Revive Our Hearts Radio

Gospel Patrons

Leslie Basham: Can a business person make a big difference for God's kingdom? In the 1500s, a businessman decided to break the laws of England and distribute an English-language Bible. John Rinehart describes how this businessman and his staff distributed Bibles.

John Rinehart: They would occasionally smuggle them in layers of cloth as they were doing their business transactions, and they put them on the merchant ships and smuggled them up the arteries and the waterways and into the ports all over England. And the Bible began to get out!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, November 18, 2014.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Generous giving! Now, I realize that topic may not seem real exciting to some of our listeners. But today, we're going to hear a story about the joy and the excitement that can come when we give generously to the Lord's work.

Earlier this year I had the privilege of speaking at the Generous Giving National Conference in Atlanta. I listened to several different speakers encourage the listeners to develop a biblical paradigm for giving. One of the most intriguing messages I heard was from a speaker named John Rinehart, who talked about the concept of "gospel patrons."

You've probably heard of patrons before. For example, in the past, a patron of the arts would support an artist so they could be free to pursue their craft without being unnecessarily burdened by financial concerns. A gospel patron supports those who are devoted to spreading the gospel.

We're about to hear that message from John Rinehart. He's the author of a book called Gospel Patrons, and he's going to share a riveting story of one businessman who saw what God was doing and used his talents and finances to join in that work. Let's listen now to that message from the Generous Giving conference.

John Rinehart describes how he first got interested in gospel patronage.

John: I started out as a Business major in college. I went to school at Biola University in California—a small Christian school. I was a Marketing major; my wife, who's sitting over here, was an Accounting major. I was not really sure where that would go.

I ended up selling copy machines after school. It was a great experience for me. I was dealing with executives and business people all the time. God used the job to help us pay off our student loans. About a year-and-half into it, we started asking the question, "What's next?"

I looked up the company organizational chart. I didn't want to be "this guy" in five years, or "this guy" in ten years or "this guy" in fifteen years, so I knew I had a problem on my hands. So I began to just pray and seek the Lord asking, "God, what do You want me to do?"

Through seeking some wise counsel from my mentors, I went back to school, to seminary. I got a Master of Divinity degree from Talbot School of Theology. It was 2009. I was twenty-nine years old. We didn't have a house, and we didn't have children yet.

I said to my wife, Renee, "What do we do now? What would you like to do?"

And she said, "Ever since I was thirteen years old, I've always had a dream to travel all the way around the world in a single shot."

I said, "Let's do it." So we loaded all of our stuff into storage. We had no mortgage. We looked at a world map and began to dot the places we'd like to visit. Then we began to dot the places where we would say, "Oh, we know some missionaries there. We should visit them," or "We have some family friends who are serving there. Let's stop by and see them."

So for four-and-a-half months we travelled around the world. It was an unbelievable experience. I can tell you about that some time. It was on that trip that we were in India visiting some really good friends of ours who are missionaries. Our friend said, "If you ever go to Sydney, Australia, you should meet a friend of mine named Simon and ask him about something called 'gospel patronage.'"

I said, "I don't even know what that is."

He said, "Don't worry; just ask him."

We actually had plans already to go to Sydney—we had plane tickets booked. So we got to Sydney. Now, we'd been traveling, been in Africa. We had jeans and sweatshirts on. We just had a backpack, so we didn't have much. And everyone in downtown Sydney was in blue and black suits.

We went up to Simon's office and met him, and he said, "Hey, let's get coffee." So we had a cup of coffee with him. Somewhere between his coffee and my hot chocolate I said, "Simon, so what is gospel patronage?"

He said,

When we look at history and we see how God has really moved the gospel forward . . . when there have been those big movements in history where we say, 'Wow, God really showed up!' . . . whether that was the Reformation or great revivals in history . . . we tend to think of the pioneering leader, that front man, the spokesperson, the one on the stage with the microphone who was an incredible preacher or a wonderful evangelist or a well-known missionary. But, when we look closer into history, we see that those guys weren't lone rangers. They had patrons behind them.
When God raises up a preacher or a missionary, He also raises up a patron. Those patrons have been largely forgotten throughout history (and most of them, I think, would be completely fine with that—they're in the shadows, they're behind the scenes, they're those backstage VIPs), but they had a huge part to play in history.

And that day he told little nuggets of three stories. I'll share one of the stories. You have an English Bible at home I'm guessing. Probably multiple. There was a time when the English Bible did not exist—do you realize that? It had been in Latin for a thousand years in Europe—the Latin Vulgate—from the fourth century to the fourteenth century.

The Roman church wanted to keep it that way. They thought Latin was an exalted language. They didn't want to corrupt it by translating it into the more common speech of the common people. You don't want them interpreting it for themselves, the Roman church thought. We're going to interpret it for them.

In the 1500s God raised up a man in England named William Tyndale. Tyndale was an incredibly gifted linguist. He went to Oxford. He obviously knew Latin, and he studied biblical Greek. He came from a family of business people, merchants. He knew they didn't know Latin. They couldn't understand what was happening in church. Everything in church was in Latin, and God gave him this burning ambition, saying, "I've got to bring my nation an English Bible. They've only heard of God, but it's been filtered. I want them to hear God speak for themselves."

The problem was, a hundred years prior, there had been a Constitution that had outlawed Bible translation. It was equivalent to heresy. You could be killed for it. So Tyndale had to take this very carefully. He went to London, sought patronage from a high church official, thinking, If I can get this guy to be my patron, we can maybe kind of sidestep some of the laws and Constitution. And that man said, "No."

Tyndale didn't know what to do, until a wealthy merchant heard him preach in a church on Fleet Street in London. The merchant approached him and, through the grapevine, said, "Tyndale, I've heard God's given you a job to do. It's time you get to work. Come, live at my house. I'll support you. I'll protect you. I'll provide for you. Get to work."

So, for six months Tyndale was diligently translating the Bible night and day, meanwhile living with this businessman, a merchant. And the merchant was having lots of other business people circle through his home, many of whom heard what was going on in Europe. They heard the rumblings of the Reformation happening with Luther's German Bible, which had just come out a year before.

Tyndale finished his translation. The best printers were all in Europe, on the Continent, and so they used those merchant ships to get Tyndale over to the Continent. So he pops up with the first three thousand copies of the English New Testament. (There are one or two remaining today that you can actually see at the British museum. I've seen it. I tried to use my credentials as an author. . . "Can I please get behind the glass and see this?" And they said, "Uh, no. This is code Z." And I said, "Yes, but I've written a book on this, and I really care." And they said, "Nope, we don't care." They didn't let me see it, but you could see it behind some really thick glass. It's a small book, but it was the first English New Testament translated from the original Greek. Hebrew is the language of the Old Testament.)

When it was finished, this merchant stepped back into the scene and funded Tyndale, saying, "Well, this is still an illegal book. This is contraband." So they took these three thousand New Testaments, and dropped them in barrels of oil and wine in these watertight cases. They would occasionally smuggle them in layers of cloth as they were doing their business transactions.

They put them on the merchant ships and smuggled them up the arteries and the waterways, and they smuggled them into ports all over England . . . and the Bible began to get out! It was sold on the black market. A farmer would say, "Hey, I bought a couple of pages. Come over to my house," and he would gather his friends.

Common men were buying the Bible and having their friends say, "Let's read it. Let's hear God speak." And that sparked the English Reformation. Once there was an appetite for God's Word in the language of the people, it couldn't be stopped. But Tyndale was still a man in exile, still on the run.

William Tyndale lived the rest of his life never again setting foot in England. His patron, Humphrey Monmouth, who had funded this and partnered with him through it, ended up in prison in the Tower of London on twenty-five different charges. One charge was funding and supporting William Tyndale.

Monmouth was eventually released, but Tyndale's fate was not so good. He had a Judas-type figure in his life—someone who had earned his trust. He said, "Hey, let's go to dinner." As they walked out to dinner, the man had stationed two guards up this long corridor. He said, "Tyndale, you go first."

They came out the doorway and the man pointed down, and the soldiers quickly grabbed Tyndale and took him off to Vilvoorde Castle Prison where he spent 450 days. Meanwhile, the business people, the merchants, his best friends were trying to rally support for him, but no one wanted to protect this heretic. Nobody wanted to put their legacy on the line to set him free.

We have one record of what he wrote during that time. He wrote a letter to his prison warden. (It's in the book. You can look at it; I won't quote it exactly.) He says, "It's so cold here. It's so lonely in this cell. I trust that God has me here. But if you would be so gracious, please bring me a warmer cap and warmer coat, warmer leggings. Most of all, can you bring me a Hebrew grammar and a Hebrew dictionary?" Tyndale's in prison, trying to finish the Old Testament and bring it into English.

That was interrupted, and he was one day brought out to be killed as a heretic. They put his back against wooden post for public execution. They padded his legs with all kinds of brushwood and fire. They had this chain that was going to come through the post and wrap around his neck. It was that final minute, before the prison warden nodded and said, "Pull that noose tight."

Tyndale's last words were, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes!" The King of England didn't want an English Bible. But his final prayer was praying for his King and praying for his Bible to expand. They pulled the noose tight and strangled him. They burned his body in public, and he never got to see what happened.

His patron died a year later, almost as if, now, his mission too had been completed. But two years later, the King of England authorized that an English Bible be put in every parish church in England. Seventy-five years later, the King James translators relied 80–90% directly on Tyndale. They just pulled it over. He was that amazing a linguist and translator. Seventy-five years later, even with the way language changes, they could just to pull over 80–90%.

Every English Bible we read today finds its headwaters in Tyndale. Tyndale gave his nation (six million English speakers in the world) this Book. The King James Bible went on to become the most influential book in Western civilization. For 450 years it was the only Bible translation that Americans and Brits and Australians took all over the place. When they went on missionary trips, when they went to India, they took their Bible.

Now, over six hundred million English-speakers, like you and me, have the privilege to open this book and hear God speak. My question is, what would have happened had the patron not said, "Tyndale, get to work!" We may not have this book; we may not be here.

I studied Business at a Christian university; I've studied Theology . . . I've never seen this wedded so beautifully. Giving is not an obligation, it's an opportunity, and these patrons throughout history knew that, and they found their part to play. My life has been changed through the process of researching these patrons.

For the last three years, I've been going to libraries like Oxford and Cambridge, trying to dig into the history behind the scenes and asking, "How did God use these patrons? What can I dig out from history to see where they came from and how their partnerships really worked . . . because when these two people came together, it was explosive in history!"

My life is saying, "God, it seems like You don't make people like that anymore. Could they live again today? Could we be those kind of people?" Whether you're more on the ministry—the preacher, the translator, the Bible teacher—or you're the patron, whose name is unknown, whose business is profitable, and who's personally involved in the spread of the gospel—deeply involved from the shadows.

You know, this book wouldn't have been possible except that God provided, in His grace, a gospel patron for me. I heard these stories, and I came back and said, "These have to be told! These have to be told in our generation." So I sent an email to my friend Simon and said, "Please! I know this is on your ten-year plan. I can't wait ten years! Please, get this book out!" And he said, "Let's do it together." He had big business, four kids, he had to drop off, and I was unsure what was going to happen and was praying about it.

My family thought I was nuts: "So, you went to seminary, and you have a Business degree. Are you applying for jobs?"

"No."

"Okay, but you could be a pastor or youth minister, right?"

"I guess, but if I don't write this book, no one else is going to." I felt like Tyndale, constrained to do this.

A man in my church (I had no idea what his capacity was to do this) said, "Why don't you come on over to my house? I know that when I stand before God someday, He's going to ask me, 'What did you do with what I gave you?'"

Honestly, I'd love to be able to say, "Hey God, I got the English Bible into existence," but that's already taken. So he said, "I'd love to say that I got your book into existence. I'd love to say that I put your book into play . . . and now we can watch and see what God does."

God raised up another patron to buy three hundred copies of the book so you can all enjoy it—for free. If you want an extra copy, there are extra in the lobby. They're free. It's all been paid for. Why? Here's why: God wants you to play your part; He wants you to run your race.

You may not be the richest man. You may not be the most generous. You may be sitting here a little resistant to what He wants you to do, but He's got a part for all of us to play. It may be behind-the-scenes. It may be on the stage with a microphone. But what we've seen throughout history is that when people find their part to play and these partnerships begin to happen, God does amazing things.

Tyndale didn't get to see it and his patron didn't get to see it, and you might not get to see it. But God sees it, and generational impact happens because people choose to give. That's what I've done with the book, too. For me, now, my responsibility is to steward the treasure of these stories.

We're not reinventing—we're not starting something new here with Generous Giving. God's been doing this all through history. Jesus had gospel patrons, Scripture says in Luke 8. The apostle had Phoebe. He said, "Thank her, for she's been a patron of many and of myself as well."

Throughout history God has used patrons, and we don't often hear about them. I'm trying to raise the flag for our generation to say, "God, use us again! Use us again! Do something wonderful through our lives, through my life. You can make people like that, still. We can serve Your purposes in our generation."

God, You're an awesome and mighty God. You have done amazing things in history, and we're here now saying, "Use us, call us, send us, speak to us. I pray You'd use these stories from history to ignite us, in our generation, to play our part, to run our race.

Jesus, would You do things in this conference this weekend that we can't yet put dreams in our hearts, that the young men would see visions and the old men would dream dreams.

We pray that You'd raise up people who say, "This is my part; this is my calling, and I'm going to run that race as well as I can, as fast as I can, for as long as I can, by the grace which God supplies." God, we're so grateful to be here. Stir our hearts for You, for the things of You, that we could say, "One generation is telling of Your awesome deeds to the next!" In Jesus' name, amen. 

Nancy: We've been listening to John Rinehart describing the need in our day for gospel patrons. I have to tell you, I was deeply stirred by this message. I thought how the Lord used my own dad, a Christian businessman (he's now been with the Lord for many years) to help support and underwrite Christian ministries of different types in different parts of the world.

I grew up in a home that loved the concept of generous giving and believing that there was no greater investment that we could make of material resources than to put them into kingdom work, a work that would last for eternity.

I love this concept of people who use what they have to support the important kingdom work that God is doing around the world. Now, maybe as you've listened to this, you've thought, Well, I certainly don't have enough to be a gospel patron, but as we all reflect on that message, let me ask a few questions.

  • What assets do you have that could be used to support others on the front lines of ministry? (That might be money, but it could also be time, talents, connections, abilities.) 
  • How could you be investing in kingdom work? 
  • Have you devoted whatever you have to the Lord, to be used however He wants? After all, it all comes from Him and it all belongs to Him.
  • What do you see the Lord doing in this world that has been particularly encouraging to you, and how might He want you to be a part of that work in some tangible way? 

For example, over the past year or so I've become particularly burdened about the persecuted church around the world.

I've been looking for ways that I could invest materially and with prayers to support and encourage those who are suffering for their faith. You see, in some sense, I believe God wants all of us as Christians to be gospel patrons. He's given so much to us, and He wants to use those resources to further His work in this world.

So, Lord, I pray that from among those who are listening today, You will raise up many, many gospel patrons. I pray that there would be women who would see what You're doing around the world and would get involved in some greater way. I pray that You would challenge us and help us to take the resources we have and not just spend them mindlessly, not just spend them on ourselves.

I pray we would use what You've given to us in every way possible to invest in Your work—Your kingdom work around the world. Lord, I pray that as a result of our generosity, our just being channels of blessing that we've received from You, that as we give back what You have given to us, I pray that the work You're doing in this world would be furthered, would be multiplied, expanded, and that we would have the privilege and the joy of being a part of that. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

I want to take just a moment to express how deeply grateful I am for some gospel patrons who have made Revive Our Hearts possible! In the early years of this ministry, we began producing radio programs. And by and large, listeners weren't supporting the ministry yet, because they didn't know about it yet.

But some of those gospel patrons gave significant funding in order to get this ministry, this radio program, up and running so that you could hear it. And as the ministry has become established and grown, we've watched the Lord provide through listeners like you who hear this program, benefit from it, and believe in this ministry.

Now, as Revive Our Hearts continues to expand its outreach, and our financial needs are increasing, we're asking the Lord to raise up thousands of additional supporters to be a part of underwriting this ministry. And, in a sense, all of those supporters are gospel patrons.

That doesn't mean that you have to be a millionaire or be able to send thousands of dollars to support this ministry. I'm so thankful for the many ministry partners we have who support this ministry at thirty dollars each month. Ultimately, it's not the size of the gift that matters the most . . . it's the heart of the giver, and the desire to invest generously in God's kingdom work.

This month when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we want to show our gratitude by sending you my brand-new piano Christmas CD that's called Come Adore

The purpose of this music is to keep your mind set on Christ through the holiday season; to keep reminding you that adoring Him is the most important thing you can do. We'll send you a copy of this CD—one per household—when you make a donation of any size at ReviveOurHearts.com, or just ask for Come Adore when you call us at 1–800–569–5959.

After hearing John Rinehart speak on gospel patrons, I had the opportunity to address the Generous Giving conference. Tomorrow we'll hear the message God put on my heart, and we'll continue exploring the joy that comes from giving generously. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

Join the Discussion