all time.

Dr. Ralph Winter’s memorial service was held at my church last night, June 28, thousands of people attended, including the top key Christian leaders of our time, like Rick Warren and John Piper who each gave elegies. Just about every leading person of a seminary, mission organization or key leader in Christendom was there or sent their regards by video or letter. I felt like I was a midget amongst giants. Because, Dr. Winter has had perhaps more influence and vision on God’s people than just about any person in the 20th Century. Perhaps he and Francis Schaeffer along with C.S. Lewis, then the others are miles apart. I feel like Forest Gump, whose path was always being walked on by the great people of history. It seems my ministry life is like the same as these great men happened by upon my path and took me along for a walk and a talk. It is humbling, that these great people took the time to know and teach me, the boy whose teachers told him because he was dyslexic could never amount to anything. I guess they saw something in me that I even did not see.

Dr. Winter was a maverick, thinking way outside of the box, leading others, his students and colleague’s miles ahead of anyone else. The rest of us are just seeking to catch up. I do not think we will catch up for at least another twenty years or so. He has left so many ideas and resources for us to ponder and apply. One of which we are doing. In 1988 I was challenged to take our inductive Bible study seminar over to Russia, which I did reluctantly (it was the Iron Curtin then) then when I came back I had realized I started something amazing, a mission organization, of which I did not intend to do. Dr. Winter being a part of my church heard of my trip and challenged and mentored me to make this a permanent mission. He set me up with an office, contacts, even though many promises never came into fruition, because of funding and timing, the main promise was unfolded and continues. This was his vision to me: Teach pastors who have no formal education or way to get a seminary or Bible school training how to read the Bible. In this way they can learn how to prepare sermons and Bible studies and do discipleship with little to know resources. You must undertake this mission. Something I tried to live up too, because there were no resources then, no one was really doing this. He wanted us to the fill in the gap between his Center for World Mission and His University to go to the emerging leaders in the 10-40 window with solid biblical curriculums. He told me to pay careful attention in my studies in seminary, and take what is piratical and teach it to those who can’t get this where they are at…and got to them with it…and so it goes…

Why would I do this? Because it is God’s call, a call that I did not see until Dr. Winter showed it to me! As he said on many occasions, God deserves the praise, the glory and our obedience from all peoples.

He will be greatly missed, thank-you Ralph for your friendship, insights and even allowing me to teach your Sunday School class more times than I should have, your shoes are way too big for me… Buy the way, you still owe me lunch, since I paid last time…Now I can’t muse over anyone to fill his mentorship, I feel like an orphan!



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