The Anonymous Gospels

One of the criticisms leveled against Christianity is that our primary sources for the life and teachings of Jesus—the four gospels—are anonymous. In addition, critics often add that the gospels were likely written a long time after the events, at locations far removed from Palestine, by unknown writers who were not witnesses to the events.

Coming soon! Intelligent Faith Conference

In 2008 Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was hit with one of the worst floods ever in the United States. You might not have heard about it, because, unlike Katrina, Iowans didn’t whine and expect the government to come and rescue them. More than 5,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and there was $3 billion in damage to buildings and crops. From that great flood sprang a unity among the churches in Cedar Rapids. A Christian organization called “Serve the City” was created that united dozens of churches and ministries, and has continued to be the focal point for prayer and evangelism in the Cedar Rapids area.

Last fall I ran into a fellow at church, and told him about the campus apologetics (“defense of the Christian faith”) ministry of Ratio Christi, and how I’ve been speaking at apologetics conferences both in the U.S. and around the world. He was from Cedar Rapids, and he told me about a man, Charles Daugherty, who was the head of Serve the City, and who was the “go to guy” who might want to see an “Intelligent Faith” conference in Cedar Rapids. I looked up Charles online and sent him an email.

Two days later I received an email from Charles and another man who is studying apologetics, and they essentially said my email was an answer to prayer. I had conversations with Charles and sent him information on how to organize an apologetics conference. He took that information to his leaders at Serve the City, and they were all excited to have Cedar Rapids host an event. I was asked to be one of three keynote speakers, and helped them arrange for two others—J. Warner Wallace and Frank Turek, both nationally-known Christian apologists. Jim Wallace is a retired cold-case homicide detective and author of the book Cold Case Christianity. Frank Turek is co-author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, and heads up an organization called “Cross-Examined.”

The Intelligent Faith Conference begins tomorrow, February 6, and goes through Saturday, February 7. Last I checked there were about 600 registered, and they are expecting more to sign up at the event. On Sunday I’ve been asked to preach at River of Life Church’s Sunday morning service in Cedar Rapids. It should be a great jammed packed weekend.

Please pray for effectiveness in my speaking this weekend. Cedar Rapids is listed by the Barna Group as one of the least “Bible Friendly” areas in the country (95th out of 100, below Las Vegas). There is a great opportunity to see Christianity blossom in Cedar Rapids, including reaching the campuses with their own chapters of Ratio Christi. The committee wants the apologetics conference to be an annual event. So much has come from that one idea from a guy I met at church. The Lord works in strange and wonderful ways.

Thanks for your support for Rolling Stone Ministries and Ratio Christi.

UPDATE: First [Ratio Christi] International Trip to the Philippines--A Smashing Success!

[From the Ratio Christi International Blog] 

We’re pleased to announce that our first international conference, held in Manila, the Philippines, was a victorious ministry for the Lord in mid-July! Ratio Christi thanks our own “Fantastic Four” International Team for this trip: John Stewart, Ramon Margallo, Abigail Hohenstreet and Jane Pantig. To see how the concept for this Philippines conference first took shape last October and the brilliant God-led qualifications of these four folks, here's our original article announcing the endeavor,“Certainty of Christianity in a Generation of Uncertainty.”

John Stewart, Ratio Christi’s International Director, shares: “Within three weeks of issuing announcements, we had more than 300 registered.” That was before even going!

Stewart gives us some insight into the schedule and great results of the conference:
“The conference was a huge success. Hundreds showed up for the first 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. event. We had two plenary sessions, a lunch break, and breakout sessions in the afternoon. My favorite part of the conference was our final session when the four of us took questions from the audience to close out the event.

Our weeknight academy was three hours per evening. Each team member taught a course for two hours and 30 minutes. This was also well-attended. The hunger for biblical truth was evident in the questions asked by the attendees – many of them budding apologists.

During the week we had the chance to address a combined chapel for Baptist Bible College Asia, with some 400 students in attendance. Ramon and I also met with key Christian leaders from the greater Manila area, and the excitement about Ratio Christi was genuine.

Before we left, there were preliminary plans for us to return and hold another apologetics conference at a larger venue, and there were at least five university campuses where an interest was expressed in establishing a Ratio Christi club! And Ramon, now acting as the coordinator for Ratio Christi Philippine Islands, has also identified key Christian leaders who may be willing to serve as point men in the Philippines for developing these chapters.

Our first Ratio Christi International apologetics mission was a tremendous success due to the dedication of our team and the sacrifice they made to go to the other side of the world to teach and inspire Christians and to reach out to unbelievers. The need for a campus apologetics ministry in the Philippines and other countries is as great as it is in the U.S.”

Stewart reflects on the need for Christ both stateside and internationally:
There is opportunity to reach the hearts and minds of believers and unbelievers alike before they are steeped in the skepticism, secularism and nihilism that are rampant in America. Pray for apologist laborers who will step up and help us address the needs on campuses throughout the Philippines and around the world.
Abigail Hohenstreet added some funny experiences from the trip and more conference accomplishments:

“God so blessed our time in Metro Manila and outlying areas. I have to mention the food. Without being fed some of the most amazing, fresh seafood I've ever had, I don't know how we would have found the strength to keep ministering as much as we did. We were all speaking at various engagements throughout the days and evenings. Our meal breaks and the fellowship with people really kept our strength up.

The Filipino people are incredibly laid back. During our trip, Jane and I accidentally set the dinner table on fire in the middle of a restaurant (courtesy of an unfortunately placed candle and a nearby napkin)! One of the ministers, Pastor Jun, helped me rush to pour water on the flame. Literally no one else in the restaurant even batted an eye!  The people are so nice that they won't even make fun of you.

On Thursday, while Ramon and John went to a breakfast meeting with a large group of indigenous leaders, Jane and I went to Alabang where we were able to speak to university students and faculty during their joint chapel services. On Friday, we joined with Christ Commission Fellowship, Greenhills Fellowship, and Megacity Ministries leaders as well as other evangelical pastors for a discussion about prophecy in light of current events. That night, Dr. Stewart gave a detailed address regarding Israel’s history, development, and present circumstances. We were challenged to think critically about how Christians are to respond to and interact with the difficulties of international affairs of our day.

About 500 people came to our first conference on Saturday, representing various churches, colleges, and provinces. Because it was open forum, some people attended who hadn’t before heard such information, and 20 people accepted Christ! On Sunday, our team attended the 20th anniversary for our hosting church, and a message on the four spiritual laws was preached because of all of the visitors. Another 45 people made professions of faith during the two morning services!”

The trip was extended to include more ministry. Hohenstreet continues:

“Last weekend, we led another conference in Quezon City, sponsored by a group called Jworx – a group of about 40 young professionals in various fields. We trained them in areas like biblical morality and ethical  impacts on jurisprudence; cultural engagement and understanding apologetics in public policy; scientific evidences for the existence of God; biblical peacemaking; historical and archaeological evidences for the reliability of the Bible; and much more! Many of our conference attendees said they left feeling equipped to serve God and others in their various influential vocations.

While John and I returned to the states, Ramon, his wife Nanette (“Nini”), and Jane stayed behind to do another week’s ministry to communities throughout the Philippines. Please also pray for our international team as we plan for the upcoming trip to Kenya that is to take place in August!”

In a previous Ratio Christi post on the team’s second day in Manila, Hohenstreet concluded:
There’s a theme that we hear from [international] believers that the American Church could learn from: ‘Everyone is a minister; every job is mine.’ They have a deep understanding of their responsibility - that becoming a follower of Jesus entails a commitment to study and show oneself prepared to help others in their truth quest; plus a willingness to give of time, talent, and treasure to serve in any capacity that’s necessary. It’s inspiring to see mission-minded servant hearts and strong leadership.

God is on the move! RCI update from the Philippines

[Written by Abigail Hohenstreet]

I can’t believe how quickly our days here are speeding by!  We arrived safely on Thursday night, getting settled in by the lovely hour of 4 a.m. — although exhausted, we were more overcome with anticipation about the days ahead!  On Friday, we did some errands to prepare for the week and we had a long ministry meeting and lunch with Dr. Lyons and Pastor Jun, during which we were all brimming with joy and gratefulness for God’s presence and power in and through the partnership that we’ve formed.

 The Philippines, with over 1,000 inhabited islands, is home to over 100 million people.  Metro Manila, home to 25 million souls, is the fifth most populated city in the world!  We’re so honored to supplement the expansive and dynamic work of Megacity Ministries (which includes Community Baptist Church, Global Surge, and campuses of Baptist Bible College Asia).  This Christian community here steadily ministers to 6,000 of the 5 million children under the age of 10 as well as to 150,000 young people, 2,000 of whom are presently Bible students.  Because of the Filipino’s ability to assimilate to such a vast array of countries and cultures throughout Asia and the Middle East, they’re very effective for the cause of Christ; thus, it is such a joy for our team to be given the opportunity to equip and embolden these precious people!

Our first conference, on Saturday, was from 9a.m. to 5p.m., and it was very blessed.  About 500 people came, representing various churches, colleges, and provinces.  We had worship, plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and ended the day with a long Q&A panel.  The audience asked us over 30 questions during our Q&A and we addressed a range of topics, from problem of evil, to science and faith, to law and ethics, to cults and cultural engagement.  Because it was open forum, some people attended who hadn’t before heard such information and messages; 20 people accepted Christ on Saturday!  On Sunday, our team attended the 20th anniversary for our hosting church, and a message on the four spiritual laws was preached because of all of the visitors; another 45 people made professions of faith during the two morning services.  The church here is located in the inner city of Manila; consequently, the culture we’re experiencing is quite unique — music is loud, singing is louder, the congregations are passionate, even dancing, and the preaching is full of illustrations and stories that captivate the attention as truth is presented.  The liveliness of the people here is nothing short of invigorating (and maybe overwhelming for Westerners).

Here’s what God is preparing our students to keep moving forward in —

We’re officially partners with Global Surge, a ministry that sends teams to 28 countries, including: Cambodia; Tanzania; Middle Eastern countries; Indonesia; India; Bangladesh; Thailand; Eastern Europe; Brazil; Burma; Hong Kong; Colombia; Mexico; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Malawi; Kenya; United Kingdom.  During one mission trip to Hong Kong, 50,000 out of 200,000 young people who heard the truth during a week-long camp, accepted Christ (the missions are geared toward non-believers, so anyone who is already a believer can only attend if they bring a non-believing friend).  In the various countries, due to the differing cultures, freedom levels, and needs, the teams are sensitive to the way the truth is brought to the students.  The result: a ripple effect of totally transformed lives!

 For example, one of our new friends is Darwin, a Bible College student who is incredibly active with Global Surge teams; since he accepted Christ at camp a few years ago, he goes on trips several times a year to help other students understand and accept the Gospel.  The theme that we hear believers say here is something that the American Church could learn from:  “Everyone is a minister; every job is mine.”  They have a deep understanding of their responsibility:  becoming a follower of Jesus entails a commitment to study and show oneself prepared to help others in their truth quest and a willingness to give of time, talent, and treasure to serve in any capacity that’s needed.  It’s inspiring to see mission-minded servant hearts and strong leadership all over the place!

...To be continued,

~Abigail, Jane, Ramon, and John  [Ratio Christi team to the Philippines]

Our Ratio Christi team leaves tomorrow for Philippines. Pray for safe travel due to Typhoon Glenda

The Ratio Christi team and I leave tomorrow for the Philippines. Part of the team is already in Manilla and awaiting their arrival. As this email is being written, Typhoon Glenda is hitting the Philippines. Please pray for the team members who are already there and in the middle of the storm. Pray for protection for the Philippines.

Ratio Christi Goes International! Conference in the Philippines

My Ratio Christi team and I are excited to be leaving next week for the Philippines for the very first Ratio Christi International Apologetics Conference. Read more about it on the Ratio Christi International Blog.

If you would like to support our Ratio Christi team, here is what you can do:

(1) Pray. for effectiveness, safety and progress in laying a foundation for the establishment of Ratio Christi clubs at universities throughout the Philippines.

(2) Sponsor. Your tax-deductible contribution will enable us to continue to respond to the invitations we have to travel to the Philippines and other parts of the world to proclaim and defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please consider becoming a regular monthly supporter through the RSM website. Make checks payable to Rolling Stone Ministries and mail to P.O. Box 186, Panora, IA 50216.

(3) Encourage. You can follow John's blogs and travel schedule at www.rollingstoneministries.org.