Jack preached a sermon he entitled, “The Bible At The Bottom Of My Duffle Bag.” Jack actually never owned a Bible until I gave him one on his 33rd birthday. In that sermon, he relates how his grandfather…gave him a service man’s New Testament. He gingerly placed it at the bottom of his duffel bag and never reached to the bottom after that. But the Bible he received on his 33rd birthday became alive to Him. Suddenly, it was God speaking to him. So, on the day a verse leaped off the pages of that Bible and took on reality, he was so excited, he began to share that excitement over God’s Word with everyone he could.
“I Have A Bias About The Bible” was the title of one of Jack Chinchen’s sermons. And he did. He and I together founded three Bible colleges, university level institutions, on the continent of Africa, in Liberia, Malawi and Uganda. The Bible was and is at the core of every subject taught, of every sermon preached in Chapel, of every life lived by the professors, and of every program that goes over the radio stations located on each campus. Jack transmitted his love for the Bible to the students who came to study at the African Bible Colleges.
Jack preached a sermon he entitled, “The Bible At The Bottom Of My Duffle Bag.” Jack actually never owned a Bible until I gave him one on his 33rd birthday. In that sermon, he relates how his grandfather (John D. Crummey, founder of Food Machinery Corp and inventor of the tank that helped win World War II) gave him a service man’s New Testament. He gingerly placed it at the bottom of his duffel bag and never reached to the bottom after that.
But the Bible he received on his 33rd birthday became alive to Him. Suddenly, it was God speaking to him. So, on the day a verse leaped off the pages of that Bible and took on reality, he was so excited, he began to share that excitement over God’s Word with everyone he could. He soon heard the call of God beckoning him to leave everything and follow Him:
“There is no man who has left, mothers and fathers and children and houses and lands for my sake and the gospels, but he shall receive a hundred-fold, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and houses and lands…and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10: 29-30).
God’s Word had spoken. Jack believed that promise. We left those beautiful pear orchards, our beautiful new home, lucrative business, friends, family and waited for God to give that 100-fold. And He did. When later, after 12 years pastoring churches, we arrived in the jungles of Liberia, everyone called me “Mother,” I had the 100-fold children; and when we started to build Bible colleges, God gave us 100-fold land, acres and acres of land in Liberia, Malawi and Uganda.
It was the Bible that changed our lives. Even when we were bush missionaries, living in a bamboo house, having a clinic in that jungle to help the sick, teaching children and pastors, when God wanted us to take that step of faith and build Bible colleges, it was the Bible that spoke to Jack out of Isaiah 18 about Africa’s great destiny and the need to prepare Christian leaders to meet that destiny.
The Bible is a precious possession, but where have all the Bibles gone?
Somehow, when the preacher pulls his cell phone out of his pocket, and begins to read Scripture, it doesn’t come with quite the authority that The Book has. I cannot picture Billy Graham holding up his cell phone and saying, ‘The Bible says….” And how can you flip through pages on a cell phone at a Bible study and hear that rustling sound of those pages turning?
I remember when my little brother, O. Palmer Robertson, stepped off the train in San Jose, California with a Bible in his hands. I confess I was a little embarrassed. People didn’t carry Bibles in their hands in public in California like they did in Mississippi. I had married this Yankee and sad to say, had forgotten the love of that Book that had been taught me since childhood. But it was Palmer’s love of God’s Word that was transmitted to me during his visit with us in California. Also, his finding a church to go to on Wednesday night and Sunday that helped me to realize how far I had fallen. I started reading that Book again and that was the beginning of a new and exciting life for these young pear growers. We began to desire to grow a different kind of fruit.
At our African Bible Colleges (ABC) we have chapel services every weekday morning at 7:30. The students will all tell you, when you ask them later in their lives, that this was the highlight of their years at ABC. Some great preachers have stood behind the chapel pulpit, but recently I was caught completely off guard when a visiting preacher pulled out his cell phone from his pocket. The students are required to bring their Bibles to chapel. But here was a Christian leader without a Bible in his hands.
Since that time, I have noticed that this is all too common. The sword is no longer visible. Has the Bible become too heavy to carry? Are we ashamed to be seen carrying that Big Book? Is it just plainly inconvenient? Or have we lost our love for the Word of God?
When you hold that Bible in your hands, you’re making a statement for all to see. Pulling a cell phone out of your pocket seems to say, “I’m with it, man: I’m not so old-fashioned that I carry that Big Book around. I’m in tune with the new generation.” That Big Book is filled with promises that can change your life. Maybe you can find them on your cell phone, but no one will know what you’re reading.
Jack’s bias for the Bible led him to spend a lot of time reading it. And writing in it. It was no secret. Our family especially recognized the value of that Book. After Jack died, several of our children asked that they be given “Dad’s Bible;” but it was too late. Our son-in-law, Steve Spencer, Marion’s husband, had already made Jack promise him his Bible. Because, he too, has a bias about the Bible.
But I also like to believe that after working side by side with Jack for 30 years at the Bible college in Malawi, he saw that Jack’s Bible was a valuable possession and should be treasured and he wanted to have that privilege. I doubt very much if any of your descendants will desire your old cell phone as part of their inheritance.
My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, let us get back to the Bible. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of god unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).
Nell Robertson Chinchen is a Missionary to Africa and Co-founder of African Bible Colleges in Liberia, Malawi and Uganda.