I write this just a few weeks after Bill Gothard stood down from leadership of the IBLP ministry which he created and has led for decades. Accusations of impropriety have been levelled against him and will be sorted out in due course.
While many people have placed their sights on the ‘man’ I would like to take a moment to reflect on the Message and Ministry which this man of God brought about.
I first heard of Bill Gothard in the early 1990’s when he and a team of young people first came to Australia to present his world famous Basic Seminar. My oldest son, Stephen, in his late teens, attended and returned home wonderfully impacted and transformed by the message and ministry of the IBLP.
Stephen had new perspective on himself, selfishness, godly living, the powerful relevance of God’s word in his life, life purpose, the importance of lifting his game spiritually and much more.
What impacted Stephen was a combination of the teaching received in the Basic Seminar and the encouragement of several young men, not much older than himself, who had applied the things Mr Gothard taught and had wonderful fruit in their lives as a consequence.
My wife and I were so impressed by the impact of the IBLP message and ministry on our son that we quickly made plans to hear the seminars ourselves and to look into the ATI home schooling program. We were already teaching our children at home and wanted to understand this alternative approach.
To attend the seminars our family (minus my two youngest sons) flew to New Zealand and were blessed by what we learned and saw. The young people and families who sought to apply the Biblical principles taught in the seminars were clearly blessed and enriched by doing so.
My family not only began the ATI home-schooling but my three oldest sons enjoyed time at IBLP Headquarters in Chicago and I headed to the USA to attend a seminar for dads, where I was privileged to make some small input as well. I was also privileged to travel with Bill Gothard between Indianapolis and Chicago. One of my sons later attended the Alert training program and we assisted the ministry to get set up in Melbourne, Australia.
As I reflect on that wonderful and life-changing season in our lives I have to thank God for the message and ministry of Bill Gothard. His desire to seek God and to minister effectively led to the creation of a ministry much bigger than himself. Few Christian leaders have had as much impact internationally as Bill Gothard has enjoyed for decades.
Does that make Mr Gothard infallible? Of course not. He is as human as the rest of us. He, like each of us, also has his own personality, style, gifting and focus.
I don’t hold equally to all things taught by the IBLP. But then I don’t hold equally to all things I hear from the pulpit in my home church, or from popular Christian speakers, or from Focus on the Family, Hillsong, the various prophetic voices or Spurgeon.
Whether Bill Gothard has things to answer or his accusers have wronged him there is no mistaking the call of God on his life and the grace of God at work through him to multitudes. My family is testimony to the impact of the Gothard Message and there are tens of thousands who have much the same fruit.
Sadly that fact may be lost in the rumblings that inevitably occur in situations like this.
I have seen several sad evidences of Christians rejoicing that Mr Gothard has ‘fallen’. I can only assume they do not like the message and ministry and cannot see that when a Christian leader is shamed we all suffer. I wonder if those people would be keen to have their past actions exposed for public scrutiny and ridicule.
A Christian leader commented to me in light of Bill Gothard’s current challenges, “There isn’t a preacher alive today who doesn’t have past actions and choices they wouldn’t want made public.”
We also see the inevitable opinion posturing too. People quickly forget our important principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and readily spout their opinion without having first hand knowledge of any of the facts. Christ warns us about this kind of judging of one another – “judge not that you be not judged”. That’s a road I don’t want to go down.
At the same time we see something fresh in the IBLP world. I once observed to Bill Gothard that he does not have a succession plan in place. He was probably little more than 60 at the time. The following day Bill asked, “What if God doesn’t want a successor in place?”
Corporate programming led me to make and impose assumptions on God’s work without thought for God’s plan and purpose. I had to recognise that the IBLP ministry does not belong to me and I have no right to any opinion about how it should be run. That ministry was brought about by God through Bill Gothard and those around him. Any opinion I held was presumptuous and out of place. I left the matter with God and Bill.
With Bill Gothard stepping down we now see the beginnings of a succession process. Others whom God has prepared are able to step into the current gap and exercise their gifts and calling.
Whatever the end result of all of this, I continue to rejoice in Bill Gothard’s message and ministry and the thousands of young people and families established with godly wisdom and insight that I did not have at that same time in my life.
I praise God for the tens of thousands of godly, talented and wise men and women raised up and still being raised up to impact our world with the gospel and the truth of God’s Word.
I pray that God give grace to Bill Gothard and the IBLP ministry. As is always the case when human life is compared with Christ, “He must increase but we must decrease”. But it is also true that “God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”.
I encourage all those who have also been blessed by Bill Gothard’s message and ministry to hold fast that which is good and continue to live for the one who is eternal and for His eternal purposes on the earth.