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phil-tuttlePhil Tuttle: Welcome to my blog! For those of you new to the site, I am the President of Walk Thru the Bible, an organization based in Atlanta, GA, dedicated to igniting a passion for God's Word—here in the U.S. and throughout the world. In this blog you'll find a crazy blend of random thoughts, bizarre humor, and even an occasional deep insight.

Please jump into the discussion because, as we all know, a conversation is way more fun than a monologue.


 

A View Through Fresh Eyes

A Quick Update from Michael Gunnin

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Today's update is from Michael Gunnin, our new VP for Advancement. Many of you haven't met him yet, but he's a great addition to our team. This trip to Kenya is Michael's first opportunity to interact with most of our global leaders, and I love seeing what our worldwide ministry looks like through his eyes. Enjoy. ~ Phil

Dear Friends in Ministry,

Greetings from Kenya! We are just wrapping up our second full day in Kenya.

I'm sitting outside under a cool, Kenyan night sky reflecting on the day. I could sum up what I'm feeling with one word - overwhelmed.

I'm overwhelmed by the teaching and learning that we've experienced the past two days. Phil Tuttle has been teaching Chosen, his new course on Mary the mother of Jesus. The discussion and sharing with people from over 20 various countries has been remarkable. Our international leaders are excited about the opportunity to use Chosen to build bridges and extend the ministry opportunities around the world!

I'm overwhelmed by meeting the remarkable men and women who lead Walk Thru the Bible's international team. Being the new team member, I'm meeting many of them for the first time this week. They are passionate and courageous. They love Walk Thru the Bible. They are deeply devoted followers of Christ. Their desire to help people ignite passion for God's Word is indescribable.

I'm overwhelmed by the fellowship happening in Kenya. We've laughed. We've cried. We've dreamed big dreams. We've prayed for each other and been able to encourage several enduring real challenges. God is doing something special in Kenya.

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I'm overwhelmed by the ministry opportunities for Walk Thru the Bible. I wish you were here to listen to our global leaders share the strategic opportunities God is providing for WTB to grow in its current ministry areas and expand into new ones. I'm convinced some of our best days are ahead.

I'm overwhelmed by knowing all that Walk Thru's financial partners have provided. WTB has such generous partners who faithfully support the ministry. Listening to the stories of life change the past two days remind me again that God has and is continuing to use Walk Thru the Bible in significant ways.

Please keep praying for us. This week is an important and strategic time for our global ministry.

Thank you for your support, your prayers, and partnership in ministry.

You are changing the world!

Michael Gunnin

Where you sit says a lot about what you believe.

At least that's my personal unscientific theory.

Always sitting with the same people or clustering with folks "just like us" shows a lack of comfort and often causes us to miss out on vital new relationships.

Preferring to sit in the middle of a group reveals a person's personality type a lot faster than taking the Myers-Briggs or the DISC inventory.

So what does all this have to do with our Global Consultation (GC) here in Nairobi, Kenya?

Plenty! Here are three powerful pictures that prove my point.

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Paul Keeys and Bazaks Kovacs have chosen to sit together at every session so far. Paul, who leads our ministry in the UK, is our first second-generation Regional Director. His dad, Cliff, launched our work there, and Paul attended his first Walk Thru the Bible live event as a young boy 31 years ago. Bazaks is from Hungary and this is his first GC. Watching Paul usher Bazaks into our group is encouraging to watch. And seeing Bazaks' fresh enthusiasm reminds all of us how blessed we are to be part of this global family.

A few seats down you'll find Sathyabal from India next to Curnelius from Pakistan. To a casual observer that may seem perfectly logical considering the proximity of their home countries. Wait a minute. Aren't India and Pakistan political enemies struggling to maintain a fragile peace? Precisely. Which is what makes it so thrilling to watch as Sathyabal and Curnelius' brotherhood in Christ trumps their earthly citizenship. Their friendship must make Jesus smile, and I'm guessing he'll find some strategic ways to leverage their supernatural bond to showcase the true power of the Gospel.

The third picture is me next to Grace Awori. Grace leads our ministry in Uganda and is our first female National Director. It can't be easy being the only woman in the room, but Grace lives up to her name in everything she says and does. This is her second GC, and I was delighted when she asked if she could sit next to me. At her first GC she seemed cautious as she no doubt wondered how she'd be accepted. That's no longer a question in her mind or anyone else's, and her joyful presence right next to me shows she is 100% comfortable and now free to fully invest her leadership gifts in our movement.

I hope these pictures pop up in your mind as you're scanning your church auditorium deciding where to sit. Or the next time you walk into a departmental meeting at work. Or even look for a seat at your favorite coffee shop.

Because whether you're in Kenya or Kansas, where you sit really does say a lot about what you believe.

Phil Tuttle
President
Walk Thru the Bible

Prayers Needed for Kenya Conference

2015-04-21 image-1We need your prayers this week.
Big time.

Sunday night nearly all our 14 Regional Directors plus a few key National Directors and five of us from our Atlanta office arrived in Nairobi, Kenya for our annual Global Consultation.

There are 30 of us all together, and though our agenda is well planned and full, our conference feels more like a family reunion than a business meeting.

Kenya has been in the news a lot lately. Especially the massacre of 150 Christian students at Garissa University.

That's four hours from here, so we feel relatively safe here at the Desmond Tutu Guest House and Conference Center. We follow the U.S. State Department warnings carefully and don't believe we are taking an irresponsible risk by meeting here.

2015-04-21 image-2Still, we need your prayers for safety, focus, and productivity. And please pray that Ellen and all the other family members the 30 of us left at home will have peace and not be filled with fear.

I'll try to send regular updates along with a few pictures during our week. If you have a minute, please respond by commenting below so I can assure our global team of your interest and prayer support. That kind of support means more than you'll ever fully understand.

None of the amazing reports we'll hear this week would be possible without your generous and consistent partnership. Thank you so much for traveling here with us through the miracle of prayer.

I've attached a picture of Stephen Mairori, our Kenyan National Director, and host for this year's Global Consultation.

Phil Tuttle
President
Walk Thru the Bible

Nicaragua Update #2

God Loves a Good Story

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Every good story weaves together setting, characters, and plot.

The great stories surprise us when seemingly insignificant details about the setting turn out to be essential to the story. Or minor, supporting characters suddenly take center stage and play a much larger role than we expected. Or we discover that intricate subplots running underneath the main plot are fascinating stories on their own.

Since God is the master story weaver, it shouldn't surprise us when he knits together these three elements in ways we never expected. Most times we never see it coming because great story tellers also excel in the element of surprise.

That's precisely what God did yesterday at our conference here in Managua, Nicaragua.

Lester Ruiz, the worship leader from The Bridge, my home church in Atlanta, traveled with me to lead worship at our conference.

Lester was born in Nicaragua, and spent the first 16 years of his life here in Managua. Then he immigrated to the U.S. where he met Jesus as his personal Savior and later answered God's call to a life of ministry.

2015-02-16 image-2When the conference planners told me they were looking for someone to lead worship, I knew Lester was the ideal choice. I also knew his mother and lots of his extended family live here, and that it had been seven years since he'd been home for a visit.

The sweet reunion when Lester's family met us at the airport the night before last confirmed that this was a subplot worthy of inclusion in the dominant story of this week -- the introduction of 250+ pastors to Chosen, our new course on the life of Mary.

But God, the ultimate story builder, had so much more planned for Lester than I ever imagined.

It took Lester all of thirty seconds to bond with the roomful of pastors and spouses. Before the first song was half over, he had us all singing passionately and worshipping freely.

I smiled inside, knowing that God had allowed me to play a small role in crafting this exciting story.

But I never expected the subtle subplot, or the surprising character development, or the hidden significance of our setting.

Last night I asked Lester to email me a few of his thoughts on day one of our conference. This morning I found these words in my inbox, and couldn't help but marvel at God's story weaving brilliance.

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What an especial and memorable experience today! Two of my deepest heart desires became a reality in my life.

My first time leading and facilitating worship in the city where I was born Managua, Nicaragua. I prayed to have an opportunity to serve people in this country one day, it felt really far away but I rested and waited for years knowing that this request was on God's hands.

The second especial experience was playing at The Camino Real Hotel. When I was a kid many times I went to pick up my Mother from the airport and every time I passed by the Hotel I used to wonder and dream about going in one day but we couldn't afford it, but that didn't stop me from dreaming that one day, I was going to be able to go.

Today, I was so excited because God made something that looked impossible, possible, He is faithful! I'm humbled and forever grateful that my Father gave me this amazing opportunity through Walk Thru The Bible to come to serve and be part of this amazing conference. Thank you God!

And there it was. The master story weaver had done it again! In the middle of the major story of the week, God loved Lester enough to craft a beautiful subplot just for him.

And the really cool part is that he has also written you into this story. Through your prayers and generous gifts to Walk Thru the Bible, you get to be a story shaper too. And someday in heaven we'll get to fully understand all the subplots God is writing in us and through us.

How cool will that be?

~Phil

Next Stop: Nicaragua

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I don't want to annoy you with so many updates and blogs that you start ignoring my communication. But the truth is, I very much need your prayers the next few days, and I'm too dependent not to ask for your help.

It's Sunday night and I'm on Delta flight 369 heading to Managua, Nicaragua.

This is going to be a short trip so you'll have to pray really fast! I'll be in Nicaragua less than 60 hours, but my time there will be full and strategic.

2015-02-15 image-2Thanks to the wonderful partnership between our Central American regional director, Alejandro Oviedo, Harborside Christian Church in Florida, and Charley and Mary Anne Babcock, I'm once again heading to Managua to speak at their conference for over 250 pastors and their spouses.

My previous visits to this gathering have been amazing. Such eager, grateful students of God's Word. For many of these men and women, this is their only opportunity for training each year. What an honor to encourage and equip these dear brothers and sisters!

This week is especially strategic as I'll be test teaching Chosen, our new course on the life of Mary. The response to this material in both India and the U.S. has been encouraging, but this will be our first time to present this course in a predominantly Catholic culture.

We are praying that this new family of resources will build bridges rather than walls between Protestants and both Catholic and Orthodox believers.

The feedback we receive will be crucial as we prepare to put this new course in the hands of all 14 of our regional directors at our Global Consultation in Kenya this April.

Please pray for responsive hearts, constructive criticism, and passion to share this material all over Central America.

Please also ask God to shrink my own ego and deliver me from the pride of authorship that can so easily derail true creative collaboration.

I'll let you know how God answers your prayers and try to send a few photos so you can picture the people you're interceding for.

Thank you so much for living this adventure with me through the miracle of prayer.

~Phil

Final India Update

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I've lived a lot of life since coming home from India two weeks ago, but the memories are still vivid. Reading all your encouraging comments and heartfelt prayers was so moving. Thank you for going with me to India through the miracle of prayer.

The previous eight updates captured most of the challenges and rewards our leaders in South Asia face every day. They also communicated most of my strongest memories from our trip.

There is, however, one more special moment I want to share with you.

As the conference was winding down, an idea appeared in my mind. At first I tried to push it aside since it wasn't part of the carefully built agenda that characterizes our gatherings in South Asia. But when the idea sunk its nails into my frontal cortex, I decided the impulse was from the Holy Spirit and went for it.

I placed a chair in the middle of our 25 person circle and asked our Regional Director, Vallab Sathyabal, to have a seat. He gave me an uncomfortable look as if to say, "I don't know what you have planned for me, but this is not our way, Pastor Phil."

That was music to my ears!

Our Atlanta headquarters team knows how much I love creating spontaneous moments that move people beyond their comfort zones. In fact, they've coined a term for such awkward encounters. They call it being "Tuttled."

Apparently our staff's exaggerated descriptions of these glorious experiences had made their way to Sathyabal's ears halfway around the world!

I assured him these activities rarely prove fatal, and he reluctantly took his place.

The rules were simple. As the microphone moved around the circle, each person was to look Sathyabal in the eye and tell him what they appreciate most about his character and leadership.

It took several reminders to get our trainers to look at Sathyabal rather than me, and to switch their pronouns from "he" to "you." When they finally embraced the idea, their affirmations were far more powerful than I'd hoped. Here are a few sound bites I managed to capture.

"You are younger than me, but you've been my role model for many years."

"I appreciate that though you demand high accountability, you do so as a brother rather than a boss."

"I'm serving in a position of great influence and responsibility. There's no way I would be ready for my current role if you hadn't mentored me for the past ten years."

"I love you because you gave me a second chance. You were right to release me years ago when I fell far short of my goals two years in a row. But three years later when I pleaded with you to reinstate me, you took a risk and gave me a chance to make things right. I'll never forget that you gave me grace."

2015-02-09 image-2Every man and woman spoke truth into Sathyabal's weary spirit as he slowly rotated his chair around the circle. His tears flowed freely as did mine. And then we gathered around, laid our hands on his trembling shoulders, and prayed for his personal walk with God, his marriage, and his ministry. Hearing Sathyabal describe the experience to his wife, Anitha, over dinner cemented the power of that moment in all our minds.

Someone once said, "encouragement is the oxygen of the soul." Sathyabal and the rest of us got to experience that truth in the final moments of our conference.

In the middle of more than a billion people, I got to see and hear just how much impact one person can have if his life is fully committed to daily discipleship and the miracle of mentoring.

Our brothers and sisters in South Asia plan to impact 1.2 million people through Walk Thru the Bible live events in 2015. That number is absolutely attainable because Sathyabal has chosen to lead by serving. He's the kind of leader others won't hesitate to follow.

The kind of leader I hope to someday be. How about you?

Exponential Effect

Today's post comes from Mark Schaff, International Trainer

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Can you double an exponential effect?

One formula is clear.
Train a teacher – that's addition.
Train a trainer – that's multiplication.
Train a trainer of trainers – that's exponential explosion.

This is the mathematical explanation of how last year's 25 South Asian consultation team members touched 1,180,000 lives.

We introduced a new formula yesterday. The KNOW. FEEL. DO. formula. Rather than simply training the South Asian leaders in the content of Chosen, Phil spent the day training the men in how to prepare and apply a message for transformation not information.

Dissecting the lessons of Chosen as an example, Phil guided the team in developing applications for their teaching. Determine what you want your students to KNOW, FEEL and Do from each Bible lesson.

The men engaged with Phil, each other, and Chosen with incredible energy. Gone were the quiet listening and words of appreciation after a polite pause. There was talkative chaos, leaning forward in seats with immediate questions, ah ha's, and affirmations.

"Why haven't you taught us this before?!" was heard more than once.

I winced a bit at that comment. "Hey, we've been teaching application for years. It is our DNA!" I thought. But life change is a process. Just because you said something once does not mean people learn it. Then I got swept up in the joy of learning with everyone else. The time was ripe for the men to grasp this lesson – method – teaching goal. This is the second exponential track at this year's consultation.

Addition – it influences their teaching of Chosen.
Multiplication – it changes all their Walk Thru the Bible course teachings.
Exponential Impact – the skill transfers to all their teaching far beyond Walk Thru the Bible curriculum.

As the KNOW. FEEL. DO. formula gets passed through the first formula of the training of trainers, we may do much more than double our impact.

Celebrate the continual growth of our South Asia team!

- Mark Schaff, International Trainer

India Update #7

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(Today's update is from Mark Schaff, our International Trainer)

Hello,

The catalyst event for this whirlwind trip of preaching, teaching and training is up and running. The actual consultation has begun.

The various 'stats' are being tabulated:

  • 28 leaders
  • 15 languages
  • 4 countries

(It takes more than 3 minutes to sing the chorus of 'this is the day' in each language present).

For the 7th year in a row, the South Asia team has touched over a million lives with relevant Biblical messages. These messages ignite passion for God's Word and forge a group of men and women into a solid team that, to adapt a phrase, is 'taking a walk and changing the world.'

What impressed me today was the dynamics of the team. You would think the 27 hour train ride from Kolkata to Hyderabad would be a real drain. Physically, beyond a doubt. But the East / North East Zonal team arrived enthused.

Rarely seeing each other and spending a day+ together in a sleeping cabin is a rejuvenating reunion of fellowship. The larger team is separated by thousands of miles with major rivers and mountain ranges between them. This consultation is the one time they gather as group.

Between reports, they pray for one another - deep prayers of thanksgiving for deliverance from major car wrecks on the mountain roads of Punjab, healing of voices when one could not speak after traveling 200 miles to lead an event, protection from municipal governments that seek to disrupt and disperse church gatherings.

Years ago, gatherings like this were a time of friendly competition of reports and stories. Today, I saw a group of friends, deeply concerned for one another gathering around the Great Commission wanting their lives to count.

It has been fun watching Phil; without a translator he is 'cut free' to be more himself. The men are really connecting with him and soaking up CHOSEN. Today is Phil's birthday.

However corny, the picture that comes to mind is an old admiral commanding fleets of ships with all the vast responsibilities of the office, suddenly being allowed to jump on a small frigate. Zipping through the waves as a young captain with the sea spray and wind in his face. Phil is in full classic training mode. The skills and abilities that saw him rise to Dean of faculty, VP of International and President are still there and shining. Yea, he is a year older today. But the 'old guy' still has it.

OK, back to statistics. We have to make a new category for God's Grand Story. We currently count number of churches with live events, number of small groups, people attending, etc...but we did not think to add New Churches Started.

At least two small groups in South India gathered to study God's Grand Story. After hearing the messages and meeting for six weeks of study and devotions, they decided to continue meeting around God's Word. And 'bang,' a new church blooms and a local Walk Thru instructor begins nourishing a new leader with more life change material.

Thank you for your prayers. We feel them daily.

- Mark

P.S. Happy Birthday Mr. President!

What Would You Do?

India Update #6

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So . . . If you had a vacant floor in your four-story office flat, what would you do with it?

That's the decision that confronted our South Asia Regional Director, Vallab Sathyabal, and his wife, Anitha.

Most Americans would simply use it as extra storage space and fill it up with soon-forgotten boxes. The entrepreneurs among us would recognize the income potential, and look for a renter immediately.

2015-01-14 image-2But Sathyabal and Anitha had a better idea. A much better idea.

They reconfigured the space, hired a family to move in as house parents, and provided a priceless opportunity to five heartbroken boys.

All five are the sons of fathers who died of AIDS. Their mothers have also tested positive for the dreaded disease.

Here in Hyderabad India, that means these boys have no hope for a positive future. They'll likely be orphaned within years. And they have little or no shot at a quality education or a rewarding career.

But Sathyabal and Anitha changed all that.

Here's how it works. The boys stay in town during the week and attend high quality, college prep schools. Their meals and lodging are all provided, along with love and biblical nurture from their house parents and their two great kids. All these costs plus school tuition are fully funded by Sathyabal and Anitha, along with six other families here in India.

The boys spend weekends and holidays at home with their moms. While it's far from perfect, this opportunity is life changing on every level.

2015-01-14 image-3We got to hang out with three of the boys and hear their stories a few days ago. They didn't seem to mind coming home from school a few hours early to meet us!

In spite of the heartbreak these boys have experienced, their faces radiate joy. They're growing in their love for Christ and knowledge of His Word. And they now have a future worth dreaming about.

While none of this is officially part of Walk Thru the Bible, I thought you should hear what our leaders have chosen to do with their spare time and resources -- neither of which they have a lot of.

Sathyabal and Anitha are amazing examples of what it looks like when we live life full out for Christ. Not the sanitized version of our faith that huddles in comfortable church buildings, but the messy kind that takes Christ's love to those who need it the most.

I'm inspired and convicted by Sathyabal and Anitha. We've been serving together since 1992. I didn't think it was possible for me to love and respect them any more. But I was wrong.

-Phil

India Update #5

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It happens everywhere we go.

My wife connects deeply with random people in record time.

Though I've watched it over and over, I still can't explain how she does it. I've tried to analyze the process, but it's too spontaneous to recreate in the lab of my mind.

It's already happened several times on this trip. And it happened again today at the church where I preached.

Women of all ages welcomed her into their hearts. The twenty-somethings swapped email addresses and Facebook friend requests. The middle aged women asked to see pictures of our kids. And the senior saints just wanted to sit next to her and pat her hands and smile with their eyes.

They always end up sharing their stories. Mostly Ellen asks them questions and consistently shifts the focus away from herself.

But somewhere there's a connection that bridges cultures, languages, politics, and generations.

In the small town where we pastored our first church, they used to call her Ellie Mae after the Clampett's beautiful daughter on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Here in India they're much too formal for that, opting instead for "Madam President" -- a reminder of the lingering formality left behind by the British.

It doesn't matter what name they use. In their hearts they always call her "friend."

I'm so thankful that after years of traveling by myself, Ellen is now sometimes able to come along. I always teach better when she's with me, and everything I share seems to have greater credibility.

But even more than that, she has her own personal ministry. She rarely stands in front of a microphone. But her quiet authenticity speaks unforgettable truth whether she uses words, plays translation charades, or just takes the time to look into another woman's eyes as if to say, "I value you, and so does Jesus."

-Phil

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