Part One: Times of Blessing
Kissing my mother good-bye, I climbed into my heavily laden car, started the engine and drove out to the street. Waving a last farewell, I turned into the traffic and I was off. About five days later I arrived at my destination: Tucson, Arizona. I had come to join a small but growing assembly of believers that had been established about a year and a half earlier. This assembly was part of a larger fellowship of similar groups scattered throughout the American Midwest, Southwest, and Rocky Mountain region.
My first personal contact with any assembly connected with this movement (which had come to be known by others, though not by itself, as "the Blitz") was in June 1971, when I spent a week with this same fellowship in Tucson. This was while I was on a cross-country tour visiting friends and seeking the Lord's guidance as to how and where he would have me serve him. During the visit in Tucson I was quite favorably impressed with a number of things I observed and in which I was able to participate: the apparent spontaneity of worship in the informal house gatherings; the obvious zeal for the Lord, not only of the leaders, but also of the majority of the members; the strong and healthy emphasis on prayer; the genuine concern on the part of the elders for the welfare of the flock of God committed to their care. One day while I was visiting, the elders (Brian Catalano and Mike Begley) asked me to join them for several hours out in the desert foothills for a time of prayer and studying through the book of Acts, primarily to discover and study ecclesiastical and evangelistic principles. Another time I joined a group of six or seven leading brothers (including the elders), again in the foothills, for an all-day time of prayer, meditation, and discussion, seeking together to discern God's will for the church.
Before I left Tucson the brothers asked me to stay and join them,
or at least to return after I'd completed my tour. At that time, impressed though
I was with what I had seen the Lord doing there, I did not sense definite leading
to stay. However, in November of the same year, after spending two weeks visiting
Christians in communist Eastern Europe, and then another three or four weeks working
with a missionary in West Berlin, the Lord began to nudge my thinking back toward
Tucson. Finally, just before Christmas 1971, I joined the Tucson assembly meeting
in the home of Brian and Ruth Catalano. I remained in Tucson for a year and a half.
When I moved to Tucson I was only vaguely aware that "Brian's assembly" had connections to other, similar groups. As I learned more about the "Blitz" and the amazing things God had done in so short a time with a mere handful of dedicated young men and women I became excited about being part of such a dynamic spiritual movement. During my time in Tucson I began to learn some of the history of the "Blitz" from some who had been involved with it in different cities - for example, I learned that the movement was founded by a brother named Jim McCotter in 1965 when he was barely past his twentieth birthday. At that time Jim left his home in Colorado Springs, Col., and headed north to Greeley to share the gospel on the campus of the University of Northern Colorado, make converts, and gather them together as a functioning New Testament assembly. He went out on his own, but before long he had collected a small nucleus of brothers and sisters who met together for prayer, Bible study, and, eventually, the breaking of bread. Some of the early members of this group were brother and sister Dave and Marianne Michaux, Don Neilson, Bill Taylor, Don Pegler, Brooky Stockton, and Rich Bishop.
Sometime after these beginnings in Greeley four or five of the
brothers felt led to move out to other cities in Colorado and elsewhere, including
Pueblo, Denver, and Las Cruces, N.M. New churches were begun in these places from
which other teams later launched out to found still more assemblies. In 1967, at
the height of the war in Viet Nam, Jim McCotter was drafted into the Army. During
training at Ft. Polk, La., Jim met a brother named Dennis Clark, whom he began discipling
and to whom he imparted a vision of the New Testament church as God's plan to
reach the world with the gospel in each generation. Jim was ultimately sent by the
Army to Viet Nam, and Dennis went to Okinawa. To their credit these brothers did
not allow this turn of events taking them out of the country to discourage them;
on the contrary, they continued as much as possible to witness and conduct Bible
studies while they were in the service. Jim returned to Colorado after his discharge,
while Dennis worked for a time in the music department of the Far East Broadcasting
Co. (a missionary radio ministry) in Manila before returning to the States in May
1970 to join Jim in Colorado. Between July 1969 and April 1970, Bill Taylor and
Jim and Bill McCotter traveled around the world visiting missionaries and Christian
workers with William MacDonald, former president of Emmaus Bible Correspondence
School in Oak Park, Ill. Jim left the others after two months to return to Colorado,
desiring to get on with what he felt was God's call to obey the strategy followed
by the Apostle Paul. Uncle Sam finally issued a different call to Bill Taylor during
this trip, and he underwent his pre-induction physical at a facility in Thailand.
Following his induction after returning to the States, Bill spent most of his military
service in Frankfurt, Germany. After his separation from the service Bill stayed
on in Germany to continue and expand the work he had begun among American G.I.'s
and others, both in Frankfurt and in Heidelberg. Except for one or two brief visits
back to the U.S., Bill remained overseas until the spring of 1973.
The Original "Blitz" Campaign
By 1970 Jim, Dennis, and other men who had been drafted were out of the service and back in the States. Early in this year Jim, along with Herschel Martindale (who was then in full-time ministry with Braeburn Bible Chapel in Houston), led an evangelistic camp at Camp Elim near Woodland Park, Col. During this time Jim and Herschel found they had many mutual concerns regarding the current state of the church, with what they viewed as its traditionalism, general lack of effectiveness in spreading the gospel of Christ to the whole world, and in building men and women of God. They spent a great deal of time discussing these issues while at the camp, finally agreeing to devote themselves individually to special study of the Bible in these areas of concern so that their own lives could be more effective for God.
During Easter vacation Jim visited Herschel in Houston over a weekend so the two of them could share the results of their study. Herschel also invited Brian Catalano to join them from San Antonio, where he had been working for some two years in full-time ministry with an older, small assembly. The three men unanimously concluded that they "were not practicing the devoted type of Christianity found throughout the New Testament" (Herschel).
At that time Jim suggested they spend the summer together to seek through practice and God's help to learn what true devotion to Christ really was. At the same time they would labor together seeking to reach people with the gospel by going to them with it, rather than simply inviting them to come to gospel meetings in buildings. Between Easter and summer this plan expanded till it involved some 50 others, nearly all in their late teens or twenties.
When summer arrived Brian and his family left San Antonio to join Jim, Herschel, and the others for this summer "Blitz," as they called the crusade. (This name was later tagged by others to the whole movement.) Another brother (later an elder in the Blitz church in Albuquerque, N.M.) named Jim Schooler brought his family from Lubbock, Tex., to join the crusade.
During the course of this summer "Blitz" the team traveled by car and old, worn-out yellow school bus to five university campuses, which they invaded ("blitzed") with intensive evangelism and daily Bible studies: New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, the University of Arizona in Tucson, the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, the University of Texas in Austin, and the University of Houston. As a result of these efforts one previously existing assembly was strengthened (Las Cruces) and three new ones were established (Tucson, Albuquerque, and Houston) - Austin was the only city where nothing permanent was accomplished.
At the end of the summer Brian Catalano and a few others returned to Tucson to gather together into an assembly the ones they had contacted during the two weeks they had spent at the University of Arizona; Jim Schooler was encouraged to move to Albuquerque, while still others went back to some of the other cities. Jim McCotter, Dennis Clark, and Mike Keator made their way up to Kansas City, Mo. (see page 164).
After the summer crusade Herschel shared with the elders at Braeburn Bible Chapel his burden for continuing to work with the students on the college campus. They gave him their blessing to do so, requesting that he stay on long enough with them to assist in the transition. This Herschel was glad to do, though he wanted to move to the university area immediately. During the fall semester, therefore, Herschel continued to meet with the Christians at Braeburn, ministering the Word of God to them and bringing to the fellowship those from the campus he and others were reaching with the gospel.
At the end of the semester Herschel told the elders he wanted to start a new work near the campus in order to be closer to the students, and so he discontinued meeting regularly at Braeburn. He did, however, continue to minister from time to time at Braeburn as well as at other Houston-area assemblies - and, in fact he continued to conduct a women's Bible study in one assembly until he and his family moved to Austin in 1978.
A series of other conferences and evangelistic campaigns followed between the "Blitz" of 1970 and the winter of 1971, when I moved to Tucson. A conference in Kansas City in December 1970 resulted in the establishment of a new work there (the "Cornerstone") as about 150 young people launched out onto the campus of the University of Missouri at Kansas City. From there Jim and the others moved to Lawrence, Kan., seeing the founding of another new assembly, and the next summer yet another fellowship took root at the University of Oklahoma in Norman following a conference there. Then in January 1972 came what was to prove to be the biggest success on one campus until then in the history of the movement. A team of approximately 50 young people from Kansas City, Lawrence, and Houston traveled to Ames, Ia., to engage in aggressive evangelism on the campus of Iowa State University. By the end of two weeks they had doubled their numbers, with much of the addition by conversion, rather than by transfer of membership from other churches.
Jim McCotter made Ames his home base for about ten years afterwards, though he traveled often, visiting other Blitz assemblies and speaking at Blitz conferences, frequently with Herschel Martindale and other Blitz leaders. Also remaining with Jim in Ames were Dennis Clark and Mike Keator, who had been with him as disciples for two and three years respectively, accompanying him to Kansas City and Lawrence. Dennis and Mike, along with Su Easterly (who later married Mike) and a few others visited a number of Midwestern colleges and universities presenting the gospel through music (the group was called The Last Generation), testimonies, and open air preaching.
These were exciting days of spiritual growth and numerical expansion, both for the individual fellowships and the movement as a whole. God was obviously working - in the salvation of souls, the spread of the gospel, the opening of new doors of opportunity, and the provision of a variety of needs: housing, food, transportation, literature, etc.
In the summer of 1972 another breakthrough occurred as the University
of Wisconsin campus in Madison opened up to a summer-long conference/evangelistic
crusade involving some 175 or more young people from several Blitz fellowships.
One of the more innovative evangelistic tactics employed was to station street preachers
at every intersection along the main thoroughfare, so it was virtually impossible
to get out of earshot of the gospel. Before the end of the summer, as a result of
this kind of aggressive evangelism as well as intensive Bible teaching, a permanent
assembly was established with elders Charles Childers, Gene Shafer, and Randy Jorgenson.
Trials in Tucson
Meanwhile, the assembly in Tucson was going through difficult times. Division in the church had developed and was growing more pronounced. A few members fell into moral sin, many were discouraged, and I myself was struggling with frequent bouts of depression brought on largely by these and other circumstances.
One situation which lasted for three weeks in June 1972 (but which seemed much longer) involved a "street couple" whom Brian and Ruth had taken into their home. The man, Bob, was an alcoholic and thief; the girl, Cathy, had just recently been released from a Washington state mental institution. They told us they had been married for two weeks when we first encountered them, and had been living in city parks till then. Cathy professed to have been born again while in the institution, but we were never fully convinced.
At any rate, during the time they were with us, Bob and Cathy gave us nothing but trouble. Bob continued to steal alcohol (including Brian's aftershave!) and get drunk, and when drunk was frequently violent, threatening Brian, Ruth, or their boys with a hunting knife he carried at all times. At other times he would weep in apparent remorse and repentance, crying out to God to save him - all while still inebriated. By morning, however, his "repentance" of the night before was completely forgotten and Bob would be back to his accustomed ways. During one Friday evening Bible study while I was teaching on the subject of God's will, Bob emerged from his back bedroom in his familiar condition to ask us to pray for him. As he sat down in the middle of the room and proceeded to weep over his sin, I suggested that he ought to get himself sober and then approach God for forgiveness. I reminded him of his previous false "repentances" while drunk and averred that there was no reason to believe that this one was any more genuine. This set off quite a row among the other people in the room, some rushing to Bob's defense and comfort, others agreeing with me, and still others totally unsure of what to think or say. Those who supported Bob had been largely unaware of all the difficulties he and Cathy had been causing; therefore, their reaction, while loving, was not based on knowledge. This situation was aggravated by the fact that Ruth had taken ill just about this time and Brian had to rush her off to the hospital and none of the other leading brothers were present. Thus the burden of controlling this turn of events fell on me, who had had little prior experience in such things. Eventually the uproar calmed down and we all united in prayer for Bob, as well as for ourselves.
Cathy, in the meantime, kept having and causing difficulties of her own: at times she seemed quite normal and lucid, at other times we were almost convinced she was demon-possessed. One Monday night, shortly after arriving home from assisting at a Bible study held by some G.I.'s at Fort Huachuca, about 70 miles southeast of Tucson, I received an urgent phone call from Ruth. She begged me to come over right away, saying, "Cathy just went running out the front door. We think she's demon-possessed, and I don't want Brian to go out there alone!" With my heart racing, I drove to their home, but by the time I arrived Cathy had calmed down considerably and Brian was gently leading her back indoors. We talked with her and prayed for about two hours (ca. midnight to 2 a.m.) sharing the gospel with her till she finally prayed for forgiveness and asked Jesus to take control of her life. However, even after this we weren't ever certain of Cathy's relationship to the Lord.
Obviously, Brian and Ruth were under tremendous strain throughout this period. It seemed they were always taking either Bob or Cathy or both to the county hospital or some other institution, or trying to just get them out of their house. They ran around from the county hospital to the drug crisis center to Tucson Medical Center to an alcoholic rehabilitation facility to the police station. Finally, one Sunday during the breaking of bread meeting at Brian's house, some men from an Emergency Unit came and took both Bob and Cathy away (she had called them because of a drug overdose), and, except for a few brief encounters, that was the last we saw of them.
About a week later, Brian and family loaded up their station wagon and drove off to join the conference/crusade in Madison. From one standpoint nobody could really blame them for wanting to get away after what they'd just been through; but on the other hand, they were leaving behind a number of other unresolved problems, primarily the continuing division (see pages 97-98). At the end of the summer, however, the Catalanos returned to Tucson physically and spiritually refreshed after the success in Madison.
Teaching and Practice in Tucson
The whole time I was in Tucson the elders put great emphasis in their teaching on evangelism and radical discipleship, even though we did not often respond whole-heartedly to their exhortations. The elders' desire, at least, was that each member of the fellowship become a zealously witnessing "true disciple."
To this end a variety of meetings and activities was held. We gathered to remember the Lord in the breaking of the bread on Sunday mornings. This was followed, after a brief intermission, by a teaching session. There was usually another teaching meeting or a more informal Bible study on Sunday evenings. During the week there were daily Bible studies on the University of Arizona campus, held outdoors weather permitting (as it usually did). On Friday evening we had another Bible study and prayer meeting, often followed by volleyball in the Catalanos' back yard. Baptisms were held about once every month or two in the campus fountain, in park ponds, or in a stream in the foothills.
One evangelistic effort in which we did largely unite took place in October 1972. We arranged with some fraternities and sororities of the University of Arizona to show a Moody Science film in their lounges. A personal presentation of the gospel was added to that given in the film, and gospel literature was offered to everyone present. We also rented a meeting room in a popular hamburger restaurant directly across from the campus, and there we showed the film through an entire week, drawing in students by means of mass advertising.
Another outreach took place in March 1973 during a visit to Tucson
by Jim McCotter and Dennis Clark. The main purpose of their visit was to communicate
information about an upcoming summer crusade, and to stimulate prayer and, eventually,
participation in it. (Mission: U.S. '73, as the crusade was called, intended
to send teams to every state east of the Mississippi River.) During the week that
these two men were in town we scheduled three evangelistic meetings on the desert
campus of Pima (County) Community College, with Jim as the featured speaker. These
meetings resulted in the formation of an ongoing Bible study on that campus, as
well as a few additions to the fellowship.
Mission: U.S. '73
In the spring of 1973 I decided to participate in the summer evangelistic outreach, and so went with others from Tucson to attend the two-week Blitz-sponsored conference at Johnson Bible College in Kimberlin Heights, Tenn., just east of Knoxville. More than four hundred people, mostly of college age, attended from about fifteen different Blitz groups, plus a contingent of eight or ten Americans who returned from Germany for the occasion (this latter group included Bill and JoAnn Taylor, and Fred and Peggy Colvin). I was one of about twenty-five who attended from Tucson, and there were over 150 from Iowa, as well as large contingents from Houston, Madison, Kansas City, Lawrence, and Norman, Okla. (See page 10 for a map showing the location of Blitz fellowships at this time.)
We had meetings morning, noon, and night, both general teaching sessions and smaller workshops. The main speakers were Jim McCotter ("The Heavenly Vision," "Strategy to Reach the World," "The Laodicean Church," etc.) and Herschel Martindale ("The Challenge of the Hour," "The God of the Impossible," "The Ways of God," "The Empowerment of God," etc.). Bill Taylor, Brian Catalano, and several other leading men also shared the platform and workshop responsibilities. The workshops dealt with marriage and the family, the Word of God, self-image, apologetics and false teaching, and many other topics. Additional activities during the week were: Sunday breaking of bread (in several small groups on the lawn); daily prayer meetings; a mass outreach on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville; a Saturday outing to the Smoky Mountains; and a mass baptism of about 35 people in a campus lily pond.
Midway through the conference Jim, Herschel, and the other leaders decided that their original plan for the summer crusade was too ambitious - they felt it would have sent teams much too far away from previously established Blitz assemblies. Since the desired goal of the teams was to lay the groundwork for new permanent assemblies, the brothers decided it would not be wise to go quite so far afield and risk not being able to maintain close communication between new assemblies and old ones. Paul's example was referred to during the public explanation of this change in plans (see 2 Cor. 10:13).
As it turned out, fifteen teams (varying in size from about twenty to fifty-five) were dispatched to places as distant as Tuscaloosa, Ala., and College Park, Md. (see the map on page 11). I was assigned as co-leader of a team of thirty-two to thirty-six that went to the Ohio State University campus in Columbus; the other team leaders were Dennis Clark, Mike Keator, and Fred Colvin.
In Columbus we were able to rent a Jewish sorority (Phi Sigma Sigma) for the entire summer, and with it as our base we daily blanketed the campus and much of the surrounding community with the gospel, passing out tracts and verbal witness to any and all. We also employed religious survey taking, street preaching, and on-campus Bible studies. We held public baptisms of new believers in swimming pools on and off campus, and in nearby rivers and ponds. In addition, we held daily studies and Friday night marathon prayer meetings (lasting usually till twelve, one, or even two o'clock in the morning!). These were all held at the sorority, as were daily thirty to forty-five minute prayer meetings prior to the on-campus Bible study.
As a result of our efforts, some fourteen others made professions of faith in Christ and several others who were already believers joined with us. This encouraged us to believe that God would have a new assembly take root in Columbus; this eventually did happen, but not without some momentary uncertainty. (See page 109f.)
Two conferences closed out the summer campaign, one in Fayetteville, Ark. (August 7-10) and one in Bloomington, Ind. (August 9-12). The western and southern teams re-gathered at the first, while the eastern and northern teams re-gathered at the second. The object of the conferences was to bring together again all the teams that had been sent out, with as many new members as could come from the different cities and campuses where the teams had labored. There was much mutual sharing of experiences from the summer and everyone was encouraged as we heard how the Lord had worked in each place, often in near-miraculous ways, in providing housing, food, transportation, etc., and in saving souls and building believers.
The final results of Mission: U.S. '73 were new assemblies
established in Columbus, as well as in Columbia, North Kansas City, and Independence
(all in Missouri), and in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Eleven of us who had been on the summer
team in Columbus returned there after some time at home after the summer. Dennis
and Mike both returned, having been appointed elders of the new church by Jim McCotter,
while Fred and Peggy Colvin went to San Leandro, Cal., so Fred could attend the
first year of the Discipleship Intern Training Program held at Fairhaven Bible Chapel
and taught by William MacDonald and Jean Gibson. After a visit with my family in
Cleveland and a quick trip back to Tucson to pick up my belongings, I, too, returned
The new assemblies in N. Kansas City and Independence were headed up by brothers from the older work in neighboring Kansas City, Mo. None of the original team members stayed back in Columbia, but one of the team leaders, Eugene Pressman, drove down from Ames every other week or so to give needed support and guidance; he did eventually relocate there permanently. The largest single team during the summer outreach was the one that went to Tuscaloosa. It comprised about 55 young people, mostly from the Houston assembly, and was led by Herschel Martindale. Although a continuing work was established there, again none of the team members stayed behind to lead it; instead, the leadership was entrusted to a few local brothers who had demonstrated some ability in that direction. However, after several months had passed two or three of the key couples moved away and the assembly eventually disbanded.
During the summer the team in Tuscaloosa met a couple of girls
from Clemson, S. Car., who became excited about the kind of life-style and community
fellowship they observed and experienced among the team members. These girls urged
Herschel and others to visit them in Clemson later in the fall in hopes that a similar
work could be established and carried on there. Herschel consented to the girls'
request, and in consequence he and a few others traveled from Houston via Tuscaloosa
to Clemson in September or October 1973. This visit did issue in yet another new
assembly being founded, and a ministry commenced on the campus of Clemson University
which continues today.
Beginnings in Columbus
When we began operations in earnest in Columbus as a permanent assembly in September 1973, there were fourteen of us living together in a large house only half a block off campus from the Ohio State University student union - the eleven original team-members, plus three new brothers. Except for the sorority, and a fraternity annex we rented later, this house at 48 E. 13th Avenue was the most ideally suited to our needs of any house we had afterwards: it had three floors plus a full basement; bathrooms on each floor, including a lavatory in the basement; a large kitchen; large connecting living and dining rooms; and a large fenced-in back yard. Our living arrangements were: three girls on the third floor; seven guys on the second floor; one couple (Dennis and Thelma Clark) in a rear apartment on the first floor; and two girls in a newly re-finished room in the basement.
As for our activities, we continued along basically the same lines we had begun during the summer: daily aggressive evangelism on the campus and in the dorms; daily noon Bible studies in the student union; weekly teaching, worship, and prayer meetings. This schedule continued with only minor changes from then on. Some of the more "graphic" means we employed to communicate the gospel message to the university community were: 1) large full-color posters on bulletin boards on the dining level of the student union; 2) 30-foot Scripture texts on a construction fence on High Street right across from the campus; 3) a billboard message atop a building facing the campus (March 1974); and 4) an airplane streamer flown over an Ohio State football game. We also frequently posted advertisements around the area for our Bible studies, special meetings, and other events, and we occasionally placed ads and notices in the student newspaper.
During the summer of 1973 Jim McCotter arranged to meet with Kenneth Taylor, paraphraser of the Living Bible and president of Tyndale House Publishers. The outcome of this meeting was that Tyndale House generously agreed to donate half a million copies of a special edition of the Living Gospel of John, called "The Lifechanger," containing a mail-in coupon for a free Bible study guide - the coupon was addressed to a post office box rented by the Blitz group in Kansas City ("the Cornerstone"). These booklets were eventually distributed among all the Blitz fellowships then in existence. I well remember the joy that the small band of us experienced one day in the spring of 1974 as a huge tractor-trailer pulled up in front of our "48 house" to disgorge cases containing 30,000 of these little books!
Our total numbers during the fall of 1973 were around 35; of these about 25 were sufficiently committed (and available) to drive to Ames, Ia., for a week-long conference just before Christmas. This conference followed the pattern set years earlier in Blitz history: exhortative sermons and lectures on "world vision," strategy, evangelism, and discipleship; aggressive evangelistic outreach on campus (in spite of below-zero weather!); and intense fellowship.
Prior to the Christmas conference, in early November, we held a special three-day series of illustrated lectures on prophecy and the Lord's second coming. Entitled "Mankind on the Brink," the lectures were given by Bill Taylor (who came up from Knoxville to spend a week with us) and they were held on university premises. (During the summer we had become an officially recognized student organization, taking the name "The Solid Rock Foundation," and this status gave us a number of privileges regarding use of campus facilities.) After the Christmas conference, in the latter part of January, Bill and JoAnn Taylor relocated to Columbus, and Bill was immediately recognized as an elder of the church along with Dennis and Mike. About that same time, Jim and Barb McCotter visited us for several days, and Jim and Bill teamed up for a series of special meetings for the church.
In the spring of l974, while Ohio State University was on Easter break, we conducted an evangelistic outreach on the campus of the Lutheran Church affiliated Capital University, which was still in session. The emphasis was on dormitory evangelism, using the Campus Crusade collegiate religious survey as we went door to door. The week was capped off by a performance of our own music group, the transplanted Last Generation. Hundreds of tracts were distributed throughout the week, but only a handful of students professed to receive Christ, one of whom was a pre-ministerial student.
Multiplication of People and Houses
About this time we rented a nearby apartment to accommodate the girls who had been living in the "48 house" so that the latter could house additional men who had expressed the desire to move in with us for live-in discipleship. By summer our numbers had grown so much that we felt it would be good to rent a second house, which became available at 101 E. 13th Avenue - across the street and near the end of the block from our first house. The "101 house" served us well as a residence for single girls and as a meeting place for smaller groups and Bible studies (not to mention its use as a communal dining hall) until it was finally given up two years later. With the rental of this girls' house, the apartment on E. 14th Avenue was given over to still more single men. Besides these accommodations, we rented the Jewish sorority again for the duration of the summer of 1974.
At the beginning of June of that year we bought our own printing press - an old Multilith 1250. Jim Zuber and I were deputized to learn how to operate it so it could be used to print tracts, booklets, announcements, flyers, study guides, lecture outlines and notes, etc. Eventually, several others were apprenticed on the machine and took over all of the regular operation of it. At first the press was located in the basement of the "48 house," but it was later moved to the basement of a fraternity annex we rented at 1989 Iuka Avenue.
By fall 1974 our regular church meetings were so large (about 135 then in fellowship) that we had to find another place to hold them. Up to this time we had continued to meet in the living and dining rooms of the "48 house," and, during the summer, at the Jewish sorority. So, when school resumed in September, we arranged to use the fellowship room of the United Christian Center, located on the main fraternity street (E. 15th Avenue) just off campus near the main gate.
That fall also the elders decided to rent a third house, for men, and settled on one just across the back alley from the "101 house" - the new address was 104 E. 12th Avenue. This provided housing for two married couples and nine single men. One of the couples was Fred and Peggy Colvin, who had returned to Columbus having completed their year in California. Fred, along with Dave Davidson (converted to Christ at OSU in July 1973) and me, shared leadership responsibility in the house - to ensure a healthy spiritual atmosphere and handle any problems that might arise. (Each of the houses had such leadership.)
About the same time, additional housing was acquired with the
rental of two large apartments north of the campus area at 150 W. Maynard Avenue.
So, in September 1974, this is the way we stood regarding church-controlled housing:
48 E. 13th Avenue - 9 men and 1 couple with a small child; 75 E. 14th Avenue - 6
men; 101 E. 13th Avenue - 10 women; 104 E. 12th Avenue - 9 men and 2 couples; 150
W. Maynard Avenue - 6 women and 6 men. In all, 53 group members were living in church-controlled
Lessons in Hospitality
Because we spent so much time on the campus and in the High Street commercial district passing out tracts and talking to people, it wasn't long before the Solid Rock Fellowship became fairly well known in the university community. Various members of our group frequently invited students and others to share meals with us in order to share Christ with them, and occasionally we accommodated overnight guests. It also was not long before this practice began presenting us with unexpected difficulties. Some of the folks who accepted invitations to dinner were not really interested in hearing the gospel, but only in getting a free meal, and they would invite themselves back again and again. Eventually the word started going around among the local street people that free food, and maybe a bed, could be had for the asking at our "48 house."
Late one night three High Street regulars landed on our doorstep asking for, and receiving, a place to sleep - one was an alcoholic, one a drug addict and occult mystic, and one (we later concluded) was likely demon-possessed. The second-mentioned (whom we called "Tall Tom") was by far the most colorful of the three; his lanky six-foot-plus figure was almost always shrouded from the neck down by a brown ankle-length coat, and from the neck up by long, dark hair and beard. He looked and acted like the Russian mystic Rasputin must have, speaking nonsense as though it were "mysteries." Needless to say, we had more than our share of problems with these three, even though the first two stayed only that first night, and the third only a week.
Finally, the elders decided we needed to regulate our hospitality in order to prevent its abuse. Therefore, one day while our latest "guest" slept soundly on our front porch, all the men gathered in the living room of the "48 house" while Bill Taylor shared scriptural principles relating to hospitality and laid out a few guidelines for us to follow in deciding whether to invite someone to stay overnight in fellowship housing. First of all, Bill emphasized that our primary goal was to seek out faithful men to train in discipleship so they could be effective servants of God. Two verses he cited were Proverbs 20:6 and 2 Timothy 2:2. Bill then reminded us that while being alert for faithful men we needed to be alert to help those in true need whom we met (Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Proverbs 14:31; 1 John 3:17).
Most importantly, Bill explained to us how to distinguish true
need from laziness by asking the following questions:
- What is his name? (An obvious first question.)
- Where is he from?
- If he's from out of town, the chances are greater he really does have a need.
- If he's from in town he may be faking his need, or just plain lazy.
- What does he do - i.e., how does he support himself? We needed to try to discern how responsible he is. If he has no job, how does he get along? How does he get food, shelter, money, etc.?
- Is he just passing through? If so, where did he stay last, and why did he leave?
Finally, Bill, along with Mike and Dennis, spelled out nine specific guidelines dealing with such questions as how long a person could remain a guest in the house; what would be expected of him if he stayed for a longer time as a boarder; etc.
We still had occasional problems with freeloaders, but not as
many as we might have had otherwise - and the problems we had were most often due
to incomplete adherence to the guidelines. The guidelines, by the way, while strict,
were not intended merely to protect our own property and interests, but rather to
prevent tacit encouragement of irresponsible and sinful lifestyles - we continued
frequently to experience the blessing of showing hospitality to strangers.
Meanwhile, the other Blitz fellowships were not idle; they continued pressing on with local evangelism as well as occasional outreaches to more distant campuses and communities. Within a couple of years after the Mission: U.S. '73 campaign new assemblies were established in Stillwater and Edmond, Okla.; Warrenburg and Lee's Summit, Mo.; Cedar Falls, Ft. Dodge, and Sioux City, Ia.; Emporia, Kan.; Eau Claire, Wis.; and Warsaw-Winona Lake, Ind.
Over the Labor Day weekend of l974 another regional Blitz conference was held, this one at Epworth Forest Conference Grounds near Winona Lake. Besides the 90 or so of us from Columbus (the sponsoring assembly) there were about 50 from Ames, Ia., and 30 or 40 from Madison and Eau Claire, Wis. Also, during the day several others joined us from the new assembly in nearby Warsaw-Winona Lake. Principle speakers were Jim McCotter and Bill Taylor, with assistance from a few others.
During the Christmas vacation 34 members of the Columbus church
trekked by old, worn-out school bus down to Chihuahua, Mexico, to participate in
Operation Mobilization's annual Christmas crusade in that country. As none of
the elders accompanied the group, three other leading men (Dave Smith, Lyle Winland,
and Jim Zuber) took responsibility for shepherding the group down and back. While
these men and women were learning what it means to rely on the Lord through many
and varied trials and blessings, Fred Colvin and I stayed behind in Columbus to
take charge of the holiday-diminished assembly.
Structural Changes in the SRF
Shortly after the first of the year in 1975, the elders of the Solid Rock Fellowship (Dennis Clark, Mike Keator, and Bill Taylor) invited Fred Colvin and me to join them to pray and plan for the new year. The outcome of this meeting was that, in order to facilitate a sense of community in the rapidly growing assembly, the church was divided into four "fellowship groups," each numbering roughly thirty to thirty-five believers. Henceforth most meetings were conducted in the context of these groups: weekly breaking of bread, prayer, and midweek Bible studies. We gathered as a whole assembly each Sunday for a general teaching meeting - from February to May Bill Taylor taught on the subject of spiritual gifts at this meeting held in the "48 house." Also, on the first Sunday of each month the entire church met together in the student union for a common worship meeting.
Our teaching schedule took what was for us a rather revolutionary turn at this time also. Realizing the differences in spiritual maturity among the members of the fellowship, we decided to begin offering graded Bible studies - i.e., classes geared to these different levels of spiritual growth. For the younger believers there was a beginners' class in Romans taught by Mike Keator at the "48 house"; for the intermediates Bill Taylor conducted an Old Testament survey at the "101 house"; and for the older members we offered three classes on "How to Study the Bible," using Irving Jensen's Independent Bible Study - Dennis Clark led a group in his apartment on E. 20th Avenue, Fred Colvin led another in his apartment in the "104 house," and I led the third in the home of Chuck and Sue Milne on Indianola Avenue. These classes continued in this arrangement until they were concluded at the beginning of summer. At that time we commenced a series of Bible book studies, utilizing prepared homework questions as a guide. For these series the fellowship groups were broken down further into three or four smaller discussion groups each, with older and younger believers intermingled.
It was during the spring of this year that we officially recognized
deacons for the first time. On this occasion they were merely appointed by the elders,
and then a simple dedication ceremony was held in the living room of the "48
house" in which the three elders placed their hands on the heads of the new
deacons and prayed over them in turn. The five who were chosen, with their respective
areas of service, were the following:
Terry Bartley (communications), with Lyle Winland assisting;
Mike Meese (finances and music), with Jim Zuber assisting;
Larry Pile (literature), with Dave Smith assisting;
Dave Smith (social needs), with Lyle Winland assisting;
Jim Zuber (printing), with Larry Pile assisting.
For the summer of 1975 (from June through August) we rented the Phi Sigma Sigma Jewish sorority house for the third time. Through the spring we had attempted to adapt our recent division into four groups, even though the women in the "101 house" were split between three of these groups. Finally we realized this was less than ideal, especially since it caused tremendous problems in maintaining unity among the women in the house, and because of problems in logistics. In order to resolve these problems the elders, with Fred and me, decided to order a mass move: we asked the men from the "48 house" to move into the sorority for the summer, and the women associated with the fellowship group that met in the "48 house" were asked to move in there. All of this had to be accomplished in about 48 hours, and, obviously, the men had to move out before the women could move in. I remember there were a few ruffled feathers at the time, because we had not felt the need to consult the ones involved ahead of time and thus they did not understand the rationale for this move; and several of those involved in the relocation failed to grasp the principle followed in dividing the assembly into four fellowship groups in the first place. The latter was in large part based on existing living situations (with the chief exception of the "101 house"), and on a consideration of discipler/disciple relationships, some of which was at best tentative or even artificial. At any rate, things were soon ironed out, and during the summer the four groups met at the "48 house," the "101 house," the Maynard apartments and the Jewish sorority - for our whole-church gatherings we all met at the sorority.
When fall came half of the men who had been living in the sorority moved into a house at 175 E. 13th Avenue, and this new house also became their meeting place. The other half of the "sorority brothers" (!) moved into a more appropriate fraternity building which we rented from an agricultural fraternity next door - this became known simply as "Iuka" from the name of the street on which it was located. At the same time we had to find quarters to replace the "48 house," as our landlord wanted to move his wife and himself into it, so we rented three apartments at 130 E. Woodruff Avenue for the women; these were practically across the street from the Iuka fraternity. Besides all this, the "Maynard saints" moved en masse to an apartment building on W. Norwich Avenue. (By now many of us were beginning to feel like bedouins!)
Each of the elders, while collectively maintaining authority and responsibility over the whole church, also had specific charge over one of the smaller groups: Mike Keator over "Iuka," Dennis Clark over "Norwich," and Bill Taylor over "175." Fred Colvin, with my assistance, had responsibility for the group that met at "101."
On Sunday, July 14, 1975, we began to meet as a whole church in the fellowship room of the Indianola Presbyterian Church, across the street from the Jewish sorority. We gathered there at 1:00 p.m. on Sundays for singing and teaching till 2:30, followed by a potluck dinner till about 3:30, then inter-fellowship small group breaking of bread in various rooms of the sorority. After the summer this latter portion of the schedule reverted to our previous arrangement of breaking bread in the respective fellowship group meeting places, with whole-church breaking of bread once a month only at the Presbyterian Church, often while still sitting around the cleared-off dinner tables.
Activities, Activities, Activities!
Over the weekend of March 20-23, 1975, we held a spring conference at the Plymouth Brethren-run Camp Li-Lo-Li near Salamanca, N.Y. As our speaker we had Herschel Martindale (then still of Houston), whose topics included the following: "The God of the Impossible," "The Power of the Holy Spirit," "Being Filled with the Spirit and Walking in the Spirit," "Baptism of the Spirit and Speaking in Tongues" (two sessions), "The Crucial Hour in Which We Live," "Truth," and "The Church."
In all there were 107 of us packed into winterized quarters that could comfortably accommodate only about 50 or 60 (10 or 12 men had to rough it in non-winterized cabins). Even though it was now officially spring there was still much snow all around and it remained quite cold outdoors. This made for some great winter recreation with sledding, snowball fights, and even a football game on the frozen pond! Besides the outdoor sports there was volleyball in the dining hall, as well as more sedentary games. Of course, with so much teaching packed into only three days, there was not a lot of free time, but still we all felt the time was well spent, with much biblical truth to ponder and by which to be challenged.
Over spring break (March 27 to April 2, 1975) eight or ten from the Solid Rock Fellowship traveled to Detroit to join a large group from other places in a week-long outreach among that city's immense Arab population (some 100,000). A number of others also attended a later prayer conference in Detroit. Held June 14-18, this latter gathering featured as speakers several leaders of Operation Mobilization, including George Verwer and Dale Rhoton.
On May 10, 11, and 12 we held a repeat of our earlier prophecy series called "Mankind on the Brink," again with Bill Taylor as the lecturer. Previously, we had advertised the lectures by distributing flyers in all the dormitories and on campus, as well as posting them on kiosks and telephone poles located throughout the area. This time, however, we decided to go all out, and besides the above methods we staged a sensational bit of street theater. Under the supervision of Jay Hout, a former drama student, about 50 or 60 men and women were costumed to depict followers of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" - war, death, famine, and plague. One brother, Mike Meese, was made up as the Antichrist, with Jay assuming the role of the False Prophet. At a given signal the four groups began approaching the center of the grassy oval in the middle of the campus from four opposite directions, carrying placards and chanting as they came, "Who is like the Beast?" The "Antichrist" and his "False Prophet" followed the group representing plague. When they all reached the center, the four groups formed a full circle while the "Antichrist" mounted a high platform with the "False Prophet" near him in the center. The "Antichrist" then proceeded to give a blasphemous speech befitting a personage of his pretensions, demanding total obedience and obeisance from all. The four groups responded by again taking up their chant, and by prostrating themselves before him, at the urging of the "False Prophet." When this bit of drama was over everyone scattered across campus, in costume, distributing flyers for the prophecy series. Needless to say, quite a large crowd gathered - perhaps 300 to 400 - and the overall effect was rather stunning. The series itself (which was held in the student union) was fairly successful, with a couple hundred at each of the three sessions, with the result that we made several good contacts.
Just a week later, on May 19, we commenced a week-long series of meetings with Brethren teacher Jim Wright, then of Colorado Springs. We held these meetings in the main lounge of the Wesley Foundation, just off campus. Whereas our spring conference included a strong note of challenge, this week with Jim Wright was primarily a time of encouragement and refreshment in our individual lives; this was true even though some of the same subjects were taught, e.g., faith and the Spirit-filled life. The difference lay mainly in the tone with which these truths were presented, as well as in the atmosphere of the meetings. Jim dealt overall mostly with positional truths of which we all needed to be reminded - what Christ has accomplished for me; what the Holy Spirit has given me; how God views me; etc.
During June of this same year nine members of the Solid Rock Fellowship traveled to Philadelphia to attend a counseling seminar conducted by Jay Adams at Westminster Seminary. They returned with heads and notebooks full of good, practical, and scriptural insight into this vital area of ministry.
At the end of the month we enjoyed the blessing of a week's visit by Jean Gibson of California. (As indicated earlier, he, together with William MacDonald, at that time taught a Discipleship Intern Training Program at Fairhaven Bible Chapel in San Leandro, which during its 15 or so years of operation trained several hundred young men and women.) Jean began his visit on Monday, June 23, and stayed with us till the following Monday. We really got long mileage out of him, having him speak morning, afternoon, and evening, both to the whole assembly and in special sessions to the leaders and leadership trainees. He covered many diverse subjects with effectiveness and conviction.
In August 1975, we gained a fourth elder as one Sunday morning Dennis, Mike, and Bill publicly acknowledged Fred Colvin as having met the qualifications for eldership listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, receiving him into the assembly oversight with them.
The annual Ohio State Fair was held from August 24 to September 1, 1975, and this year we determined to be part of it. We employed two methods of presenting the gospel there: first, by getting our music group scheduled for three performances, and second, by renting space for a booth where we displayed a large, full-color chart of future prophetic events as spelled out in Scripture (no date-setting, however!), sold literature, and distributed tracts to passers by. Many of the church members volunteered to staff the booth two or three at a time for a minimum of two hours at a stretch. Many excellent opportunities arose to share the gospel with ones who stopped, and we made some good follow-up contacts as well.
The entire month of September and the first week of October I
spent in Cleveland - from September 2 to 27 I was in the hospital undergoing tests
which ultimately led to brain surgery to drain a lemon-sized sub-arachnoid cyst
that had been exerting considerable pressure on the surface of my brain and causing
severe headaches ever since the preceding June. So for this period I was generally
out of touch with events in Columbus.
Visits to and from Columbus
Just a week after my return to Columbus the Solid Rock Fellowship joined with Campus Crusade for Christ, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, and the Navigators in sponsoring two on-campus lectures by Campus Crusade's Josh McDowell. These were held in OSU's St. John's Arena on October 15 and 16: the first lecture was on biblical prophecy, the second on the biblical view of sex and marriage. Again, a massive advertising campaign preceded the event with posters, flyers, and ads in the student newspaper - all of which brought out a crowd each night of about 5-6,000, and gave us contacts to follow up throughout the fall.
The weekend beginning Friday, October 17, we were especially blessed with visiting speakers:
On Friday Dale Rhoton of Operation Mobilization visited and shared with us at our regularly scheduled weekly prayer meeting, the whole church gathering at the fraternity on Iuka Avenue. That same day the Spiritual Counterfeits Project (a cult research, information, and evangelism group from Berkeley, Cal.) began a two-day seminar at various venues on the spiritual background of Eastern cults, the religious nature of Transcendental Meditation, and the teachings of the Unification Church, among other topics. And finally, the president of the British chapter of the Christian Businessmen's Committee, a lawyer and assembly elder named Ted Hubbard, came with Dean Picton (from a Toledo fellowship) on Sunday, October 19, and spoke to us very encouragingly from the life of Joshua.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday several church members traveled to Valley Forge, Pa., to attend an Operation Mobilization conference. During the day the teaching was on various aspects of discipleship, while at night the Bicentennial Christian Heritage Commission sponsored a Bicentennial Festival of Religious Heritage which consisted of music, testimonies, and a message from George Verwer. The attendees were also blessed by meeting veteran missionary T. Ernest Wilson, who had pioneered assembly work in Angola.
Also at Thanksgiving-time the fellowship group that met at 175
E. 13th Avenue held a "Parents Appreciation Dinner," which drew parents
from as far away as New York and New Jersey. The following is the report of this
event as it appeared in our weekly "Communicating Sheet":
"THIS WAS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT THING THAT'S HAPPENED TO ME IN TWENTY-FIVE YEARS." So said Gunars Vermelis' father Gene Vermelis after the "Parents Appreciation Dinner" at 175 E. 13th two weeks ago. God took a shabby house, forty-five pounds of turkey bird, a few pumpkins and gourds, one pound of backyard ivy, borrowed tables and chairs, innovative sisters, some bewildered brothers and most of all, PRAYER to cause an explosion in the lives of some of the parents who were present. The meal was great but the Holy Spirit Himself seemed something better. A simple presentation of the gospel, a couple of testimonies, a few songs, a movie "The Return", and love, God's love, were fed upon by all. Some ate more than others. Mr. Vermelis is a big eater, Praise God! God also provided Mr. and Mrs. Major, who stood out as real examples, real trophies of God's grace. The parents could see that Jesus was real, not only in their sons and daughters, but also in their piers [sic].
During the first or second week in December Mike Keator and six
men from other Blitz assemblies (including Jim McCotter) visited a young church
located at Mississippi State University in Starkville to strengthen and encourage
the seven to ten believers who were meeting regularly to break bread and study the
Word of God together. This visit was eventually followed by a major evangelistic
thrust on this and other southern campuses (see page 29).
Advance and Retreat
Evangelistic outreach in Columbus had for some time been extending beyond the immediate Ohio State University campus area into residential communities farther afield, including a predominately African-American neighborhood we called the "Cleveland Avenue Area." For the Christmas season of 1975 we prepared a special Christmas edition of the Blitz version of Campus Crusade's "Four Spiritual Laws" - ours was called the "Four Spiritual Absolutes." These, along with a Christmas tract, were distributed door to door in these neighborhoods by teams of two.
At the same time, Jim Zuber and James Slater headed up an outreach to the international student community. (It was they who especially encouraged participation in the previous OM crusades and conferences in Detroit and Valley Forge.) Using a specially designed survey, a number of others joined Jim and James in reaching these students in their dorms and on the street. Often they were able to give them Christian literature, including Bible portions, in their own languages. Several of these international students accepted an invitation to a special Christmas dinner of Indian, Chinese, and Arabian food prepared under the supervision of these men and women. It proved to be a good time of demonstrating the love of Christ and of sharing the real meaning of Christmas with many who had never before heard the gospel story.
We held a winter retreat February 26-29, 1976, at the Y.M.C.A.'s Camp Willson near Bellefontaine, Ohio. Taking discipleship as the theme, the four elders spoke on "Motivation for Discipleship," "The Terms of Discipleship," "Discipleship and the Church," "Discipleship and Marriage," and "Discipleship and Faith." A week later, back in Columbus, Fred Colvin added one more message to the series - "Discipleship and Possessions."
"Here's Life America," sponsored by Campus Crusade,
came to Columbus in the spring of 1976. On March 29 the two weeks of "teaser"
advertising began, and on April 12 the neighborhood canvassing commenced, along
with door to door visiting. Again, the Solid Rock Fellowship cooperated in this
venture, supplying about 75 or 80 workers.
Easter Joy and Sorrow
On Easter Sunday, April 18, as was our annual custom, we all gathered bright and early before dawn on the grassy oval in the center of campus to worship the Lord with songs, prayer, and a resurrection message. This year the latter was given by Don Shepherd, a young brother who had been saved as a result of our street preaching two years earlier, and one of the group of brothers who were receiving leadership training from Bill Taylor. A couple of brothers accompanied the singing on guitar, and Dennis Clark and Tom Lewis on trumpet, with Mike Keator on trombone, performed a special number. As a result of notices we had posted throughout the area many other Christians joined us for the occasion.
Our joy from reflecting on the triumph of Christ's resurrection
quickly turned to sadness as the very next night Don Shepherd was persuaded to leave
our fellowship and join a nomadic cult (known unofficially by others as "the
Garbage Eaters" but by themselves simply as "the Brethren") which
was just then passing through our area. Don and others from our church first encountered
members of this cult while attending a lecture on messianic prophecy sponsored by
a local messianic Jewish group. The full account of what transpired next, as well
as a description of this cult, was included in two letters which our assembly sent
to every chapter of Campus Crusade and the Navigators in the U.S. and Canada, as
well as other assemblies, groups, and individuals. Only years later (in late 1989)
did I learn that Don eventually left this cult and was then seeking to rescue another
member from it.
Prayer and Planning Meetings
One Saturday in late April or May 1976, the elders gathered about 40 of the "older brothers" (including deacons and leaders-in-training) for a day of fellowship, prayer, teaching, and discussion at a beautiful recreation area two hours east of Columbus near McConnelsville, Oh. The purpose of this gathering was to seek the Lord's will concerning the needs within the church. After lunch we divided into groups of five or six and briefly studied the first six chapters of the Book of Acts, looking at examples of what the early church practiced in the areas of fellowship, edification, teaching, administration, prayer, finances, evangelism, and goals, and also to discover the source of their power. Then we regrouped and discussed what the early church did, what the present-day church needs to do, and ways we could implement these things. Although no decisions were finalized at this time, it was a very profitable time of sharing things we believed the Lord showed us that needed attention (especially in areas affected by our rapid increase in numbers), and some alternatives to the ways we were doing things. It was also a good time of fellowship around the Lord.
In September 1975 a well-known Indian evangelist and church-planter
named Bakht Singh had made a brief visit to our church in Columbus on his way back
to India. Since then we had remained in communication with him, and he expressed
his desire to hold a "holy convocation" in or near Columbus in 1976. These
had been held in Rhode Island and New York in previous years, but never in the Midwest.
We eventually agreed to host such a gathering, and I was appointed coordinator of
the event. Near the end of May 1976, therefore, John Grossman and I left Columbus
to drive to New York City (picking up two Indian brothers along the way) to attend
a prayer and planning meeting with a group of others. Driving time from Columbus
to New York was 15 hours, we spent 11 hours there (4 of them sleeping), and then
another 15 hours driving back! But in spite of the lightning speed of our visit
we felt it was a very profitable time - we were able to work out many of the final
details for the convocation, decide whether there should be one, two, or even three
separate convocations in 1976 (we decided on one, but with other, shorter series
of meetings in other places) and we had a wonderful time of fellowship and prayer.
With the exception of three brothers from Rhode Island, John and I were the only
non-Indians present, but the warmth and hospitality were tremendous, and we hardly
felt out of place. Just before starting on our homeward journey we enjoyed a bountiful
and delicious Indian feast prepared by the women while we men were occupied in our
Conference in El Paso
In mid to late May of 1976, Dennis Clark and family left Columbus
to relocate in Houston in order to receive further training under the direct ministry
of Herschel Martindale. Shortly afterwards he participated in a regional Blitz conference
at El Paso from June 5-19. The main assemblies involved were those in Houston, Tucson,
Albuquerque, Belén, and Las Cruces. From El Paso Dennis wrote to us in Columbus
Brian Catalano and I shared a seminar on witnessing and tomorrow everyone begins moving out on the campus, city, and across the border into Juarez, Mexico!… Pray that laborers will be raised up. There are some dear saints here, having just moved here to begin a work. Jim and Hershel [sic] are doing most of the teaching. God has been speaking freshly to my heart in the area of humility and brokenness, love and unity (Is. 57:15). We're believing God to make El Paso a "pipeline" into Mexico and Latin America and South America [sic] for thousands of laborers to pour through! My vision seems to be getting more focused on the strategicness of seeing laborers raised up here to flood into other countries.
The outreach in El Paso resulted in the formation of a new assembly
there, headed up by Andy Sanchez, who moved down from Belén to guide the fellowship.
Dennis' vision notwithstanding, however, this assembly proved to be short-lived
- it was dissolved approximately a year and a half later when Andy moved up to Albuquerque
(see page 90).
More Activities, Activities, Activities!
Back in Ohio, on June 26 the Iuka fellowship of our church, with reinforcements from some of the other fellowships, joined with a small assembly in the western Ohio town of Enon to canvass the place with tracts and flyers, and to present the gospel door to door. In the evening the team members presented a program of contemporary music and testimonies, and showed the gospel film, "The Return," which deals with the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the nation Israel, in particular the Jews' return to Palestine. Finally, Mike Meese gave a full presentation of the gospel.
John Ferwerda, an Plymouth Brethren missionary with OM/Middle East Publications, visited us in Columbus the following Monday, June 28. A number of Solid Rockers (including Jim Zuber and James Slater) had become increasingly interested in missionary work in the Muslim countries, so what Mr. Ferwerda had to say was of special interest to them. (James eventually went to the Middle East as a "tent-making" missionary.)
We inaugurated a new believers class on June 29. Taught by Fred
Colvin and Terry Bartley, this was a 16-week course designed to instruct those new
in the faith in 16 basic Christian doctrines.
The months of July and August were especially busy for us, with
several special opportunities for ministry from which to choose. One brother, Mike
Rush, elected to join with 125 young people with Literature Crusades (now called
International Teams), and with them joined about 3500 other Christians at the Montreal
Olympics to engage in a concerted evangelistic effort aimed at 10,000 athletes,
the 3 million citizens of Montreal, and the many thousands of visitors from around
the world. At the end of this two-week outreach Mike returned to Columbus praising
God for what the Lord had accomplished.
Beginning in July, four men established a prison ministry which
soon led to the salvation of one inmate. This new brother then added the four to
his personal visitors list, permitting them to increase the number of their meetings
with him and seven or eight other inmates. All the men contacted were interested
in hearing the gospel and in forming friendships, and were greatly encouraged by
the hope of a new life that knowing Christ brings.
Another outreach to the Arabs of Detroit was held this year over
the weekend of August 6-9, coinciding with an annual Arab Ethnic Festival in that
city. This time the campaign was under the direction of local Arab Christian leaders.
Eighteen Columbusites joined in this effort, distributing a special Four-Law-type
tract in Arabic that had been printed in Columbus for the occasion. Both at the
festival in Detroit, and later while visiting in an overwhelmingly Yemeni district
in neighboring Dearborn, the Christians were generally well received; especially
among the Yemenis they found a tremendous interest in the gospel. Needless to say,
this greatly encouraged the young missionaries, as did the extremely warm hospitality
shown them by the local Arab believers.
THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
That same month 800 Christians from Blitz assemblies gathered in Kansas City, Mo., to proclaim the gospel among the activities and events surrounding the 1976 Republican National Convention - among them were nine brothers, plus Mike and Su Keator, from Columbus. From August 15th through the 19th in a campaign called "Christians Care for America," they aggressively shared the gospel message with the citizens of Kansas City, as well as the 3,000 convention delegates. Charles Childers, then one of the elders of the Blitz assembly in Madison, Wis., had conceived the idea for such an outreach and wrote a book called If He Were President, describing how Christ would act in such a position. This book was written and published in the amazingly short time of only three weeks, and was offered to all the convention delegates. The evangelists began their activities with a two-mile police-escorted march through the center of the downtown district, carrying posters and banners displaying Bible verses. The parade concluded at Kemper Arena (the convention site) where there was a time to share testimonies and preach the gospel to delegates and others as they were filing into the building.
Dennis Clark and others from Houston put together a "gospel
variety show" which attracted many passers by as well as the press. Many times
throughout the conference music teams and others witnessed together in local city
parks. Testimonies and songs blared from P.A. systems, while at the same time many
team members took the opportunity to hand out tracts and witness to individuals
on city sidewalks. Thirty-eight of the team members secured passes enabling them
to get into the convention hall itself for the Wednesday night nominations. Inside
the hall they were able to hang eleven large banners throughout the arena posing
such questions as, "Who will turn us back to God?" All in all, it was
an exciting time of working together as a team in evangelistic outreach.
SOWING THE SEED IN SPRINGFIELD, OHIO
Saturday, August 21, was an especially busy day for us, offering
three different opportunities for outreach. Approximately 20 Solid Rockers
chose to join others from the small Enon, Oh., assembly in an all-day evangelistic
effort in Springfield, a city of some 82,000 between Columbus and Dayton. Throughout
the morning and afternoon the team distributed about 4,000 each of tracts and flyers,
inviting people to see the movie "The Return," to be shown in a local
park. Drawn by the advertising, more than a hundred people were on hand for this
showing, which was preceded by a band concert performed by members of the Solid
Rock Fellowship. The band sang both pop and Christian songs, and during the course
of the concert pianist Mike Meese and drummer Rob Lamp gave their testimonies of
conversion to Christ. When it became dark, the film was shown, followed by a personal
re-emphasis of the gospel message, given by Tom Schroeder. It was very encouraging
that, even when everything was over, many of the townspeople remained to talk in
small groups with team members.
STANDING AGAINST "THE WAY"
August 19-22 were the dates this year for the annual Rock of Ages Festival held by The Way International, an aberrational sect based in New Knoxville, Oh. This year more than 17,000 people from every state in the union and 19 foreign countries gathered in the west-central Ohio town of Sidney for 3½ days of lectures, seminars, and concerts, all geared towards making zealous disciples of the false doctrines perpetrated by cult founder/leader Victor Paul Wierwille (now deceased). (On July 3 of this same year, 1976, six of us were in Sidney to distribute tracts exposing The Way on the occasion of a Bicentennial parade and festival in which The Way was going to have a part by staging a concert.)
Because of the number of other outreach activities that weekend, only three of us were able to go up to meet the Way-ers at the Shelby County fairgrounds. When John Boccella, Greg Katona, and I drove into town Saturday afternoon, August 21, and saw the vast numbers of Way members everywhere we looked "we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight"! - even more so after we saw the concentration at the fairgrounds.
Since we didn't want to pay a $5.00 fee to enter the grounds proper, our activities consisted mainly of placing tracts on cars parked in lots and on nearby streets, and handing out tracts and talking to people outside the main entrance to the fairgrounds. Tracting the large parking lot was thwarted by The Way's ubiquitous security guards, and tracting the cars on the streets was hindered in some areas by self-appointed tract-removers. However, we were able to get many tracts into windows that had been left open.
Sunday evening Ken Thornhill and Doug Brown joined us in Sidney from Columbus. Another carload arrived about 9:30 p.m., but for some reason our paths never crossed. They got onto the fairgrounds, though, and were able to speak to several people about the gospel. We continued tracting cars and people, and talking with ones we could, but with very few exceptions it was like trying to sow seeds on concrete.
The Way's security guards tried to prevent us from distributing the tracts, and even called over a policeman in their attempt to dissuade us. But they were finally compelled to admit that we had every right to stand where we were and continue our work (and the policeman affirmed that we were breaking no laws), so we stood our ground. Although the vast majority of Way-ers were hard as bricks (extremely arrogant, quick to argue, slow to listen), a very few were relatively open at least to hear us. God gave us the grace to speak in sincerity and love even while standing firm on the deity of Christ (which they deny) and other biblical truths, which seemed to really affect some with whom we spoke.
Just as we were winding down our efforts in Sidney the last night
of the festival we learned that the battle had just begun - through a traffic cop
we discovered that 700 carloads of new Way missionaries were on their way
to Columbus for a three-day training seminar on the OSU campus!! So instead
of being able to relax now, we found ourselves engaged back home in running spiritual
combat with hundreds of wolves wearing Wierwille's wool up and down High Street
and all across campus! Again, much of the gospel went out in the form of tracts
and personal witness as we trusted the Lord to bring the increase.
The third option for that Saturday (August 21, l976) was in some ways a more enjoyable one - a picnic! But this was a picnic with a difference - rather than being just all fun and games and potato salad, this picnic had the very serious purpose of reaching international students for Christ. Out of the 60-65 who gathered on the banks of the Scioto River at Griggs Dam approximately 30-40 were students from many foreign countries, a large number of them from the Middle East. It became immediately apparent that the Lord was truly desirous of seeing this picnic succeed in its intent as different ones trying to follow inadequate directions to the park did not give up but kept looking till they found it!
Activities began with lively games of soccer and volleyball, and
continued with a clear presentation of the gospel as James Slater shared "How
Jesus Christ made this picnic possible" - he spoke about a personal relationship
with Christ that had radically changed the lives of each of the Christians present.
Then followed a time of informal interaction over supper, at which time many earnest
questions were asked about Christ and Christianity. The Spirit really moved as opportunity
opened wide for individuals to share freely their personal faith with Muslims, Hindus,
Buddhists, and others. Conversation continued in this serious vein for 2 or 2½ hours
after eating, showing that the spiritual hunger of many was much greater than their
physical hunger. Through this whole time much plowing up of fallow ground was accomplished.
EVANGELISM IN FRENCH CANADA
While all these activities were taking place in the month of August, seven Columbusites spent three weeks in Canada, joining a small assembly in Quebec City, along with a group of others from Greeley, Col., in an evangelistic outreach there (one week) and in Campbellton, New Brunswick (two weeks). The main goals of this effort were to give the Quebec believers more experience in evangelism and also to get contacts they could follow up during the year.
Throughout the first week in Quebec there was teaching morning and evening, with a time set aside for prayer and sharing. Everything took twice as long to do because of the need to translate from French to English and vice versa. In the afternoons the team members distributed Christian literature (in French) door to door, going out in teams of two - one French- and one English-speaker. Several evenings they all went down to the boardwalk overlooking the St. Lawrence River to sing and share with everyone they could. The response to this was very encouraging; rather than scoffing, the people were actually interested. By the end of this week there were many good contacts to keep the Quebeckers busy during the coming year.
The last two weeks were spent in Campbellton, N.B., a totally bilingual community. Here the team held children's Bible schools in both French and English, visited hospitals, spoke in churches, and witnessed in parks and on the streets. The Lord provided living quarters that further tested, and developed, their Christian characters - a church basement with no hot water or showers and only two bathrooms, and a room over a combination bus station/garage with frequent nighttime visits by hitch-hikers or alcoholics!
Concluding the outreach in New Brunswick was a bilingual rally with both French and English singing groups. After the singing one brother preached to a good-sized crowd which had been drawn to the music. Another brother shared with one fellow for several hours afterward until he became so convicted of his sin and need that he simply began praying on his own initiative to receive Christ!
Besides the actual work of evangelism, the Lord did a work in
the lives of each person involved, primarily in the area of faith and trust in him
no matter what happens - he always knows what is best and will work to accomplish
it as we depend upon him.
1976 NORTH AMERICAN CHRISTIAN HOLY CONVOCATION
More than 140 people from all parts of the U.S. and Canada came together with 148 members of the Solid Rock Fellowship between August 26 and 31 at the Mennonite Rosedale Bible Institute for a wonderful time of fellowship, prayer, worship, and teaching from God's Word at the 1976 North American Christian Holy Convocation sponsored by the SRF of Columbus, and featuring Brother Bakht Singh of Hyderabad, India. Located in the middle of beautiful farm country, the setting and facilities were ideal in fulfilling our desire to get away from the rush and bustle of city life to be alone with the Lord and his people.
The theme of this year's convocation was "The Fellowship of the Mystery of Christ." Besides Bakht Singh, other speakers included the following: Brother Martin, Hyderabad, India; T.E. Koshy, Syracuse, N.Y.; Devapriyam Kurut, Warsaw, Ind.; and Raymond Gullsworthy, Australia. Mrs. Gullsworthy also spoke on two occasions to the women concerning her husband's and her experiences as missionaries in India, and those privileged to hear her were thrilled by her accounts. The public teaching by Bakht Singh and the others all focused on deepening our personal fellowship with Christ and with one another as members together of his body, the church. Some of the subjects of the messages were: "The Power of the Resurrection"; "Dying Daily"; "Partakers with Christ"; "Preparation of a Vessel"; "Vision of God"; "Seven Steps to the Throne"; and "The Secret of Fruitbearing."
Brother Bakht Singh also shared his testimony, both at the beginning
and at the end of the convocation, and this, almost more than the actual teaching,
had a profound impact on all who heard it. One lady came to me on the last morning
all aglow with the news that after 16 years of marriage her husband, just that morning,
had finally suggested they share a devotional time together! This was just one example
of the mighty work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all who were privileged to
gather together for this blessed time at Rosedale, Oh.
More Structural Re-organization
It might be good at this point to insert parenthetically that all of these special conferences and outreaches interrupted our normal activities very little. We maintained our regular meeting schedule right through the summer up until the Holy Convocation, and continued in aggressive evangelism and intensive discipleship. It would be incorrect to assume that these special events represent all we did together as a church. Most of us especially who were non-students and living in "fellowship housing" near campus were working only part-time jobs in order to devote more time to the continuing evangelistic effort, discipleship, and/or teaching ministry of the church. Typically, the Solid Rock members worked as night watchmen, janitors, or fast-food cooks and clerks - in fact, so many worked for the same businesses that there was sometimes a question whether the establishments could stay open whenever the fellowship planned an extended conference or outreach! It could be truly said that the majority of the members of the Solid Rock Fellowship viewed their jobs as separate from and secondary to their Christian calling.
As the fall quarter of 1976 began, changes were made not only
in our schedule of meetings, but also in the organization of the assembly itself.
Bill and JoAnn Taylor departed Columbus to return to Colorado Springs, while at
the same time Dennis and Thelma Clark returned to Columbus from Houston. The four
original fellowship groups were further divided into eight, which were utilized
henceforth for Sunday dinners, Tuesday Bible discussions (initially in Proverbs),
and Friday night prayer meetings. Also, due to an increase in the use fee, the elders
decided to move our Sunday gatherings from the Indianola Presbyterian Church back
to the basement of the United Christian Center, about two blocks south.
Fall Quarter Evangelism
Following an all-out evangelistic effort at the beginning of this school-year (during which approximately 2500 filled out questionnaires, with 1300 indicating a desire for further information) three on-campus Bible studies were begun on Thursday evenings, one in each of the three main dormitory areas. Follow-up on the questionnaires was carried out by about 50 people, yielding at least 15-20 new contacts at each of the campus studies in the first couple of weeks. Our noon-time Bible study in the student union was cut back to meeting only three days per week instead of five, with these local dormitory studies receiving the major emphasis.
Work among the international students continued into the fall of 1976 with a series of bi-weekly informal buffet style dinners at the newly acquired home of Linda Cochran (who later became my wife). The first of these was held on October 2 with about 35 internationals attending. The format was kept very simple, and the goal was merely to develop genuine friendships in the expectation that God would use these to break through in the lives of the students. This concept represented a sharp break with previous outreach activities, in that the people involved in this endeavor were now engaged in what is sometimes called "pre-evangelism," or winning a hearing through being a friend and seeking to meet physical and emotional needs as well as spiritual ones.
In altering their tactics in this way those involved were following the example and suggestion of T.E. Koshy, who works among internationals in Syracuse, N.Y. (Brother Koshy was one of the speakers at the Holy Convocation in Rosedale, Oh.) Over the weekend of October 9-11 fifteen SRFers drove to Syracuse to learn from Brother Koshy how to more effectively reach the thousands of foreign students studying in America. The low-key approach used by the brothers in Syracuse has resulted in people from Egypt, Lebanon, India, Taiwan, and other places joining together to worship the Lord.
In October a group called The Paragon Experience came to the Ohio
State University campus to present their evangelistic multi-media presentation "If
I Should Die." This, along with frequent showings of the film "The Return,"
kept us busy making follow-up calls on those who filled out contact cards. Perhaps
120 new contacts were made during this month.
A Southern "Blitz"
For about two weeks ending October 19, 1976, a team of l8 traveled
to five different campuses in five different states to evangelize and seek to establish
strong cores of Christian students in each place who would form the nuclei of new
assemblies. The 18 men were all elders representing 13 separate Blitz groups. The
five campuses were: the University of Illinois (Urbana); the University of Arkansas
(Fayetteville); Memphis State University (Tennessee); Auburn University (Alabama);
and Mississippi State University (Starkville). "Forerunners" were sent
into each of these states ahead of the main team with a three-pronged goal:
1 to find a core of faithful men and women to be a catalyst for the work;
2. to arrange lodging with Christians in their dorms, etc.; and
3. to arrange meetings with Christians and gospel opportunities.
Concluding this campaign was an "equipping conference"
at Memphis State from October 17 to 19 to which the "core" Christians
were brought from the other areas so they might receive Bible teaching designed
to impart to them a powerful vision of reaching their own universities, and ultimately
the world, for Christ. Beyond this immediate crusade a follow-up Thanksgiving conference
was also held to solidify the fledgling assemblies even more. The final results
were, however, that only two groups (Auburn and Starkville) were strong enough to
go on by themselves, with frequent visits by older brothers from other places.
Seminar on God's Will
On November 19 and 20 the Solid Rock Fellowship held a weekend seminar on "How to Find and Accomplish God's Will for Your Life." The program consisted of workshops and lectures dealing with the general biblical principles involved in knowing God's will, as well as such specific and practical questions as "How does education (or a career, or marriage, etc.) fit in with God's will for my life?" It was emphasized that an essential element in discerning God's will is the prior consideration of the fact that all believers have been given the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18); therefore, in seeking to learn God's specific will for our lives we must keep this always in mind: "I have been given the ministry of reconciliation - how would this or that option help or hinder me in this ministry?"
Throughout the seminar emphasis was given to the need to maintain correct priorities in day-to-day living, and also to the importance of setting lifetime as well as short-range goals, and supporting activities geared to attaining these goals. Some very helpful suggestions were given on these things, and goal sheets and checklists were distributed to aid in following through on these suggestions.
One other subject that was brought up during the weekend was that
of making a daily schedule and keeping to it. It was taught that this schedule should
be sensible and practical - one to which we can adhere without feeling enslaved
to it; we need to maintain a certain degree of flexibility to allow God to change
our plans whenever he wants to. While perhaps not every question was answered during
the seminar, enough clear teaching was given on the general principles and major
specific questions - and enough practical help was provided - to enable individuals
to approach with confidence the subject of God's will for their lives. (But
see comments on page 100.)
Meeting the Moonies
In the month of December I had the unexpected opportunity to take part in two hour-long broadcasts of a telephone call-in program called "Sound Off" aired over the local Christian radio station, WCVO. On December 6 and then again on December 20 program host Jack Munsell interviewed Diane Devine (a former member of the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon who was then engaged in helping members of cults to leave their groups) and me concerning the teachings and practices of the "Moonies." (During the previous three years we in the Solid Rock Fellowship had had continual encounters with cultists of various stripes, and the Lord had led me into research on several of the newer groups - the Unification Church, The Way, the Children of God, Transcendental Meditation, etc. - that were especially prevalent in our area.) The main goal of these broadcasts was to educate the public concerning the clearly heretical beliefs and harmful practices of this cult.
A similar opportunity presented itself at the end of April 1977
as Diane (who in the meantime had received Christ) and I were invited to participate
in a two-panel discussion for the benefit of combined sociology classes at a suburban
Columbus high school. In addition to Diane and me, a local pastor and an OSU psychology
professor made up one panel, while the head of the local Unification Church and
two other Moonies made up the second. Each of us gave opening statements and then
for the balance of the two hours we fielded questions put to us first by the teacher
and then by the students. I had been much in prayer about this confrontation, and
at the conclusion Diane and I both were basically satisfied with the outcome, as
we felt that the truth we were able to present had a greater impact on the students
than the error espoused by the cultists.
Conference in Madison
More than one hundred Columbusites journeyed to Madison, Wis., to attend a regional Blitz conference from December 9-18, 1976. There they joined other contingents from Ames, Iowa, Kansas City, Mo., and even some from Auburn, Ala., besides the local Wisconsin believers. As at past conferences, this one had the two-fold purpose of evangelism and teaching. The former was accomplished primarily through the use of "Holiday Opinion Poll" surveys and personal follow-up. For about three days, conference attendees manned survey tables for 3-4 hour shifts in the dorms, cafeterias, and student unions. These surveys yielded the names and addresses of about 1300 contacts out of a total of 35,000 students; follow-up on these began immediately. They were greatly encouraged as every day up to 7 persons professed faith in Christ, and during the ten days of the conference many backslidden or "loner" Christians were exhorted and encouraged. The Blitzers also used dinners as a means of evangelism and exhortation. Other evangelistic methods included: street preaching, public caroling and witnessing, showings of the movie "The Return," tract-passing and performances by the Blitz bands Vessel (from Columbus) and Daystar, during which members of the bands also shared the gospel. The labors resulted in many saved souls, the edification of the laborers themselves, and the proclamation of the good news to countless others.
Every day - often twice a day - the conferees gathered to sing,
share, pray, and hear the Word of God taught. The main speaker was Jim McCotter,
with other teaching given by Randy Jorgensen and Mark Schonberg of Madison, Dave
Gumlia of Kansas City, and Tom Schroeder of Columbus. Jim shared twice as often
as the others combined; his topics were:
Love to Reach the World (2 parts)
The First Words Jesus Spoke When He Rose from the Dead: "Go";
"Go Therefore into All the Nations" (2 parts);
Jim's Personal Testimony (2 parts);
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21: "Examine Everything Carefully";
Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness;
The Glory of God and You (Christ's Second Coming).
In many ways this was a very stimulating and challenging ten days
of spiritual training combined with practical experience.
From about the beginning of the fall quarter several Solid Rock brothers had been busying themselves planning and producing a multi-media gospel program called "Vision." The story-line they eventually developed revolved around an Ohio State University student who becomes more and more frustrated with his life until, through his former girlfriend, he finds peace and satisfaction by accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. When finally completed in late winter 1977, the equipment employed in relating this story consisted of a five-piece band, two slide projectors dissolving images onto a large screen, pre-recorded tapes with sound effects and narration, and appropriate lighting and sound reinforcements. In addition, there was a live presentation of the gospel by Tom Lewis, who played the part of the student in the filmed and taped portion of the presentation.
As it happened, the premier showing of "Vision" was not in Columbus at all, but in Guelph, Ontario. The members of the young assembly there (established about a year earlier) led by Rob Irvine and others invited us and other Blitz groups to participate with them in an extensive outreach at Guelph University in mid-winter 1977. About 15 or 20 went from Columbus, including the whole crew involved in the presentation of "Vision." The Lord opened many doors of opportunity, not only to put on the production, but also to sing and preach indoors and outdoors, and to distribute thousands of tracts. As a result, the Guelph church acquired many good contacts to follow up for the rest of the school year.
Back in Columbus plans were being made for a massive outreach to four other university campuses during OSU's spring break, March 18-27. The four universities chosen were the University of Dayton, Miami University (Oxford, Oh.), the University of Eastern Kentucky (Richmond) and Eastern Michigan University (Ypsilanti). Well over 100 Solid Rockers took part in this campaign, which had as its object not only the preaching of the gospel and salvation of souls, but also (Lord willing) the establishment of new churches on at least one or two of these campuses (though in the end none were established).
"Forerunner" teams were sent out on Monday, March 14, with the responsibility of obtaining housing in each place as close to the campus areas as possible, and as inexpensive as possible. Similar teams had been sent out prior to earlier conference/outreaches - e.g., Knoxville (1973) and Madison (1976).
The final Sunday of this two-week campaign the Columbus elders
decided to hold the regular church meetings in Dayton, which is only an hour and
a half distant by interstate freeway. Therefore, as many as were able drove over
in the morning to join the team there and to spend the balance of the day divided
between worship, teaching, and evangelism.
California, or Bust!
In January 1977 Fred Colvin had resigned his position as elder of the Solid Rock Fellowship, anticipating a move to California with his wife, daughter, and expected second child (a son, born in February). Their move was accomplished in the first part of April; by the time they were ready to go, six others had decided to join them in relocating to the San Francisco Bay area in order to gain additional training and experience in association with Fairhaven Bible Chapel in San Leandro. One former Columbus brother was already there, going through the Discipleship Intern Training Program in which Fred had participated three years previously, and by 1979 other Columbusites had joined the group, bringing to 17 the total number of ex-Solid Rockers in California, though a few stayed only a couple of months before going elsewhere (including James Slater, who went on to serve the Lord in the Arab world. Fred and Peggy Colvin are presently serving the Lord in Austria, training national believers in church leadership and planting).
Before Fred and the others left, another brother was selected as an elder - Terry Bartley, who had been saved in Columbus in July 1973 - and a new slate of deacons was also elected. Of the original six deacons, only two (Jim Zuber and Mike Meese) remained in this capacity, joined by five others (John Hopler, Tom Lewis, Tom Short, Tom Schroeder, and Dave Sachleben).
At the end of April I also left Columbus to return to my home
in Cleveland for the four months from May through August. While there I was very
active in my home assembly, Gracemount Gospel Chapel, speaking several times at
Sunday and mid-week meetings, and inaugurating a college and career fellowship which
met weekly for Bible study, and bi-weekly for a variety of recreational and service
activities on Saturdays. As a result of a two-week visit to Fairhaven Bible Chapel
in June, I, too, decided to move to California at the end of August. In November
I returned to Columbus just long enough to marry the former Linda Cochran and then
moved her out to California with me.
During the summer the Solid Rock Fellowship (which in the spring
was averaging between 250 and 300 at Sunday meetings held in the student union)
engaged in a summer-long crusade in East Lansing, Mich., the home of Michigan State
University. Perhaps 80 or 90 Columbusites were involved in this outreach, which
did result in the establishment of a new assembly. All of the Solid Rockers returned
to Columbus, however, and the leadership of this new work was transferred to brothers
who came from Ames, Ia., among them Dave Bovenmyer, who moved to Michigan with his
Other activities and endeavors have involved or affected the whole Blitz movement in one form or another. For example, in 1976 the Ames fellowship began publishing an evangelistic newspaper called The Life Herald. This paper circulated primarily in Ames itself, but also reached beyond the immediate area via pre-paid mail subscriptions. The Life Herald carried general news stories, human interest articles and sports reports as well as evangelistic articles, editorials, and reprinted material.
In the spring of 1978 the Ames group ceased publication of The Life Herald in order to devote their printing facilities, time, and energy into publishing a second paper which had seen first light about the same time The Life Herald began. Known first as The Student, then as Today's Student, this paper was more specifically geared for the college and university audience, which the Blitz had long considered its primary mission field. Billed as "The Nation's Largest Student Newspaper," Today's Student was distributed on over 120 college and university campuses by Blitz fellowships around the country (the movement continued its rapid expansion through the 1990s) and by others who acted as agents for the paper.
In connection with this endeavor, four Blitz leaders (Jim McCotter,
Dennis Clark, Rick Harvey, and Henry Hintermeister) traveled around the world from
June 24 to July 30, 1978. Their three-fold purpose was:
1. to raise up distributors for Today's Student, with the goal of getting it into every English-speaking country by the fall of that year;
2. to get interviews with heads of state and other top officials in every country visited to be published in Today's Student;
3. to survey the countries visited in view of future teams going there with the gospel (finding out which ones are most open, etc.).
In all, 17 countries filled out the five-week itinerary, including stops in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe (see map on page 33). The willingness to spend roughly $12,000 (in 1979 dollars) on such a tour merely underscores the importance attached within the Blitz to this publishing venture.
This priority was reflected on the local level as the individual
Blitz groups around the country mobilized to see that as many copies as possible
got into the hands of the students on their campuses. One case in particular illustrates
the urgency of this priority, and in fact, involved the Solid Rock Fellowship in
Columbus. In the spring of 1978 the Ohio State University administration began restricting
the number of distribution points on campus for Today's Student, allowing
only about a third as many as were available to the official OSU publication, the
Lantern. As a result of arguments presented in a Memorandum to the U.S. District
Court by Solid Rock's attorney (and deacon) John Hopler, Judge Robert M. Duncan
awarded a preliminary injunction ordering Ohio State University "to refrain
from applying their regulation concerning newspaper distribution" on campus.
So, at least for the immediately succeeding time, distribution of Today's Student
resumed at its former level.
I could go on and on relating other events, activities, campaigns, conferences, etc., but the history would never be complete for the simple reason that it is still being acted out. The Blitz movement continues to expand and extend its presence and influence throughout the United States and in parts of Canada, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. It has in large measure preserved its original vision of targeting college and university campuses as the areas where laborers might be raised up most quickly to take their places in the spiritual harvest field. And their thrust continues to be aggressive evangelism and intensive discipleship. Yet in spite of all the past and present successes of the Blitz, darkening clouds have gathered on its horizon in recent years, and storms have occasionally broken over its head.
 Num. 13:33.