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Pastor’s printed Bible studies gain avenues into 19 countries

MARIETTA, Okla. (BP)–Behind the walls of his 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom house, offset presses are printing thousands of copies of Bible studies that will be shipped around the world.
Written by Tommy Higle, pastor of First Baptist Church, Marietta, Okla., the “Journey Series” is used by more than 9,000 churches in all 50 states and 19 foreign countries.
In fact, it is the first Bible study approved by the Baptist union of Russia, and it has recently been distributed in China.
The “Journeys” are systematic studies of Bible characters, verse-by-verse Bible book studies and topical studies, ranging from seven to 52 lessons in each series. Among topics are the cross, spiritual gifts, financial freedom, spiritual maturity, discipleship, obedience, knowing God, assurance, success and pleasing God.
Higle, who has been at Marietta 17 years, said while he was a pastor in Arkansas he wrote a book called “Journey Through the Bible.”
“I wanted to teach a simple Bible study,” Higle said. “I couldn’t find anything written like I wanted to teach it.”
Higle said when his church became the fastest-growing congregation in southwest Arkansas, a pastor called and asked what the church was doing to grow. Higle told the pastor he was teaching Journey through the Bible, and people were coming to the study who wouldn’t come to a traditional Sunday school class.
“It was meant for my own church,” Higle said. “I never intended to become a published writer.”
However, because of the simplicity of the studies, sales are approaching 500,000 for the 26 books now in print.
Higle noted he is not in competition with Southern Baptists or LifeWay Christian Resources. “I don’t compete,” he emphasized. “I’ve been a faithful Southern Baptist pastor for 30 years, and I love our denomination and the material it produces.”
Higle has taught the 52-lesson survey of the Bible, “Journey of a Lifetime,” seven times in Marietta.
“We call it a community Bible class,” he explained. “Most people want to know about the Bible. And this is a bridge-type approach of getting people into a Sunday school class. As a result, First Baptist has the highest per-capita Sunday school in the state.”
Higle said it takes seven to eight years to go through the entire series of 26 books, all of which are on tape.
In addition to Russia and China, the materials are being used in Australia, Panama, the Philippines, India, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Scotland, Japan, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Netherlands, Korea, Guam, Tanzania and West Indies.
Higle said the reason sales have picked up in foreign countries is the simplicity of the studies. “You never know how it’s going to transcend language and culture,” he noted.
Australia was the first country where the materials were used. Higle said a man saw an ad about the series of books, ordered a copy of Journey Through the Bible and invited Higle to Australia.
“He had a connection to the Philippines, and through him I met a Chinese businessman who lives in the Philippines, and he wanted the series to be used there,” Higle said.
He said the Baptist union of Russia wants to print the entire journey series. The first book distributed there, during last year’s Baptist congress, was the 13-lesson study of Philippians called “Journey into Joy.”
“I was invited over for the distribution of it,” Higle said. “We gave a copy to every one of the more than 600 pastors who were there.”
Higle said the door to Russia was opened when he met Fiodor Baraniuk, vice chairman of the international department of the Russian Baptist union while speaking at a seminary in Jacksonville, Texas.
“He was a student there, and I invited him to our church, where he saw the books and said they were what was needed in Russia,” Higle recounted. However, it took two years to get it published in Russia, he said.
Higle said to get the series published in China: number one, there could be no criticism of the government; two, it could not be sold for money; and three, it had to be printed in China; it couldn’t be printed outside and taken into the country. It is the first book on discipleship ever printed in China. The publishing of the book was paid for by Chinese businessmen, who were responsible for arranging to get Journey into Discipleship approved, translated, edited and published in the country.
In addition to writing the books, Higle said he also teaches pastors how to teach the Journey series in places “where it’s hard to get a Southern Baptist start.”
Higle said he writes two new books a year, the title of which all begin with the word “journey.”
With the expansion of the distribution of the books, Higle is looking for room to expand his publishing house. He could devote full time to the publishing business, but he said he doesn’t want it to be easy to quit preaching just because “there’s something else out there.”
“God called me to preach,” he emphasized. “And I wouldn’t have the discipline to write two books a year if I weren’t preaching. I have to come up with sermons anyway.”

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  • Dana Williamson