Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

The Creation of the Devo

by Dennis Pollock

As we walk with God and observe His ways we discover that God is quite adept at turning our failures into triumphs. Of course, we would prefer not to ever experience the failures at all. But this is rarely the case. It seems that we often need, as Peter did, to go out on our little all-night fishing expeditions and catch nothing, so that when Jesus gets into our boats and orders us to go out into the deep, we can truly appreciate the success when it comes.

It’s not always as dramatic in our lives as it was that day Jesus sat in Peter’s boat and sent the fish into his nets in droves, but the principle seems to hold true in nearly every believer’s life, to some extent or another. One example of this in my own life pertains to the creation of what has become a signature feature of our ministry – the “devo.” It began when I started accumulating all kinds of audio teachings on many different Biblical topics. The thought occurred to me: “Wouldn’t it be great to put these teachings on the radio?” I became so excited about this, I sent out an appeal to our supporters to determine if any were interested in sponsoring such a radio program. I was amazed when one of our friends promised to donate the sum of twenty thousand dollars to help us get this radio ministry up and running. Wow! Was I ever excited! Surely God was in this and we began looking for a radio station to host our new “flagship” radio program.

We settled on a major Christian radio station in the Dallas area, and soon we launched our program. I still remember the first program that was aired. It was titled “Foundations for a Fruitful Ministry.” I was thrilled to hear my voice coming over the air on the radio that night, and could hardly wait to see the response we would surely be getting from our listeners. There were responses, but they were slow in coming. And donations from listeners was minimal. At first, I figured they would pick up as the program gained steam, but somehow it never gained enough steam! We received some very nice compliments about the program, but the donations that came in as a result of our radio outreach didn’t come close to making up the cost of being on the radio five times each week.

Each month that went by saw our designated radio money drain down further and further. It didn’t require a prophet to predict that if things continued as they were, our ministry would be financially ruined. After several months, I had a new idea. Since we still had some money designated for radio, I did some research and discovered that if we would switch to a cheaper, fifteen-minute program, we could sustain it for most of the rest of that year, using the designated radio donation. Perhaps the thirty-minute format was the problem, and if we switched to a fifteen-minute program we would see the success for which I fervently hoped and dreamed.

Birth of the Devo

It was this fifteen-minute radio program which became the mother of what we call the “devo.” Since the beginning of the ministry I had been writing a pamphlet each month and sending it out to all who were on our mailing list, along with a one-page newsletter. The articles were all kept at the same length in order to fit the legal sized, fourfold pamphlet format which we used – around 2,100 words. As I thought about this fifteen-minute radio program, deducting the time needed for an intro and a closing, it would give me around 12 to 13 minutes, which was exactly the time it took to read one of my articles aloud. The devo articles fit this new fifteen-minute radio program like a hand in a glove. And so I decided that for four of the five weekly programs, I would simply read articles which I had written.

But there was one problem. I did not have nearly enough articles for all the radio programs I would need to create. I realized that I would have to write far more than I had ever done in my life, in order to keep up with the programs. And so began a hectic race against the clock to keep up with the constant programs.

The articles were essentially Bible teachings on nearly every Biblical topic. I rarely created series; normally I simply wrote on themes that seemed to constantly pop up in my heart as I read God’s word and fellowshipped with Him. I am by nature a teacher, and so these devos nearly always had a strong teaching element to them. Above all it was my goal to glorify Jesus Christ and magnify Him in the eyes of all. The last thing I would want would be to stand at Christ’s judgment seat, and have Him ask me, “Why didn’t you say more about Me in all those articles?”

The 5-Devo CD

As I began to write more and more articles, another thought occurred to me. Up to that time I had always sent out some sort of monthly gift to our regular supporters, whom we called “Friends of Grace.” Sometimes it was one of my sermons, sometimes it was a sermon by someone else, and at times it was a brief commentary on current events happening in the world. But with all the articles I was both writing and recording, I decided to send out a CD with five different “audio devos” on it. Normally the devos were around 12 minutes in length, which meant that for almost any car trip, you could pop the CD into your car stereo player and listen to one of the devos. They were short enough that it was not a major time investment as it would be to listen to a forty-five-minute sermon.

There was an immediate positive response. People liked the new format. Somehow, they found them an easier listen than the typical sermons I had sent out. Plus, the devos could be digested one at a time. If you wanted, you could catch one on Saturday on the way to the grocery store, listen to a couple more on the way to work, and catch the other two whenever convenient. This new bite-sized version of Bible teaching seemed a good fit for many. When sermons first began being distributed on cassette tape, people didn’t seem to mind taking out forty-five minutes of their time to listen to them, but in today’s busier, high-tech, sound-byte-oriented world, shorter teachings seem more attractive.

I began posting these devos on our website, both in written and audio form. Those who love to read could take their time and read them at their leisure, but those who struggled with reading were not left out in the cold. They could download the audio files and play them on their computer, or transfer them onto their phone or mp3 player. They were offered without cost. I wasn’t interested in making money from them. My great desire was that people all over the world might be blessed through them. I could hardly think of anything more gratifying than to learn that Africans in small villages, the Chinese, Indians, and people throughout the earth could have access to these teachings through the Internet.

In time it became evident that in some small fashion, this was the case. One of my great thrills in this regard occurred when I was in Kenya doing an evangelistic mission. One of our coordinating pastors contacted a friend of his who lived in Nairobi and told him of the meetings. When this man heard that I was the main speaker, he asked the other pastor, “Is this the Dennis Pollock” who has all the teachings on his website? I love to download his teachings!” Here was a man I had never met, an African pastor who somehow discovered these devos on our website and was gaining insights from the word of God through them.

Bad News and Good News

Sadly, as that year came to end, it was clear that there still was not enough response to justify continuing to have a radio presence. We had to pull the program. I had started with high hopes, believing that the single program on one station would soon multiply to two, and then four, and then many more. It didn’t happen. It was a heartbreaker. My dream of a great radio ministry had died, and furthermore I felt embarrassed for having announced our grand plans for radio ministry, and then having to come back a year later and declare it was a bust. (I didn’t exactly use those words, but that was how I saw it.)

Still, I could not bring myself to stop creating these devos. There had been such a good response among our supporters that I felt I must continue. I did slow down in my writing, but decided to write and record enough articles to be able to continue to send our supporters a CD each month, containing five devos. To this day I continue that practice. Our website is now bulging with around 370 devos (at this time), written and audio, which can be read, copied, or downloaded. And every month new devos are produced. This outreach has become a major component of our ministry.

We also do African missions, for which I am grateful. We see numerous people respond to Jesus Christ, and God does amazing things. But I know that the African missions have a definite expiration date. At my age it is only a matter of time before I preach my last sermon on a creaky wooden platform on a humid night in Africa, and see crowds of beautiful African men and women coming forward to say yes to Jesus Christ. My voice in Africa will at some point be stilled. But these devos have the potential to bless men and women long after I have breathed my last breath. As the Bible says of Abel, so I dare hope it will one day be said of me: “He being dead, still speaks.”

Oh Devo – Live Forever!

The nice thing about digital recordings is that they never degrade. I can remember listening to scratchy, old LP records which seemed to get worse every time they were played. Those records, once taken out of their dust cover, could never retain their pristine sound once you started playing them regularly. No matter how well you took care of them, those annoying, scratchy sounds mysteriously appeared. But digital audio recordings created today never age. They can be copied thousands of times from one computer to another, and the thousandth version of them will be as pure and clear as the original. In fact, they can actually improve – audio engineers can do all sorts of tricks to make them sound superior to the original recordings. How we could wish to have some of Paul’s sermons as MP3 files – of course they wouldn’t do us much good if we didn’t know Aramaic!

Out of the ashes of a failed radio program, a major dimension of our ministry was birthed. Am I sorry we spent that year trying to launch a radio ministry? How could I be? If it weren’t for that attempt, these devos might not exist. And that is just like God! He takes our failures, our apparent missteps and uses them to move us in directions we might never have thought of otherwise.

I always wanted to be a “great preacher.” To me, nothing could be so fulfilling as spending an entire lifetime calling people to come to Christ, and seeing it happen. And through the years, I have wondered why it was God didn’t seem nearly as interested in having me constantly preaching as I was. I loved to read about the great evangelists, and as a young man hoped I could become a combination of Billy Graham, George Whitefield and Charles Finney. I probably should have suspected I wouldn’t live up to that when, as a young pastor, I preached what I supposed was a tough Finney-like sermon on the terrors of hell, and made the terrible discovery that one of my listeners had fallen asleep! What I didn’t realize was that I was not a Billy; I was not a Finney. I was Dennis. I could preach, but I was far too much of a teacher to only preach. And looking back over many years of ministry I have come to realize that God seemed determined from the beginning to use the teaching grace He had placed in my life more than my ability to preach.

By now I have learned to appreciate that. God knows best. He always does.


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To see a full listing of all articles available, go to our Written Devos Page.
For a full listing of all articles as audio mp3 files (free downloads), go to our Audio Devos Page.

 

     

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