Wednesday, November 25, 2009
A Fisher of Men/ Bryan Townsend
Tell our readers a little about yourself Bryan. Where do you call home and who makes up your family?
All of my life, I have lived in and around Talladega, Alabama. One of my anscestors came here as a scout for Andrew Jackson and one was the first Mayor of Talladega. Judy Babe and I met in church, in the nursery. I was a bed baby and she was crawling around on the floor. I do not remember not knowing her. Our first date was to the Sweetheart Banquet at the church when we were in the 4th grade. We started dating as seniors in High School, but waited to marry til later in life; I was 19 and she was 20. Last year we celebrated our 40th Wedding Anniversary. I told her we could go to the mountians, to the beach, even to New York or Paris; anywhere to show he how much I appreciated her. We wound up spending the day riding around in the country.
We have three children and four grand children. Our two boys are married and each has a little boy and a little girl and we are blessed to have all four grand children within an hour's drive of our home. Our daughter is not married, but dating seriously. Patti Anne works with me running my office and marketing my practice as a professional speaker. In a great part, due to her efforts, last summer Speaker Magazine named me was one of the Hot 25 speakers in the profession.
Bryan you and I have a unique agreement that I do not have with all of my authors. I am attempting to get a small gift book of yours picked up by a traditional publisher. I was honest with you at the start by telling you I only had so many desks I could take something like this one to. I would love it if you share with them about your ministry and how from it your small gift book was birthed.
The Parable of the Fly came about as a suggestion by a dear friend, Kay Blackwell. Kay and her husband Bob were serving as missionaries in Damascus, Syria. Judy and I became friends of theirs whild Bob was serving as the rector of St. Peter's Episcopal Church and we would e-mail them daily in our efforts to support them and I'd send them the lessons plans from my men's Bible Class, the Whosoever Will Men's Bible Class.
I started the class four years ago, while they were in Syria. It's an outreach class, reaching out to unchurched men. We meet in a house next door to our church and we have some unique rules that seem to appeal to today's men:
no one called on to read, no one called on to pray, no dress code, and no one will fuss at you if you don't show up. We serve sausage biscuits, hot coffee and soft drinks each Sunday morning and have a thirty minute informal Bible study. In four years we have grown from 3 men to 47 men. We had 20 in attendance this morning.
What are you hoping your book reaching a traditional publishing house to accomplish that you haven’t been able to do with it as is?
Kay suggested my lesson plans were unique in their appeal to unchurched men and should be published. So, with God's blessings it happened. We self published 100 books to be used as an outreach tool. We give them to prospects and visitors. People started wanting to buy extra copies so we printed 1000 more. We've sold probably half of those just through word of mouth, maybe more.
The title of the book (The Parable of the Fly) came from one of my lessons plans regarding sin. Sin, like a fishing fly, is deceitful. It appeals to a man's selfish nature, and once he has taken the bait, like a fish, he's hooked. Fortunately for me, and according to the Apostle Paul, all men, there is a Savior, who when summoned, will come to your rescue, cut the line, and set you free!
The book is a small paperback, an easy read, and according to my fishing buddy and former missionary to Syria, Rev. Bob Blackwell, is "...the best explanations of the 'bad news' of sin, and the 'good news' of salvation that I have read." My friend Liz Curtis Higgs, author of a number of very good books including Embrace Grace, wrote of the Parable of the Fly, "I think your mission here is clear and you have indeed accomplished it. With appropriate metaphors, you are making the Gospel real and pertinent to men today."
Dr. George Ricker, retired director of Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center says it's a must give book. He has purchased and given away dozens to men who need to know the Gospel.
Bryan, I see a real need for a title such as this one. I know at the church I often attend, on Father’s day they always give every man a small gift book as a way of saying they are appreciated. I can see this title being a great one for this type of offering. For those that know what your book teaches, what a tool to have to pass on to another they are trying to reach.
Your ministry has taken you all over the country. How many times have you spoken this year.
This year, I've spoken a bunch. This past week I spoke in Kansas City, Louisville, Dallas and Spartanburg, SC. I got home about one o'clock this morning and taught the class this morning. Tommorrow morning I'm out of here about 6:00 AM going to Bismarck, ND. Next Thursday I speak in Birmingham and on Saturday in Dyersburg, TN. A few years ago I was speaking just over 100 times a year. We cut it back to about 75 now.
How can folks get a hold of you if they want you to come to their church or mens group to share?
I'm easy to reach. Everything you need to know about my speaking including my schedule is available at www.BryanTownsend.com. My e-mail address is Bryan@BryanTownsend.net. The site also lists products available which includes CD's, DVD's and a number of books I have written.
I would imagine that you have heard some life changing testimonies as you minister to these groups of men. Would you care to share one of them with us?
One of my members called and asked if I would conduct his father's funeral. His dad died in prison, serving a life sentence for murder. God used the occasion to make a difference in a number of lives.
My late friend Lester Massey was the first to join our class and became very involved in outreach. Often we talked about Rick Warren's suggestion that you have to get the unchurched on the porch before you can get them in the church. We consider our class in the house next door as a porch to the church. Lester died suddenly. All of our guys were honorary pall bearers. Lester got'em all in the church that day!
When people ask, "How are you doing?" I reply, "I've been better, but I was younger at the time!" A few weeks ago, I caught up with Judy Babe. We're both 61 and will be until her birthday in January.
Now Bryan, not being the young pup you used to be, how many years do you plan on continuing in this ministry? Are you training anyone to take your place? Are there others that are doing what you do?
I have no plans for retirement. My dad's favorite song was "We'll Work 'Til Jesus Comes" and he did. I plan to follow in his foot steps. I will speak and teach this class as long as God sees fit to keep me here in good enough condition to do so. I hope I'm training everyone in the class to take my place. Each Sunday morning I face a circle of 18 or 20 men who just a few years ago were not involved in Bible study or church in anyway. God has allowed me to watch them grow spiritually and I'm quite sure he has big plans for all of them. You know God, He uses the unlikely to accomplish the unbelievable. If He calls me home tomorrow, He'll have someone there to teach next Sunday.
Oh, I'm sure there others doing what we are doing. Sure, there needs to be more. That's part of my motive in seeking a publisher for the book. With greater distribution I believe there are many, many Godly men out there who could do a better job of starting an outreach class for men than I have done. Just reading the book might motivate them to do so, and it would certainly give them some ideas about how to do it.
Have you had to overcome any obstacles in your ministry?
No serious obstacles. You get a little criticism now and then, but that's a good sign. Where there is no friction, there is no motion.
The number one item on my to do list right now is Humor on the Square, a show our class sponsors each year to raise money for the Red Door Kitchen which provides food for Meals on Wheels in Talladega. We've sold half the tickets, the show is less than two weeks away, and we want it to be another sell out. As soon as I get back from North Dakota, I've got to get out and help the guys hustle tickets!
Where do you get your inspiration and energy? It has to be exhausting at times traveling like you do all year long.
Every good and perfect gift comes from above. There's really not much I can do. I just ask God to do it and thank Him for letting me be there when it happens. When I was younger, I did have more energy. Right now, I'm just trying to fake it as long as I can! I asked Mark Cubine to teach the class next Sunday, I'll try to be there, but will be driving back from Dyersburg, TN on Saturday night and do not expect to get in until about three o'clock in the morning. Bill Perry's going to kick me if I start snoring during class! That's another one of our many class rules, it's OK to sleep during class, but you are now allowed to snore.
Right now, I've got to pack and take a nap, otherwise, I'm going to miss the flight to Bismarck.
Thank you Bryan- such passion for the lost is an encouragement to us all. Let us examine ourselves and see what we might do to offer hope to those that have none.
From my heart to yours,