Where Jabez Doesn't Cut It
'I had to repent,' says Bruce Wilkinson, when he realized he hadn't followed God's command to help people in need.
BY: Interview by Deborah Caldwell
You've said you had to repent when you got to Africa, when you realized you had been disobedient to God by not taking care of people in need. Tell me about your process of repentance.
Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you. It's not just that I changed how I thought-I am now changed. I went to Africa without the perspective of a balance between teaching people the truth, which has been my calling, and helping people who have physical problems, like AIDS and orphans and hunger.
I started looking at the passages of the Bible that would help me as I live in Africa. And I centered on Isaiah 58, and I read it over and over and began to change my mind about what I should be doing, what I should have been doing all this time. If you really don't run away from it and don't let it be intellectual and you process it in your heart and you think about the implications of-if I'd been doing this what could it have meant to people?-you feel sorrow, genuine grief. To truly repent of a big thing, you have to go into it with your heart open and force yourself to deal with it at that level and to apologize to God. I'm almost through that.
When you decided to go to Africa last spring, you were in the process of moving to California, but you couldn't find a house. What had you planned to do in Los Angeles?
I'd been with the organization I'd founded, Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, for 25 years. In 1998 I launched an organization with a 15-year goal: get a [Bible] teacher for every 50,000 people, in every country of the world, in 15 years' time. And after five years we were in 82 countries. That's a new country every 3 weeks. We had 33,000 trained Bible teachers.
We also had a top-down strategy--to mobilize a general interest in biblical topics by having a motion picture made in Hollywood on that topic and a popular TV series on [the same] topic. An example would be "marriage."
I told the board that's what I wanted. But the board didn't want me to go there. They felt I was being pulled off. I had to make up my mind to stay in the organization or resign, and I resigned. And I announced I was moving to California to make movies. I spoke to producers who wanted to know about Jabez, and then I went out in April to find a house and couldn't find one. It didn't make sense. I'm not really that fussy, and I was a little bit frustrated.
So in May I went to Africa. I was already working in Hollywood on a number of films by that time. One of them was about The Prayer of Jabez, and there were others as well.