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Meet the Ministries: Truth for Life

Over the past few months I’ve been running a series I’ve called “Meet the Ministries.” The purpose of this series is to learn about some of the more prominent or more interesting ministries seeking to serve the church today. In the past this series has stopped at Grace to You, Desiring God, Acts 29, Peacemaker Ministries and CCEF. Today we go to Truth for Life, a ministry inexorably linked to the name Alistair Begg.

How and when did Truth For Life begin?
Truth For Life began from the seeds of prayer planted by the Elders of Parkside Church back in the 1980’s. They prayed that God would provide a way for them to reach the world for Christ. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, a young man who had grown up in the church and was then working for the Moody Broadcasting Network, offered to help begin a weekly program. The first weekly program was heard in April of 1992 on three stations. It expanded to 6 stations over the next year and half. In April of 1994, the program found a spot in the Moody Broadcasting Network and expanded to 80 stations. That same year, Alistair was approached by a broadcasting executive about the possibility of starting a daily radio program. The executive helped gather the men who would financially underwrite such a venture and on February 28, 1995, Truth For Life Daily began on 25 radio stations. The program slowing grew and gained momentum over the next 15 years to where it is now heard daily on over 1,300 radio outlets and weekly on over 1,100 outlets.

Why does Truth For Life exist? What are its chief goals and key emphases?
Truth For Life exists to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance so that unbelievers will be converted, believers will be established, and local churches will be strengthened. We believe that the regular teaching (and hearing) of the Bible is a critical discipline in the lives of believers and local churches. Our goal, then, is to take the regular Bible teaching of Alistair Begg, which happens primarily at Parkside Church, and distribute it as widely as possible to see these 3 particular groups strengthened and encouraged.

How can Truth For Life serve the readers of this web site?
1) Through our daily and weekly radio broadcasts: Each day and every weekend, we air a 30-minute radio broadcast on radio stations around the country and on a few international stations. The broadcast is also available via podcast and our website. We often hear from listeners that having a regular diet of solid Bible teaching each day has created an appetite for God’s Word that they didn’t have before. Through our daily broadcasts, we want to provide that routine, quality preaching that challenges our listeners (and ourselves!) on a daily basis to be in the Scriptures, hearing what God is saying to us, and applying it to our lives. In the coming months, we’ll be airing messages in the book of Nehemiah, Jonah, and James.

2) Through our free downloads: Last year, we made all of Alistair’s sermons available for free download on our website. We realize that not everyone has 30 minutes every day to listen to a radio program or that they can or will pay for sermons. As we looked at the online trends, we realized that there is a lot of teaching available on the Internet for free, yet not all of it is worthwhile. We were challenged to follow the leads of other ministries like Desiring God and Grace to You and many churches to remove as many barriers as possible to see God’s Word spread as broadly as possible. In the year since we’ve made that change, we’ve made a large amount of Alistair’s sermon archive available and digitizing some of his older messages this year. We’re also working to improve our search functionality and topic indexing to make the archive more searchable. We would invite your readers to browse our Resource Center if they’re looking for Biblical teaching on certain passages or topics or would just like to systematically study through certain topics or books of Scripture.

3) Through our events: Lord willing, Alistair will be speaking at a number of conferences and events in 2010, including an event in Los Angeles in March, two events in Philadelphia in April, two events in Minneapolis in May, and of course Parkside’s annual Basics conference for pastors in May. We have a particular heart to encourage local pastors and churches in their work and would love to invite any pastors to consider joining us for one of our Pastors’ Appreciation Breakfasts this year or the Basics Conference. Other readers might consider sponsoring their pastors at the conference as a way to encourage and support them in their ministry. We’re looking forward to having Sinclair Ferguson and John Shearer join us this year as we go “back to the basics” and consider the topic of preaching this year.

Who are the key leaders within the ministry?
In addition to Alistair Begg and our board of directors, we have a small, but talented leadership team: Bob Butts, Executive Director; Amy Casselberry, Stations Relations Manager; Nancy Curtiss, Production Manager; Jenn Fraher, Communications Manager; and Whitney Podboy, Customer Service Manager.

How many employees does Truth For Life have?
We have 15 full time & part time staff member. We also have about 60 volunteers who come to our offices each week to help with everything from opening mail to shipping packages.

What is Truth For Life’s annual budget? How is the ministry financed and how do you ensure financial integrity?
Our annual budget for 2010 is $6.4 million. The majority of our ministry is funded by gifts from our listeners, including more than 5,500 Truthpartners who support the ministry on a monthly basis. We have been incredibly blessed and humbled to see God provide for our needs each year through the sacrificial giving of donors who have joined with us to fulfill our mission.

We are committed to financial integrity and stewardship. Each year, over 93% of donated funds go directly to ministry expenses (rather than administrative costs). In addition to an annual external audit, we maintain a relationship with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) and Excellence in Giving. Additionally, Charity Navigator has awarded us their top 4-star rating for 6 consecutive years and Ministry Watch has named Truth For Life a Shining Light Ministry and awarded us their top 5-star rating for numerous, consecutive years.

How do you expect Truth For Life will be different in ten years? Twenty years?
As we look to the future, we realize that we are approaching a number of turning points within the ministry. While much about the future remains unknown to us, there are a few things that we do anticipate and are preparing for and/or exploring:

1) An increased role of the web: Historically, we have been a radio broadcast ministry. Even today, the bulk of our budget is allocated to purchasing radio air-time. As we look forward, we realize that there has been a shift in how content is distributed and taken in, and the Internet now plays a role in our culture that we can’t ignore. We’ve adjusted to that slowly, but we expect that digital content, particularly distributed over the Internet, will play an increasingly important role.

2) A diversity of materials: To this point, most of our content has been audio content. As we move forward, we hope to explore different types of content (video and written content specifically) and also content aimed at different age groups.

3) A legacy ministry: At some point in the future, we know that we need to be prepared for Alistair to eventually have a reduced role as a full-time pastor. While we hope that that day is still decades down the road, we are beginning to think what that might look like for Truth For Life and to begin to even now build foundations that will allow us to continue to distribute his teaching when he enters the next season of his life.

How does Truth For Life work with other Christian ministries?
Our partnerships happen in three primary ways:

1) With local churches: Although we are a teaching ministry, we believe that the local church should play the primary teaching role in the believer’s life. We desire to come alongside the local church by providing supplemental teaching to the people in the pews and by challenging and encouraging local pastors.

2) With radio stations: We partner with over 1,300 Christian radio stations and outlets around the country, providing them with content that their listeners are looking for.

3) With other teaching ministries: Alistair spends a portion of his year speaking at conferences hosting by other ministries. It’s a great opportunity for us to encourage other ministries and meet new listeners.

What are some of the ways Truth For Life has seen evidence of God’s hand of blessing?
1) Changed lives: Every day, we receive letters and emails from listeners whose lives have been changed as a result of hearing God’s word taught. It is incredibly encouraging to be reminded of why we do what we do when we hear of people repenting of their sins, developing a passion for the Bible, and seeing their lives transformed day after day.

2) Financial provision: As we celebrate 15 years as a daily radio ministry this month, we are able to look back and see how God has faithfully met our daily needs. Philosophically, we tend to do little fundraising, yet we have been able to operate and even expand the ministry without debt and without layoffs or other drastic cuts, even in times of economic uncertainty.

3) Staff: Although we have a small staff, God has faithfully sent us talented, godly people with a heart for this ministry. We would not be where we are today, nor looking to the future with such hopeful expectation without the team that we have in place. Our volunteers have also been a huge blessing as well, allowing us to invest a significant portion of our financial resources into programming, rather than staff costs.

How can the readers of this web site serve and support Truth For Life?
We’d love to have your readers listen to the broadcast or free downloads, then pass on the messages to a friend! If they’re benefiting from our ministry, they should consider becoming a Truthpartner and supporting our work on a monthly basis. We are able to provide so much content for free to our listeners because of the faithful support of our donors and Truthpartners, and we are always grateful to those who are willing to join that team.

Ultimately, we would love to have your readers pray for us: that we would remain faithful to God’s Word, faithful to our calling, and faithful to our families. Pray that we would have wisdom as we make strategic decisions about the future (both short-term & long-term) and that God would continue to use Alistair’s teaching to change the lives of men and women around the world.

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