Our Name is Our Mission

It isn’t often that I have an epiphany, but I had one last spring, during a late-night phone call with a friend. It all started early in the year when the Keep Believing board decided that we wanted to find a logo for our ministry. That might seem like a simple task, but anyone involved in marketing knows how challenging it can be. We enlisted the services of Vince Cook, a friend who has done extensive work with a nationally-known advertising agency. Vince gave us a few questions to answer, and a few weeks later he sent us some proposed sketches, which we discussed at our next board meeting.

After an animated exchange of views, we basically decided that we didn’t like any of them. Vince had given us various symbols arranged in different ways, each with its own distinctive color scheme. So we debated about this one, and we argued about that one. Cliff liked # 5, MaryAnn liked #s 7 and 9, Brian liked #s 2, 4, 8 and 9, and so on. We eventually concluded that we needed another round of logos to consider. We got back to Vince with the news, who didn’t seem surprised at all. This was just the first go-round, he said. It was all part of sharpening the focus of the ministry.

When we met for our next board meeting (about six weeks later), we probably spent 30-40 minutes discussing the new designs. I remember that we held them up side by side, and argued about the relative merits of this one versus that one. Finally we decided that we sort of liked part of this one and sort of liked part of that one. I was delegated to report everything back to Vince. A few days later I called him on the phone. It was late in the evening when I reached him, and he was still at work. That’s when I had the epiphany.

As we talked, it became clear that none of the symbols seemed to capture the essence of what our ministry is all about. Then we began talking about the power of words. Vince commented that in naming our ministry, we had chosen two of the most powerful words in the English language. “Believing” is something we all have to do every. If you didn’t believe in something, you’d never get out of bed in the morning. In an age of fear, skepticism, and widespread doubt, people desperately want something to believe, even if they don’t know exactly what that “something” is.

That’s when Vince started to get excited. “This is it! We’ve been talking about symbols when we ought to simply take the two words and make them the logo because they speak for themselves.” “Believing is strong,” he added, “but when you put the word ’keep’ in front of it, you’ve got one of the most powerful combinations I’ve ever seen.”

That’s when it hit me. I had one of those moments when the light came on, and I saw something I hadn’t seen before.

Two words.
Two simple words.
Two words everyone understands.
Two words that carry a life-changing message.

Keep Believing.

I felt in that moment as if God had spoken and said, “Yes, that’s it. That’s what I want you to do.”

Vince spoke up and said, “When I think about ’keep believing,’ I think of a soldier who is wounded in the middle of a fierce battle. His buddies gather round him and whisper in his ear, ’Don’t give up. Keep Believing.’”

That’s why our logo doesn’t have a catchy symbol on it. It has two words—Keep Believing—and a globe underneath. The two words tell why we do what we do, and the globe simply means that we intend to go around the world with our message.

My epiphany—that moment of rare insight—wasn’t really about the logo at all. It was all about God’s call to us. And more personally it was about something God has been working in my heart for many years.

We want to help people believe in Jesus.
And we want to help people to keep believing in him.

If you know our name, you know what we’re all about.

That’s what we do.
That’s who we are.

That’s why we say, “Our name is our mission.” If you know our name, you know what we’re all about.

I recognize that “keep believing” is a major theme of my own life. It’s a message God has given me to share with others. So many people struggle with heartache and discouragement. A big part of my calling is to come alongside them and encourage them to “keep believing.” If you read my books or listen to me preach, you know how often I return to this theme. So the name reflects both a need of many people today and a deep passion of my heart.

A Personal Update

I started dreaming about Keep Believing Ministries nine years ago. I can now see clearly that long before we formally organized the ministry in the spring of 2006, God was preparing my own heart for this step of faith. And not just my heart, but Marlene’s also. She fully shares the vision God has given us together.

On a personal level, this has been a year of faith-stretching change for our family. Nick graduated from Samford University, we bought a home in Tupelo, Mark and Vanessa got engaged in China, were married in California in July, and then moved to Tupelo. Josh and Leah went to China as team leaders and English teachers at a university in Nanchang. After we committed to go “all in” in KBM, God enlarged our vision, put us on the road big-time, and opened many new doors for us. We’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) all about non-stop travel, close connections, lost luggage, how to navigate every major US airport, and the importance of not forgetting your passport when you fly to Canada.

Many times this year I have mentioned our outreach through the Anchor Book Depot, which we opened in Chicago in June. Since starting this ministry seven years ago at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL, we have given away over 300,000 copies of An Anchor for the Soul to prison ministries, military ministries, for disaster relief, and for general missionary outreach. We have received over 10,000 prisoner letters thanking us for the book, many also saying that they came to a Christ as a result of reading it.

“I have only 2 dollars to give but it is the thought that counts.”

A few months ago we received a check from an inmate at a prison in New York. After reading “An Anchor for the Soul,” he decided to send a donation to our ministry. “I have only 2 dollars to give but it is the thought that counts,” he said. His letter stands as a reminder of our basic commitment to give away all our content, to make it all of it free, and to make it as accessible as possible so that we can minister to people around the world through the Keep Believing website.

Here’s a note that arrived in early November from a prisoner in Pennsylvania:

Dear Ray Pritchard,

Hello, what’s up? I hope you are doing OK. My name is Shawn. I have just read your book “An Anchor for the Soul.” I’m writing you because how I read it was an accident from God. It was the best thing that EVER happened to me in my life. Thanks to you I have found God.

I got into a fight and went into the hole. So I was trading my food trays for envelopes (a kind of money in jail) and I wound up trading a food tray for a book to read. It’s something to do because you’re not allowed out of your cell. I looked at the book and thought, Ah, a religious book, I got ripped off. Cuz I never believed in God. I decided to read the first little bit to see if I’d like it. Once I read that first prayer and everything before it, it touched me and I flew through the book. You covered every aspect I ever thought about. You’re right, once you’ve hit rock bottom, you can only look up.

Thanks to your book and my accidentally stumbling upon it, I have a different outlook on life. The day I found God was 9/22/07. O Thank you so much!

Sincerely,

Shawn

Highlights From 2007

Here are a few highlights from 2007:

*In January I spoke to a group of pastors at the Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching in Memphis.

*Later that month we led a tour to the Holy Land. On our final day in Jerusalem, we shared the Lord’s Supper 30 feet from the entrance to the Garden Tomb.

*In February I spoke for a Bible conference at Word of Life Florida.

*In March we traveled to New York where I taught Galatians to over 400 eager students at Word of Life Bible Institute.

*In late April we made our first visit to New Brunswick Bible Institute. Marlene spoke to the women on “Designed by God: The Shaping of a Woman’s Heart,” and my topic was “Stories Jesus Still Tells: Life Lessons from the Master Teacher.”

*Also in April we added an online giving feature to the KBM website.

*In June I was a “master coach” at the Global Proclamation Academy in Dallas. This unique program draws young Christian leaders from Africa, Asia, South America and Eastern Europe. I taught through the Apostles’ Creed and encouraged them to go home and preach it to their own congregations.

*During the summer I spoke at Camp Nathanael (KY), Word of Life (NY), Gull Lake Ministries (MI), and Cannon Beach Conference Center (OR).

*In September we traveled to Durango, CO to speak to pastors, missionaries and other Christian workers at Rocky Mountain Renewal.

*Later that month we journeyed to Thailand where we met Charles and Lourdes Holmes. Working with them (and alongside Bill and Mary Jo Price of Columbus, OH) we visited the large women’s prison in Bangkok, spoke to 300 women there, and then led a seminar on evangelism for 250 Christian workers from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Vietnam.

*In October I taught a seminar on preaching to a group of young pastors at Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

*At the end of October Marlene and I had the privilege of speaking together at our first-ever couples conference in Schroon Lake, NY.

*November found us at Camp Forest Springs in Westboro, WI speaking to a group of pastors and wives.

*We then traveled to Montreal where we both spoke at the MEF Mission Fest. There we experienced a warm Canadian welcome and felt energized by the multicultural unity of the evangelical community in Quebec.

That list contains only part of the traveling we did this year. God put us on the road from coast to coast and to the other side of the world (Thailand). While traveling is not easy, it has been good to see the body of Christ at work in many different settings.

Everywhere we go, we find no shortage of people who need encouragement to keep believing.

Everywhere we go, we find no shortage of people who need encouragement to keep believing. It’s clear that we are to work in the area of encouraging Christian workers (pastors, missionaries, teachers, and other leaders—and their spouses) because there are many discouraged workers who need someone from the outside to talk to who is safe. We want to help the servants of God by providing usable resources for them.

China continues to play a large role in our thinking. During 2007 we completed the first phase of our Anchor for China project that will allow us to equip 50,000 Chinese pastors and house church leaders with copies of the Chinese version of An Anchor for the Soul. We received permission to post the Chinese version of An Anchor for the Soul on the KBM website. Chinese readers around the world will be able to download it for personal use or for a home Bible study.

Filling in the Big Picture

Those highlights tell only part of the story. Here are a few other items that fill in the big picture.

1) One year ago Marlene and I made the decision to go “all in” on Keep Believing Ministries. It seemed clear to us that God was leading us and there seemed to be no reason to hold back.

2) In March the Keep Believing board took a deep breath and voted to put us on a part-time salary. That was a huge step of faith on their part. In September they took an even bigger step when they put us on fulltime salary.

3) In May Moody Publishers released Stealth Attack, my new book on spiritual warfare in an age of terror. That led to a series of radio interviews, including several after the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech that allowed me to offer hope from God’s Word.

4) That same month we approved the new Keep Believing logo. In November we printed our first stationery using the new logo. In December we sent out our first KBM newsletter with the new logo.

5) In June the Internal Revenue Service granted KBM tax-exempt status as an approved 501c3 non-profit organization. That means that all contributions are deductible as allowed by the law.

We received permission to post the Chinese version of An Anchor for the Soul on the KBM website. Chinese readers around the world will be able to download it for personal use or for a home Bible study.

6) In late June we opened the Anchor Book Depot in Chicago.

7) During the year new foreign language translations of several of my books were released in Portuguese, Korean, Chinese and French.

8) In August Broadman and Holman released my new book called Fire and Rain: The Wild-Hearted Faith of Elijah. In October Kindred Spirit (published by Dallas Seminary) published an article that started as a weblog entry—Counterintuitive Faith.

9) Each week we sent out a sermon to a growing list of email subscribers. By the end of the year the sermon list had grown to over 4200 addresses. The list of countries is too long to include here, but it includes Nigeria, China, Belgium, United Arab Emirates, Cameroon, Malaysia, Norway, Israel, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India and Fiji. We know of a pastor in Ghana who sends them to other pastors. A man in Singapore sends them to Christian workers in the Philippines. A friend in military ministry forwards them to sailors serving in the U.S. Navy.

KBM Goes Round the World

The following emails show how the sermons are being used around the world:

From Greece:

With much interest I read your inspired messages and my heart is blessed. I forward your messages to some Greek pastors as well.

From the Philippines:

I just finished reflecting on one of your messages sent to me (If I believe, why do I doubt?) for my quiet time. Thank you. I am learning a lot from your sermons and God is using them for my spiritual growth. I am using your sermons, translating them in Filipino, and preaching them to our flock. God is glorified by your faith expressed in your messages.

From Singapore:

Your sermon “When you need to know you’ll know,” which I have just read, was so thoughtful, inspiring and pertinent. I am a Singapore reader of your weekly sermon emails and want you to know how much your work is appreciated in shores far distant from Tupelo.

From Sweden:

Hello Brother in Christ. I am a priest in the Church of Sweden since 1974. I’ve preached the Christmas gospel all the time. But this year I looked desperately for a new approach. And praise the Lord - I found your internet site. Your sermon on Matthew 1:1-16 really gave me a new approach. I shared your thoughts with my parish in Hjorted. Thanks and God bless you!

I just thought you would like to know that your ministry is stretching across the ocean to reach people you may never meet on earth.

From Mexico:

I am Dr Salazar from Mexico, first of all I want to say my English is not very good, but I know the words I want to say. God Bless you and your family, I use your sermons in my Church, I like them so much, they have been very blessing for me for many years. Pastor Ray thank you for sending me your sermons, I appreciate it so much. You have a brother in Christ in Monclova Coahuila, México

From India:

I am very blessed with each message I receive and the wonderful way God is using you through Keep Believing Ministries. It is a great encouragement to me especially now that I am going through a very low period in my own ministry. I read all your messages over and over again and they bring great comfort to me.

Finally, this report comes from a missionary who was visiting Bermuda and found one of the sermons helpful in his ministry:

I just wanted to tell you that I preached from an outline you prepared this last Sunday. It was called “What does God want for Christmas?” Thank you for putting these tools out there. I preached in a church in Bermuda last Sunday and this morning the sermon (Part one) was heard on a Bermudian radio station that can be heard all across the island. I just thought you would like to know that your ministry is stretching across the ocean to reach people you may never meet on earth.

An Internet-Driven Ministry

All year long we worked on expanding our Internet outreach. At its heart KBM is an Internet-driven ministry. The Internet levels the playing field and allows us to minister across national and cultural boundaries. At the present time over 1 billion people have Internet access. That number will greatly increase in the next few years. During 2007 we had over 2.8 million hits on our website. It contains a daily weblog plus a growing list of 850+ sermons plus several hundred articles. Everything we do starts with the website. I say that because we don’t have a home office per se and we don’t own any buildings. Understanding that we live in a “flat world” joined by technology, we believe that by creatively using the Internet, we can expand our outreach and ultimately impact the whole world for Jesus Christ.

We believe that by creatively using the Internet, we can expand our outreach and ultimately impact the whole world for Jesus Christ.

During the year we made some important improvements, including acquiring the equipment necessary to begin podcasting. All year long we researched the best way to move forward, and in November we hired Derek Taylor, a gifted web designer, to do a complete makeover of the KBM website. Those of you who are Internet-savvy understand what a huge undertaking this is. When his work is finished, the website will look and feel completely different from our current design. God willing, when it is unveiled in the first quarter of 2008, the new website will enable us to reach many more people than we can now. It will be a truly international enterprise that will allow us to share our message worldwide 24/7/365.

The new Keep Believing website will serve five purposes:

* Provide essential information about the ministry – news, event schedule, communication center.
* Daily weblog so that people can keep in touch with us and feel the heartbeat of the ministry.
* Weekly sermon and update…may be the most important thing we do.
* Social network and community—a place for feedback, a forum for questions, a way that friends of KBM can meet for discussion and encouragement.
* Online library – sermons, audio podcasts, video, books.

One of our discussions this year has revolved around how much of the website content should be given away free. The basic answer is, nearly all of it. Our vision is to provide world-class biblical resources in written, audio and video format, free of charge, in an easily accessible format, for people around the world. We will only charge for that which costs us something to produce, such as CDs and DVDs. But our overriding principle will be …

Make It Free
Make All of It Free
Make It Easy to Find
Make It Available to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere

If you think about it, the only way to do that is to trust God to raise up friends who believe in this ministry. And this year we have seen God touch hearts all over the country. We now have several hundred people who give to Keep Believing Ministries. We think that’s amazing considering that this ministry didn’t even exist two years ago.

Our vision is to provide world-class biblical resources in written, audio and video format, free of charge, in an easily accessible format, for people around the world.

Because we do not believe in traveling just for the sake of traveling, here are our priorities when thinking about speaking invitations:

1) Encouraging the younger generation.
2) Encouraging pastors, especially younger pastors.
3) Helping local churches.
4) Supporting the cause of global missions.
5) Teaching overseas.

we see ourselves as a support ministry to pastors and local churches everywhere. We supply books to other ministries, online sermons for pastors needing help, and we travel wherever the Lord leads us to encourage people by preaching and through personal contacts. In addition we offer encouragement through the weblog and through email and phone calls. Personally I don’t think much about how large Keep Believing will become. That’s in the hands of the Lord. We want to be of service to people who want to know Jesus and to those who need encouragement to keep believing.

Looking Ahead

Here’s what’s on tap as move forward:

1) We will be doing more international ministry. We start in early January with a trip to minister to missionaries in Bolivia. In February we will be in China, in May we’ll be in the Czech Republic, and in late August we will be leading a pastors’ conference in Peru. In September I am speaking at A conference for pastors from India who live in northern Virginia. And in October we will be in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

As the ministry expands, I dream of the day when Marlene and I can lead teams of people to various countries several times a year to do pastoral ministry, teaching, training and personal encouragement.

2) We plan to greatly expand our Internet outreach. As the website is developed, we will be working hard to offer podcasting, a daily vlog (video blog), free study guides, free PDF files of my out-of-print books, and PDF files of some foreign language translations. I have an idea for an “open-source” project where we will take my book The ABCs of Wisdom (100 character studies from Proverbs), post it on the website, and offer readers a chance to add their own content.

3) We want to encourage pastors and other Christian workers. We have discovered hurting pastors everywhere we go. The Lord’s servants often come under fierce attack and need hope and help to keep believing and not to give up.

4) We want to add more foreign language translations for An Anchor for the Soul. Right now we’re praying about doing an Arabic translation.

“I consider you a mentor from a distance.”

5) We are giving high priority to helping train the next generation of young Christian leaders. We did that this year at the Olford Institute, Word of Life Bible Institute, with the pastors in Los Angeles, and with the Christian workers in Thailand. I get excited about working with younger pastors in the area of preaching. That’s one reason we send out the free sermon each week.

We do live in amazing times. Through the power of the Internet, I can push a button on my computer and a sermon I wrote goes out to thousands of people around the world. Most of them I will never meet. But now and then you discover that your ministry has a far-reaching impact. Here’s an email we received several weeks ago:

This is Niño, a Filipino from Japan. I just want to tell you how thankful I am for your articles & sermons which help me a lot in my personal devotion & sermon preparation. Don’t worry, I don’t copy it but I am always happy to reflect or evaluate my sermon from yours.

I may be a stranger to you, but it is not important, the important thing is that as a young minister I consider you a mentor from a distance.

I can’t allow this blessed season without greeting you a merry, merry Christmas. May you touch more lives. I am sure there are more out there who are the recipients of your ministry. Have a good health & longer life.

One sentence jumped out at me. “I consider you a mentor from a distance.” Wow! What a privilege to be a mentor for a young man from Japan who found the Keep Believing website and now uses our resources to strengthen his own work for the Lord.

Several years ago God placed a heavy burden on my heart to do whatever I could to encourage pastors, especially younger pastors, and especially those serving around the world. Little by little God is opening doors for us to “mentor from a distance” in every part of the globe.

“The World CANNOT Live Without Jesus”

As we come to the end of 2007, we are very conscious of our debt to you. We started the year in Israel and ended with a trip to Montreal. In between we traveled coast to coast and to Thailand. Now God is opening some amazing doors for 2008. And none of it would be possible without your faithful prayers and financial support.

“The world CANNOT live without Jesus.”

That’s why we do what we do. A few months ago I received a note from a friend whose husband died a few years ago. I was privileged to speak at his funeral service. Although she lives on a small budget, she wrote to say that she had decided to begin giving to Keep Believing Ministries. Here is how she ended her note:

I want to give to KBM and one way that I do this is not to renew my magazine subscriptions. I love my mags (Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, etc) but I CAN live without them and the world CANNOT live without Jesus. I will do what I can, when I can and as often as I can. I will pray for opportunities for me to get $$ so that I can give.”

God bless you and keep you, right in the palm of his big hand!

Those are the notes that keep us going. I love how she put it.

“The world CANNOT live without Jesus.”
That’s why we do what we do.

“Our name is our mission.”

Two simple words.
Keep Believing.

It’s what we’re all about. Thanks for partnering with us in this great adventure of faith.

 

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