|MINNETONKA — What happens when American society becomes less rooted in its Christian consensus and more challenges to faith emerge? A generation—or more—grows up suddenly having to defend the beliefs that had been previously unchallenged. A culture becomes more antagonistic toward Christianity, and believers are forced to find new ways to demonstrate the reliability of the gospel.
With that reality firmly in place, FaithSearch International is planning to launch the “Explore the Evidence Twin Cities” campaign this fall to equip believers—and inform pre-believers—of the reliability of the Bible and evidence for Christianity. The campaign is a continuation of FaithSearch International’s mission that started with Dr. Don Bierle and his faith studies more than 30 years ago.
Bierle holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in the life sciences, as well as an M.A. in New Testament studies and served as a college professor for more than two decades. The third edition of his popular book “Surprised by Faith” will soon be released.
FaithSearch International, which is based on the Great Commission, has taught thousands of people about the reliability of Scripture. In its last fiscal year, nearly 500 people recorded a faith commitment as a result of its efforts; some 29,000 people attended nearly 260 FaithSearch sponsored events; and more than 4,000 people were trained to present FaithSearch material.
Even though the culture and the audience have changed drastically since FaithSearch’s founding some three decades ago, its message has remained the same.
New generation, same message
Joe Komarek worked for the Navigators as a missionary for more than a dozen years prior to coming on board FaithSearch as its executive director, freeing up Bierle from administrative tasks and allowing him to spend more time teaching. Komarek used to spend time discipling men in the marketplace, and he said that Scripture’s trustworthiness is critical for people considering the gospel and for those looking to apply it.
“If I’m going to help guys with their quiet time, help guys study the Bible, help guys get perspective from the Bible for daily living, I always started with: ‘Well, we’ve got to see if we can trust this book at all,’” he said. “If we’re going to study it and read it and apply it and actually live by it, well, Dr. Don and his evidence-based approach to discovering the truths about the Bible—historical reliability, the archaeological evidence, the scientific evidence for faith was riveting to a lot of the men in my world.”
This fall, FaithSearch is aiming to partner with churches and other organizations to host events that will teach people that the Bible is reliable; the archaeological evidence backs up biblical claims; and the manuscript evidence is trustworthy. By building on this foundation, the group hopes to then be able to convince people to rely upon the Bible’s claims—and thus put their faith in Jesus Christ.
Komarek believes FaithSearch events are good opportunities in which to invite non-believing friends and relatives, utilizing the Operation Andrew approach.
“Andrew wasn’t this upfront kind of guy, but he’s certainly networking and encouraging people as an apostle,” Komarek said. “He was introducing people to Jesus by invitation, so that people could hear. We don’t have to look too far that people can’t hear unless they’re preached at. They don’t hear because they may [have never] been invited. It’s the full combination.”
Over the years, FaithSearch International has become more internationally focused, with a Hispanic ministry and outreaches in India and Russia.
Oleg Voskresensky, who grew up in Moscow, Russia, came on board the ministry in 2006 when he translated one of Bierle’s books into Russian.
“That’s how the Russian ministry started,” he said. “Then a year later, they said, ‘We’ve got a message; we need a messenger.’ Will I take this presentation, based on the book, ‘FaithSearch Discovery,’ and translate it into Russian and take it to that part of the map that’s usually colored red and see if there’s interest, if there is potential of expanding the ministry that way.”
Public schools and universities in Russia soon signaled their interest in hearing the gospel message taught with evidence, as a story.
“[Their interest in] when and how this story unfolded and what we know about it,” he continued. “And how reliable are our sources to compare to other history resources that we have and trust and believe in and consider reliable.”
Voskresensky, who is a Bethel Seminary graduate and Orthodox Christian, is paid by the Ministry of Education in Russia to teach the gospel as history.
He usually spends three weeks in Russia teaching and six weeks at home in the U.S. preparing for the next round of classes. His audiences are mainly teachers, and he trains approximately 5,000 of them each year on the Christian story and its reliability. Voskresensky’s presentations are similar to Continuing Education classes for teachers in the U.S., where teachers are required to take a certain number of credits in order to maintain their credentials.
Despite all the cultural changes in the last 30 years, Komarek believes people are still hungering for the gospel and for changed lives.
“As long as people continue to pray, ‘Lord, save the soul of my niece, my nephew, grandma, grandpa,’ and there’s still people living out what I call ‘Operation Andrew,’” then FaithSearch International will be able to provide teaching and resources for people to make faith commitments and to encourage them in their faith.
ACTIONPOINT: For more information about FaithSearch International, visit www.faithsearch.org or call (800) 964-1447.