ABC Header



by Kevin M. Johnson

Stacks Image 51
I also find myself, even today, going back to authors like Oswald Chambers, J. Oswald Sanders, R. A. Torrey, Andrew Murray, Mother Teresa, R. Arthur Mathews, Warren Wiersbe, William Barclay and the like. I feel they had real substance. —Glen Pitts
I’ve known Glen Pitts for 35 plus years. I first met him in 1976 at the Olympic Games in Montreal. He had just made an appeal for "resources". A brand new Christian, I hesitantly responded to his request for volunteers. He needed someone to design and create a backdrop for the Leighton Ford crusade which was running parallel to the Games' closing ceremonies.

Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate both Glen and his wife, Janette, as dear friends and outstanding workmates. Glen continues to portray an entrepreneurial savvy and resourcefulness that reveals no apparent bounds. Recently, I had the privilege of asking him to share some of the insights he has gained from over four decades in ministry. He has held a rich variety of leadership positions; these have enabled him to visit and bring the gospel to more than 100 nations.

Glen, you’ve been busy since the ’76 Games. What have you been doing?

I’ve been in full-time ministry for 43 years: 12 years with Every Home for Christ in Canada, followed by a position as VP of international operations out of the United States. After that I spent a term at the National Office of the PAOC; launched a new division of ministry for Campus Crusade for Christ called Cities of the World; then devoted myself beyond age 55 to help advance the work of the kingdom wherever my skills were needed. This phase of ministry brought me to Tyndale University College and Seminary (The Tyndale Foundation), and to the Canadian Bible Society as national director. For the past four and a half years, I’ve been part of the pastoral team at Mapleview Community Church (MCC) in Barrie. I have recently started to scale back on my involvement with MCC in order to assist a couple of other international ministries that have requested my help. Helen Hayes said, “If you rest, you rust!” Over the years I have held firmly to this idea, but in recent months the idea of rest has begun to look inviting!

I’m not surprised. In 1976 you were a young entrepreneurial leader who showed little hesitation in recruiting, motivating and entrusting young volunteers to fill the city of Montreal with the message of Christ’s love. As a resource, volunteers are indispensable. What have you learned, and what advice do you have for young leaders?

So often pastors fall into the trap of thinking they must go it alone. I don’t always know what drives this idea, but the Bible is clear that a large part of our role is to teach and train others to do the work of the ministry. This involves time, risk, training and affirmation. The dividends, however, can be amazing. Many times over the years, I have encouraged those with whom I have worked to empower others. It is said that “He that multiplies the doers is greater than he that does the work.” I wonder if we really believe this. Jesus did and risked His mission on a motley selection of 12 men. Look what happened! The leader who fails to utilize others soon finds himself enmeshed in a quagmire of details, and the larger task of the church is impaired.

Our society sometimes appears to be quite cynical, and even reproachful, in regards to church and parachurch ministries. How do you inspire trust within volunteers and supporters?

I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about this. At the end of the day, I believe that what people look for in others and in ministries is integrity. I have made a conscious effort, with God’s help, to be the same person in the dark as I am in the light. Integrity breeds trust.

What are some of the more fulfilling resources you have discovered?

I am always inspired by the biographies of great men and women of God. I also find myself, even today, going back to authors like Oswald Chambers, J. Oswald Sanders, R.A. Torrey, Andrew Murray, Mother Teresa, R. Arthur Mathews, Warren Wiersbe, William Barclay and the like. I feel they had real substance. More recently, people like Jim Cymbala and Philip Yancey have had a tremendously inspiring influence on my thinking. I’ve also noticed a sense of challenge being stirred up within me by the stories of some of the saints associated with other religious persuasions. For me, they have an ability to articulate truth in fresh, new ways.

Glen, you’re a note taker. I’ve seen the evidence contained in dozens and dozens of notebooks. How do you plead?

You’re probably right. I am a ferocious note taker. I find the process beneficial even if I never again read them. Also, my wife tells me I have an active mind. It never stops. I believe it is essential to capture thoughts at the moment of inspiration. If you throw enough mud at a wall, some of it will stick! I have some ideas for a book inside me that wants to get out! Maybe all that note taking will pay off!

Your ministry has not been confined to one age group. You seem equally at home with everyone, whether young, middle-aged or senior. You seem to have great success with any age group. How so?

It is important to know your target crowd and to tailor your approach accordingly. That’s all I have tried to do. I truly enjoy every age bracket although, interestingly enough, Janette and I have most often gravitated towards people somewhat younger than us. We like the energy and creativity they bring. We are also aware of our potential to influence, even in small ways. And that is important to us in the broader context of things. On the other hand, there is much wisdom and compassion found in those who have been “on the way” for a number of years—they, too, have much to offer.

An interesting idea drawn from nature portrays life as emerging from death; for instance, the sprouts and seedlings that arise from compost or the new growth that emerges from the burned-over forest. Death and decay are not often portrayed as resources yet they do seem to have a place in the theology of Christ, and certainly in His resurrection. Have you ever been surprised by evidence of life that emerged from areas that seemed forgotten, useless or even dead?

I have. Life has not always been easy. We, too, have had our challenges. There have been times we have not been able to accomplish all we felt God had called us to a position to do. But I have tried, even in those situations, to leave the final value of my service in God’s hands. Whatever we do must be done “as unto the Lord and not as unto man.” Therefore, whether I am praised or cursed really does not matter … so long as HE is pleased. My ultimate praise is HIS “well done.”

An adjunct to that idea is the one that sees great things emerging from small things: the mustard plant from the mustard seed; the kingdom of God from the tiniest gesture of faith. What are some of the small resources that have yielded the greatest results for you?

I have always been amazed at what people are able to accomplish if they just keep moving. I think we too often over scrutinize our plans instead of just acting on the leading God is giving us. I had a six-word phrase hanging over my desk that I adopted and really believed. It simply read: “Count the cost. Go for it!” John Maxwell is right—there is paralysis in overanalysis. I remember some highly paid consultants telling me I had to “test it.” Quite frankly, I have always felt that everything we do is a test. If something isn’t working, change it! Two other thoughts have also often dominated my planning: don’t despise small beginnings; the hardest part about any job is getting started. God can’t steer a ship that’s anchored in harbour. I would sooner have tried and failed than not have tried at all.

On September 11, 2001, I had to make a difficult decision relative to my future and I was struggling. As I called out to God for His direction, a thought came racing into my mind. “As we obey, God reveals the wisdom of His choices.” I have found that God’s will is seen with greater clarity in hindsight than it is in foresight.

What are the habits that you have cultivated and employ to help you discover and maximize the resources God has left at your disposal?

Number one is a disciplined daily time in God’s Word. I can hardly wait to get up in the morning to spend this time with Jesus. It is the highlight of my day. I can’t do without it! In my travels to more than 100 countries around the world, I have spent hours and hours in airplanes, airports and hotels. I had to learn to create my own sanctuary—wherever I was. To this day it seems that I need the distraction of noise around me to do this. Strange … I know. But that’s the way it is and I don’t fight it. My sanctuary most mornings is in a corner at a Starbucks® somewhere. Isn’t it great to know that because God is everywhere, we can talk to Him anywhere?

There is also the resource of people. I get as much satisfaction out of seeing others successfully engaged in God’s work as in doing it myself.

Ours is an age where technology provides numerous ways to address our insatiable need to record and recall. Are there particular technological resources that you find yourself being drawn to regularly?
I must confess that I am not too technologically savvy. E-mails and word processing—that’s about it! I use my BlackBerry® a lot for texting and e-mailing. It is a great way to stay in contact with people and keep things moving ahead.

As you look to the future after these several decades of ministry, is there a particular area that you feel warrants a greater level of attention and resource investment for the man or woman of God who seeks to maximize returns for the kingdom?

I have wondered at times whether or not ministry today has become more of a profession than a call. We seem to be driven more by salaries and positions than by the sheer joy of responding to God’s call. Churches have in part cultivated this by an overemphasis on the substance of resumes rather than the strong evidence of a person’s “call.” When I read Scripture and look at history, I’m dumbfounded by how often God doesn’t call the “qualified.” Instead, He “qualifies” the called!
R. Arthur Mathews, in his book Ready for Battle, observes, “The recruitment technique commonly practiced today follows the challenge-volunteer method. By using this missionary-challenge approach, we have unintentionally and unconsciously substituted a lower standard than God intends. What about the command-obey approach to missionary recruiting? The demands of this method are far more exacting. We are confronted with ‘the Lord of the harvest.’ He is accorded the authority to command and the central place in the program of recruitment.”1 This thinking challenges me.

Glen, I know that a very large part of who you are and how you approach ministry is a result of influence from your Scottish bride. How has Janette been the ministry resource of your dreams?

You are right! Without the support and help of my “Scottish bride” of 43 years, I simply could not have done it! Any move we have made, we have done together. The call to ministry is also her call, even though her role in the working out of it may be vastly different. There were times when we worked together in the same ministry, as we did in Every Home Crusade, and other times where her abilities were needed to help other ministries, as with the PAOC. But we were always comfortable knowing that God was directing and using us both. Proverbs 18:22 (NASB) is absolutely true: “He who finds a good wife finds a good thing.” She has been a real trooper, a wonderful wife, and a great mother and grandmother.

1. R. Arthur Mathews, Ready for Battle (Colorado Springs, CO: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1993).
Stacks Image 9

is the assistant editor of Enrich.
Stacks Image 21