In this day of impersonal communication, the story of "The Gospel Blimp"--a satirical look at a church that substitutes using a blimp and mass media for relational evangelism--might be good for us to remember.
And as to social media, well, let's remember that it is supposed to be SOCIAL, with interaction, not mere blasting platforms. Agreed?
Does Your Church Have A Gospel Blimp? by Joe McKeever
In 1960, Joe Bayly wrote an entertaining little volume of 85 pages about a group of well-meaning church members who decide the way to reach their unsaved neighbors would be to float a Scripture-carrying blimp above the city and bombard the citizens with gospel tracts.
My copy of “The Gospel Blimp,” which I have kept all these years, was produced in the book’s 7th printing. I seem to remember a gospel film (the inexpensive kind made to be shown in churches back in the day) was made on the book.
I’ve not heard a thing of the book or the story in decades, but Dr. Bayly’s point was so timeless, it still applies today. The story (sort of a parable, I suppose) needs to be dusted off and retold.
See what you think.
The blimp idea got started when this little cluster of friends from a conservative evangelical church were enjoying a barbecue in George and Ethel’s back yard and began discussing their next-door neighbors. It was obvious they were unsaved because they were drinking beer and playing cards. Someone pointed out that they attend a liberal church, and this just a few times a year. As a plane went overhead, a fellow named Herm remarked that if that aircraft had been carrying a message such as “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” the lost neighbors would have received a witness since they also had glanced in its direction.
One thing led to another and the idea was birthed to buy a blimp and have it trail Scripture messages across the sky for citizens to read. They formed a non-profit, got themselves chartered, organized a board with officers, and made Herm, the fellow with the idea, its executive. Soon, Herm resigned his job and went full-time with International Gospel Blimps, Inc.
Someone had the idea of tying gospel tracts with colored cellophane tape and bombarding the neighborhoods with “fire bombs” from Heaven.
A project like this naturally would require a great deal of money for maintenance, a hangar for the blimp, and salaries for the pilots and the executive. Fund-raising quickly took a great deal of time and energy from the organizers.
Within weeks, the board members began devoting all their spare hours to this project. In order to keep the blimp running, to tape the fire bombs, and to raise money, they missed their kids’ little league ball games, had to turn down invitations from friends to go out for pizza, and gave up all their evenings at home.
Soon, they added a loudspeaker to the blimp so Herm could preach short messages across the city while dropping firebombs and dragging the Scripture du jour through the sky. When the sermons began invading their homes, citizens rose up in protest. The police chief came close to arresting them for disturbing the peace, but backed off when they agreed to dismantle the speakers.
Meanwhile, Herm, the executive, began devoting less and less time to the actual day-to-day running of the Gospel Blimp ministry. He roamed far and wide to raise money and make public appearances. Gone from home so much, his wife eventually filed for divorce, particularly when she learned the primary reason for his long absences. The board, however, decided that Herm was so valuable to the ministry they could not dismiss him. After all, it was only her word against his. So, they went forward.
And what about the unsaved neighbors who were the impetus for all this blimpness in the first place? A few times, when they knocked on George and Ethel’s door to see if they wanted to come over or accompany them on a little fishing trip, they found them away from home or too occupied with the blimp business.
George and Ethel were the first couple to drop out of the Blimp ministry, feeling that it had somehow gotten off course and was taking too much of their time with only miniscule results.
Some of the high-powered executives with whom Herm played golf (a lot of golf!) talked him into added commercial messages to the blimp in order to increase its acceptance and generate more funds. Soon, the blimp sports religious messages saying “I am the way” and others saying, “The American way is the best way.”
On the third anniversary of the original cookout where the blimp idea had surfaced, George and Ethel invited over their friends who were still heavily involved in the work of the IGBI. In their back yard, they introduced their neighbors, the ones whose salvation had been the original impetus for the blimp business. They had come to know Christ and George and Ethel thought the blimp board needed to know how that had happened.
The board members were ecstatic. “Which firebomb did God use to reach you?” “Was it one of the Scriptures we trailed?” “Was it one of Herm’s sermons?”
None of that. In fact, they said, that infernal blimp had driven them batty.
What had happened was that after George and Ethel had pulled out of the blimp ministry, they had time to get to know the neighbors. When the wife went into the hospital, Ethel would visit her, take flowers from the garden and sit with her. She would read to the woman and they would talk about Jesus.
Meanwhile, they invited the husband over for evening meals. He sat in on family devotionals when George read the Bible and prayed. Neither the man nor his wife had ever met anyone to whom Jesus Christ was real.
The husband told the backyard group, “There’s something else. Any of you guys ever spend two weeks keeping house with the wife away?” His house had been filthy.
“Ethel came in the day before my wife came home and gave that house the going-over of its life.”
The wife added, “Yes, and for a month after I got home she wouldn’t let me do a stitch of washing or ironing. Took all our dirty clothes home and did them.”
In the silence that followed this testimony, one of the board members ventured that now that the neighbors were saved, they would surely be interested in joining the blimp ministry.
“Sorry,” the new believer said. “George and I are going bowling with the guy across the street.”
Joe Bayly gives his interpretation of this modern-day parable in the final chapter. “The little city where the Gospel Blimp was conceived is the world, our latter twentieth century American world, in which Christians work and play, raise children, buy automobiles and face the devil.”
Our next door neighbors, Bayly said, may be down the road or across town. They may drink beer and play cards but they may just as well attend the symphony and lead the local civic club. “Some of them may even sit near us on Sunday morning.”
The Blimp? Bayly says, “Why the wonderful Gospel Blimp is every impersonal, external means by which we try to fulfil our responsibility to witness to our neighbors. Gospel programs over the radio, messages on billboards or in tracts; these are some of our blimps.”
“These are poor substitutes for personal communication of the gospel, the sort of witnessing we glimpse from afar in the New Testament.”
What do you think of "THE GOSPEL BLIMP" story?
Cassie Bernall - Columbine High School Students Accepts Christ, Says, "Yes,"--and Sacrifices for Him
Is Your Jesus Worth Dying For? from The Story Of Cassie Bernall
As Cassie entered the ninth grade, her mom Misty just “had that gut feeling that something was wrong. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but I just knew something was wrong. I didn’t feel like either I nor my husband had any connection with her.”
Desperate for answers, Misty began to search Cassie’s room regularly, and on one occasion was shocked to discover evidence that her daughter had developed an interest in witchcraft, drugs and alcohol. Facing the trauma of how to deal with their troubled teen, Cassie’s parents decided that the only way to stop their daughter from making more bad decisions was to make a few good choices for her.
So, they began making changes. For starters, they transferred Cassie to a new school–Columbine High School, in suburban Littleton, Colorado. They also kept closer tabs on her friends, her attitudes, and her study habits. In general, they put their foot down, and said, “Cassie, it stops here. You must now choose to take responsibility for your life.”
Cassie began to respond – positively…new friends, new attitudes. One of the new friends was Dave McPherson, youth pastor at West Bowles Community Church. McPherson admitted to the Denver Post that, when he first saw Cassie, he thought to himself, “There’s no hope for that girl. Not our kind of hope.” The joyless look on her face, the monosyllabic speech which came from her lips — all of it suggested that perhaps Cassie was just “too far gone.”
One weekend, though, McPherson encouraged Cassie to accompany the church youth on retreat, and, with her parents’ enthusiastic permission, she agreed. That weekend which changed Cassie’s life. Said Brad, her father, “When she left, she was this gloomy, head-down, say-nothing youth. When she came back, her eyes were open and bright and she was bouncy and just excited about what had happened to her and was just so excited to tell us. It was like she was in a dark room, and somebody turned the light on, and she saw the beauty that was surrounding her.” Said Misty, “She looked at me in the eye and she said, “Mom, I’ve changed. I’ve totally changed. I know you’re not going to believe it, but I’ll prove it to you.'”
The “light” that had been turned on in 17-year-old Cassie’s life was the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom she had trusted as her personal Lord and Savior at that church retreat. Jesus changed Cassie-from the inside out. A deep-down, 100-percent kind of transformation, like Paul spoke of in Romans 12:2 when he exhorted us, “be transformed by the renewing of your minds!” Gone was the preoccupation with the occult; instead, Cassie began to spend her spare time, along with her new Christian friends, ministering at Denver’s inner-city Victoria Outreach Church, serving dinner to prostitutes and drug addicts as part of that church’s mission ministry. Cassie even planned to cut off her cornsilk-colored hair that hung halfway down her back, so that it could be given to “someone who makes wigs for kids who are going through chemotherepy,” according to her aunt, Kayleen.
One night, Cassie spoke of her newfound hope for the future with her mom. She said, “Mom, it would be OK if I died. I’d be in a better place, and you know where I’d be.” The same girl who, just a couple years before, had been spinning on the edge, in danger of falling into hopelessness. Jesus change her-she was living life sacrificially in Jesus’ name, and she was ready to die as a child of the Lord Jesus.
On Sunday night, April 18, Cassie stood up and gave her testimony to her youth group at church. She told them, “You really can’t live without Christ. It’s, like, impossible to really have a really true life without Him.” Cassie was ready. With her life–and with death, if necessary.
Two days after that, Cassie was sitting in the library of Columbine High School when Eric Harris and Dylan Kelbold burst in with homemade pipe-bombs and guns. They knew who she was; she’d made no secret of her newfound faith.
The Bible stacked on top of her textbooks, along with the WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do?”) bracelet around her wrist, clearly marked Cassie as one of the “Christians” of Columbine High.
“Do you believe in God?” was the question which was posed to her by that young member of the self-proclaimed “Trenchcoat Mofia.” Her friend, Keven Koeniger, later said that Cassie paused for a long moment. He said, “I think she knew she was going to die.”
Finally, the response came: “Yes, I believe in God.” The trigger was pulled.
You think the question, “Are you ready to die for Jesus?” isn’t an urgent one? Just ask Cassie Bernall. Ask her parents. Misty and Brad said, “We looked at each other and we said, ‘Would I have done that? I would have begged for my life!’ She didn’t.
Cassie Bernall’s brother Chris found this poem on her desk. It was the last poem she wrote before she died.
“Now I have given up on everything else.
I have found it to be the only way
To really know Christ
And to experience the Mighty power
That brought Him back to life again
And to find out what it means
to suffer and die with Him.
So, whatever it takes
I will be one who lives
In the fresh newness of life
Of those who are alive from the dead”
Is your Jesus worth dying for?
(Note: The “poem” above is actually a quotation from the Living Bible Phil. 3:10-11. The author of this article was mistaken in thinking that Cassie had been the author. However, it is fairly certain that Cassie looked to these verses soon before her death. Also, there are differing accounts from the shooting of who was asked if they believed in God. )
What an incredible story! What do you think of this?
What do people think of Christians? This short video of actual google search results paints an unflattering picture. May be seek to be more like Christ, not unlike him!
What are your thoughts on this?
Ten Little Christians - A Call Back to Mission
Satan wants us to get distracted from our mission of reaching out to the world, with petty squables, fractions, selfishness, and apathy. This little poem, Ten Little Christians, reminds us of needing to guard against these distractions--and of what can happen if we instead committed to Christ and his mission and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ.
• Ten little Christians, standing in a line, one disliked the preacher, then there were nine.
• Nine little Christians stayed up very late, one slept in on Sunday, then there were eight.
• Eight little Christians on their way to heaven, one took his own road, then there were seven.
• Seven little Christians chirping like some chicks, one disliked the song leader, then there were six.
• Six little Christians seemed very much alive, but one lost his interest then there were five.
• Five little Christians pulling for heaven’s shore, but one stopped to rest, then there were four.
• Four little Christians, busy as a bee, one got her feelings hurt, then there were three.
• Three little Christians knew not what to do, one couldn’t forgive another, then there were two.
• Two little Christians, our rhyme is nearly done, quarreled over petty stuff, then there was only one.
• One little Christian, can’t do much ‘tis true; brought his friend to Bible study – then there were two.
• Two earnest Christians, each won one more, that doubled the number, then there were four.
• Four sincere Christians worked early and worked late, each won another, then there were eight.
• Eight splendid Christians, if they doubled as before, in just a few short weeks, we’d have 1,024.
What do you think of this poem and the issues that it raises?
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Dr. James Nored is a preacher, evangelist, writer, and missional leader. He currently preaches and helps lead the church into mission at the Fairfax Church of Christ in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.