Almost 30 years ago, I was asked to consult for the government of Algeria and, as an additional incentive, they paid for my wife and my two boys to accompany me. Having our transportation to North Africa paid, I used some of my consulting fees to extend our trip to include Israel before returning to the U.S. (Obviously, the Algerians didn't know they were financing our trip to Israel!) It was our first trip to the Holy Land, and it was an experience that we'll never forget.
(Everyone should pray about making this pilgrimage. It will turn your "black and white" Bible into living color. Chuck Smith has suggested that a trip to Israel is better than a year in seminary.)
Upon our return, I was asked to speak to the young married's group at our local church in Newport Beach. In reviewing our trip, I added some slides summarizing the prophetic aspects of what was — and soon will be — going on there. For many in the audience, the imminent return of Jesus Christ was a relatively new aspect to their personal horizons, and the vigorous "question and answer" period extended into the late hours. A number of enthusiastic couples asked if we could continue these discussions, so we invited them to come over to our home the following Monday night.
About 30 people showed up that Monday evening, and we reviewed the traditional Scriptures highlighting the return of our Lord. Hal Lindsey's best selling book, The Late Great Planet Earth, was also a major topic of discussion in those days. Someone asked if we could meet again, perhaps on a weekly basis, to go through Hal's book together. I suggested that I would rather take a book of the Bible — say, the Book of Revelation — and go through that together. Which we did, and in the weeks that followed the group grew, and the rest, as they say, is now history.
After meeting in our home for some months, we shifted from time to time to other homes of those who volunteered to provide the hospitality. As we began to outgrow even the more extensive living rooms, we were eventually invited to move to the Fellowship Hall of Calvary Chapel, which can accommodate over 500. Thus, the weekly "Monday Night Bible Studies" began, and continued for over 25 years. We ultimately were shifted to the main sanctuary which seats over 2,000. (Even since our relocation to Idaho, we have returned to our "home base" on a monthly basis. Our newsletter includes our current schedule.)
For me, Monday nights proved to be ideal. I was deeply committed to a very active executive career which included frequent travel. Monday nights were, generally, in the "shadow" of the weekend, and I could usually arrange to keep them free of any out-of-town commitments.
Several tape ministries also followed our studies, most notably the Tape Ministry of the Fire Fighters for Christ. The Fire Fighters made the tapes available without charge, and soon were distributing them all over the world. I would later discover that our "following" from several decades of these studies would later provide the base for our own full time ministry.
The pressure of facing an audience of several hundred people each week was just what I needed to counterbalance the pressures from a demanding executive schedule. I would typically carry a commentary or two in my travel bags, reading during my free moments during the week. On the weekend, I would pull together my notes for Monday night.
It was later that Chuck Smith demonstrated to me how the Lord always blesses situations where His Word is put ahead of all else. That clearly is the secret behind the remarkable growth of the Calvary Chapels, and has certainly been the dynamic behind the growth of Koinonia House. The Lord magnifies His Word even above His own name! (Psalm 138:2)