Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The George Verwer Interview

   George Verwer is the founder and former International Director of Operation Mobilisation, which is a ministry of evangelism, discipleship training and church planting. He led Operation Mobilisation for over 40 years before stepping down in August 2003. George has a burning concern for vital, propagating and revolutionary Christianity in his own life and in those he meets. He is also a well known author having written several books such as ‘No Turning Back’ , ‘Drops from a leaky tap’ and ‘Out of your Comfort Zone’. I have known George personally for over twenty years. However before I met him I had read his little book called ‘Hunger for Reality’ which at the time was literally a 'God send' to me. One particular passage in the book that really challenged me was as follows:

'We have every opportunity for learning of the life and teachings of Paul, but where are the Paul’s of the twentieth century? Where are the men prepared like him and his companions to face cold and shipwreck and robbers for the gospel’s sake, and to thank God for the stripes that tore their backs? We have many sincere servants of God and many great preachers. But where are those who can say with Paul that he ceased not to warn men and woman night and day with tears? Such men are difficult to find, if not impossible. Why? The reason I believe, is that we have separated our Bible beliefs from our daily living. Paul never did this.'

I later wrote to him and he was gracious enough to reply and encourage me to keep going on with God. George was in Belfast a while back speaking at a Missions conference so I took the opportunity to interview him and ask him some questions that I believe would be of interest, not only myself but to all those who have a passion for mission and evangelism.

How many years is it now since you gave your life to Christ?

It was March 3rd 1955 a long time ago! So it over 55 years of God’s grace : every day I’ve experienced His grace. Of course I’ve learned by faith to live one day a time.

When I first read your conversion story I was really impressed that almost immediately after you had a burning passion to reach your class mates . Have you still got that passion and if you have, how have you been able to keep it?

I think there are different strategies and ways of keeping your passion. The main thing is motivation. Sometimes my feelings are going along with God’s Word- what I need to do for the kingdom of God, living by faith and obedience to the Lord. Prayer, Worship- it’s all there in the Bible. As a young Christian I was just feeding on the Bible and my life was completely changed before I was twenty years of age- and I’ve never gone back. I’d learn things and struggle with them. I had struggles back then as well, so I’m far from perfect. But I’ve learned about forgiveness -about praise. I accept, as hard as it is to believe, that God actually loves me.

What have been the greatest influences on your Life?

Billy Graham my spiritual father and Oswald J. Smith the great mission leader from Canada. Perhaps also my Sunday school teacher who almost became a Jehovah Witness, but who became a Christian around the same time I did. Then my own parents who were pilgrims, seeking at the same time I was seeking but were caught in a liberal church where the gospel wasn’t proclaimed. I’ve also been influenced by many, many godly people and some amazing books.

Being someone who is famous and influential, how have you dealt with the temptation to be proud?

I don’t think I’m famous -I can walk down any street and no one will recognise me. But within the circle of mission minded people I am well known, after I guess 55 years! I’ve never found it a huge struggle. However I do struggle when they want my autograph and they want to take my picture, but I just need to have the right attitude towards them. We do need Christian models and I do want to be a model -fifty years married to the same woman and having moral purity. I want people to have models that are godly because I’ve had them. So since I’ve had them from people like Billy Graham and others who are not well known, am I going to refuse people who somehow are encouraged by reading my books and thinking about the fact that I have run the race all these years? Many also get encouraged when I share my failures and how God has given me grace with my struggle with pornography, my struggle with impatience and wrong attitudes. I’ve been encouraged from the thousands of letters I’ve had over the years and that helps me, also taking so many meetings and making myself available to people.

What do you consider to be the biggest temptation for men?

For me it is the lust of the eyes. But through God’s mercy in my life it has always been kept under control. It doesn’t mean it has to be pornography for me to start to moving in the wrong direction. I just have to deal with it very, very quickly. For other men it is pride. Pride is more subtle than lust. I’m reading a tremendous book on this. It has also been a hindrance in my life, sometimes without even realising it. It is when you are being criticised and rejected and I’ve had some of that, you discover that aspect of pride and that is really a bit scary-just deal with that. I’m also always very aware of my weaknesses and failures.

If you were to live your Christian life over again what would you have done differently?

That is a tough question because life is a pilgrimage and God used extreme things that I did in my early days that I don’t accept now. God used those things to birth this whole Movement. For example, my big anti-communist thing in the culture I was reared in, along with Billy Graham’s influence on anti-communism, God used even that to attract certain kinds of people.

In the early days to get any one person to become loyal to you and your vision was very hard –just one person! The first two who went with me to Mexico were gone when it was over and they weren’t planning to come back. I hen had to find three or four more for the next trip to Mexico. After that trip they were also more or less gone- not because of broken relationships, but because we didn’t know what God was doing!

There were disappointments in trying to build a ministry out of nothing because people don’t see why they should work with me -I was just another guy. And when you try to start something new all the existing organisations are wondering what you’re doing. I got massive criticism when I first came to England. Some said: ‘who do you think you are taking young people out to Europe for the summer to give out literature. One guy even attacked me saying: 'This crazy guy thinks because he once sold some pornography he has the right to lead a Christian literature ministry!'

Do you still have a vision for OM?

I’m leaving that to others. But I still want to influence the Movement to stay godly, to reach as many people as possible, to keep biblical balance and to keep the core values. So I am trying to influence the Movement, but I’m not involved in leadership and I don’t think I’m responsible to come up with the next great vision. I have however different visions. For example the HIV and the Pro Life challenge, that is for the whole body of Christ. They are very generic but the details they have to work out. How it is going to work out at OM is up to them. How it is going to work out at Agape and in other groups it is up to them. I’ve had the privilege of influencing a lot of groups and I want to continue to do that through literature, DVD’s as well as through my preaching etc.

How have you been able to become such a good friend to so many people?

First of all, you have more failures that successes just because you can’t meet the expectations of people .1 Peter 5. 7 says ‘casting all your cares on God for He cares for you’. To want to serve . I just saw it again on The Gospel of John film with Jesus washing the disciples feet. I want to wash feet, I want to serve, but I have to serve using the gifts God has given me, so it depends on someone else. I face discouragement every day. I face discouragement because that is the way I am wired, but I deal with it. I now say I’m not discouraged but that I am processing discouragement!

Do you still do personal evangelism?

Yes, but not enough. But I have discovered that through my public speaking and bringing evangelism into my speaking is more effective than my personal evangelism. This is partly because of the demands on my time. I’m co-ordinating projects from my laptop in a hundred nations and a lot of these projects are linked to helping people to be effective in personal evangelism and providing them with the tools . But I’m still trying constantly to share my faith with non-Christians. That is why I stay out of cars .I’m generally in buses and trains, and through that I have constant opportunities to share about Jesus and give out literature, lose DVDs and give them out. It is still part of my life.

Finally George, what do you believe is the world’s greatest need today?

The greatest need is rescuing people who are lost . I think the pendulum has gone too far, even in OM and even in my own life. The whole strong emphasis is on social concern, the sex trafficking thing, the Aids thing, the poverty thing, and because of that there is a danger that we are not paying attention to the biggest thing of all: men and woman are lost and they need the gospel. Just doing good deeds is not enough. The book of Acts is clear. Some great Catholic saint said ‘do good deeds, live the life and use words if necessary’. But I believe that words according to the biblical teaching are necessary. God uses His word, but it is not either or, it’s both. The godly life is powerful, but then sharing our faith and using different means such as giving out DVD’s and books about Jesus to reach people are very important.

You can check out George Verwer's website at where you can among other things access lots of free resources on mission and evangelism.