I have mentioned the email to Jimmy DeYoung asking about whether there was a need for an organization similar to the Pre-Trib Study Group to help hold the line on historic, conservative evangelicalism. This is where we pick up the conclusion of the story about the beginnings of ABI.
A couple of days after sending Jimmy the email, I received a phone call from his office in Chattanooga. Steve asked if I would be available to do a radio interview with Jimmy concerning the results of the Pew Study that I have noted in previous posts.
About a week after the interview, Jimmy called to further discuss the idea of launching such a ministry. He, too, seeing the need in his many travels as a conference speaker. He mentioned that he knew two other men that might be interested.
One of the men was Rob Congdon. Rob is a regular guest on Jimmy DeYoung’s weekly radio program. He is is the director of Congdon Ministries International and the Internet Bible Institute and a conference speaker and author, who is a recognized authority on the European Union, especially in relation to potential fulfillment of end-times prophecies. For many years, he was a missionary with Friends of Israel in Great Britain and during that time he was involved in starting a similar ministry called Hermeneus Fellowship.
The second person was Paul Barreca. Paul is the pastor of Faith Bible Church in Vineland, New Jersey. Jimmy had heard that Paul had recently preached a message entitled “Why I Am No Longer An Evangelical” (available on the ABI website). Based on this message, Jimmy saw that Paul also shared the same concerns that we had for the current state of the evangelical church.
Jimmy then suggested that perhaps we should all meet together, to get to know one another, and discuss whether launching a new ministry might be something we should consider. We scheduled a set of meetings to be in Asheville, North Carolina for early July, 2008.
We spent Monday evening just getting to know one another, since I had never met Rob or Paul and Paul did not know Rob or me. That evening, we found that we had all been seeing the same developments and trends within evangelicalism and that we all shared the same concerns. The next morning, we began discussing our theological views and found that we were all in agreement in even the smallest details. We also shared the conviction that the primary issue was the diminishing view of the authority of the Bible and a deficient hermeneutic (a system of princples of interpretation).
By early afternoon our discussion had turned to the question of starting a ministry. We agreed that there was a need for something like what we were discussing and that we were not aware of a ministry that had the particular set of distinctives that would soon come to define the new ministry. We decided that we would meet again in four weeks, giving us time to think and pray about about the final decision to start a ministry and also the role that each of us might have should we decide to proceed.
As part of the process, we also discussed a potential name for the ministry and within about 10 minutes we agreed on “The Alliance for Biblical Integrity.” An interesting sidenote: As soon as we decided on the name, Jimmy called his webmaster to see if the website name “www.biblicalintegrity.org” was available. And amazingly, out of all the millions of domain names already in use, no one had taken this name and within five minutes, we had reserved the domain for our use.
During the four weeks between meetings, Karen and I spent a lot of time in discussion, thought and prayer. Prior to our first set of meetings, I had written to Al Konya (WOL Hungary country director) letting him know about what we were doing because it potentially had implications concerning our ministry in Hungary. At the time, I never envisioned leaving the ministry of Word of Life and thought that even if we were involved in a new ministry, that it would be something we would do while staying with WOL. After the first meetings, I called Al again and told him that I didn’t know whether or not anything would come of this and he replied, “I think something will.” His reply sort of took me aback as I wasn’t expecting it. Then as we were driving back to Asheville in August, Karen and I were naturally discussing what this all might mean for our future. We agreed that this might very well be the next phase in our ministry lives. During the second set of meetings, we all concluded that we should proceed and begin establishing The Alliance for Biblical Integrity.
After we returned to Hungary at the end of the month, I met with Al to further discuss what was going on in our hearts and the passion that was developing for this new ministry. It soon became clear that ABI was something with which we would need to be involved full-time if we really hoped to have a significant impact. A few weeks later, I told Al of our decision to leave Word of Life and he replied, “I knew this would be your decision.”
In some ways it was a very difficult decision given that just a couple of months earlier we had never envisioned ever leaving WOL. In other ways, it was a very eary decision because we were so confident of the Lord’s guidance and because of the passion He had given us for this type of ministry. Looking back, He had been preparing us for this new phase of ministry for 25 years – and particulary for the 16 years we had been in Hungary – which is rather amazing in itself.
Our confidence in our decision was repeatedly confirmed over the coming months as we shared our decision with family, friends, trusted advisers and the leadership of Word of Life. We consistently received nothing but encouragement – not only regarding us personally being involved with the launch of such a ministry, but with regard to the great need for such a ministry, as well.
There are innumerable other things that have happened over the past year, almost on a weekly basis, that the Lord has used to encourage us and confirm to us that we have made the right decision. We have continually experienced His peace and countless blessings – and the truth is that we have not doubted our decision for even a moment.
I am incredibly thankful for our time with Word of Life. And although we are no longer on staff, we still feel part of the Word of Life family, especially the family in Hungary. Our relationship with Word of Life – as an organization and with individuals in WOL – remains as strong as ever. I will still be working closely with WOL, teaching at some of the Bible institutes – and hopefully helping in many other ways. I thank God for the many fine leaders in Word of Life and for the many dear friends we have with the staff and students who have been a part of our lives.