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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Celebrating Light for the Lost

By Darrin Rodgers and Everett James
Mar. 23, 2014

Give Me the Book!

When Assemblies of layman Sam Cochran started Light for the Lost in 1953, he could not have imagined that the ministry would raise, during the following 60 years, more than $289 million for the printing and distribution of gospel literature and other evangelism resources.

Cochran, a successful insurance broker in California, saw a vision during a time of extended prayer in 1952. This vision transformed Cochran’s life and his approach to missions.

In his vision, Cochran saw throngs of people from all over the world, reaching upward in an attempt to grab hold of a large Bible in a hand reaching from heaven. He heard one person plead, “Give me the Book! Give me the Book!” Before they could take hold of the Bible, a door seemingly swung open beneath the people, and they all fell into a fiery inferno.

Cochran, shaken by this vision, felt compelled to find a way to provide gospel literature to people around the world. But what could he, as a layman, do? Most Assemblies of God ministries were conceived and led by ministers and missionaries. Cochran could certainly give money, but he wanted to do more. He felt led by the Holy Spirit to form an organization of laymen who would raise money for the purpose of providing gospel literature.

In 1953, Cochran and several others who caught the vision formed the Missionary Gospel Society. The Southern California District of the Assemblies of God recognized the new organization. Cochran and his friends began raising money for missions across California.

The organization grew and, in 1959, was incorporated into the national structure of the Assemblies of God. It became known as Light for the Lost and became a program of the Men’s Fellowship Department (now Men’s Ministries). The story behind the founding of Light for the Lost was published in the Dec. 2, 1962, Pentecostal Evangel.

Light for the Lost continues to fulfill a vital need as it provides evangelism resources around the world, in conjunction with the efforts of Assemblies of God missionaries.

“Light for the Lost’s greatest days are ahead,” predicts LFTL Director Rick Allen. “For the past 61 years, men and women across the United States have helped fulfill the Great Commission by delivering evangelism resources to people groups around the world. There is still much to do and the harvest is ripe. Light for the Lost continues to accept the challenge given by our Lord to fulfill His Great Commission and expand His kingdom.”

The article, “It Began with a Burden: The Story of Light for the Lost,” by Everett James, from the Dec. 2, 1962, Pentecostal Evangel appears below.

DARRIN RODGERS is director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center for the Assemblies of God.

It Began With a Burden

The man lay prostrate on the floor. His eyes were closed, tears were streaming down his face, his hands were stretched toward heaven.

Sam Cochran was oblivious to the other men who were kneeling around him at the altar of the First Assembly of God in Santa Ana, Calif., that Sunday night in 1952; nor did they realize what was transpiring in Brother Cochran’s life.

But on Sunday afternoon, a few weeks later, he told a group of laymen what had happened.

I was one of the men whom Sam had invited to his home that Sunday afternoon. In the course of our conversation, he explained that he had called us together to tell us a story.

“A few Sunday evenings ago,” he said, “I received a vision from the Lord. I saw a great multitude of people standing, looking up. A large hand out of heaven was holding a Bible toward the people. The people were all reaching up as far as they could, stretching out their hands to take the Bible. As the hand and Bible came down, a trap door opened beneath them, and flames and smoke shot into the air as the people dropped screaming into the pit.

“I knew at that moment what God’s purpose was for my life,” he added: “to send the Word of God to every soul on earth as long as He gave me breath.”

Brother Cochran, a successful insurance broker, told the group that he was setting aside a certain amount of his own money each month to purchase gospel literature for distribution among those who had never heard about Christ. He asked the group if any of us would like to do the same.

Each man agreed, and slips of paper were passed out. We placed the amount we would give each month but we did not sign the slips. This was a pledge to God, not to man.

It was by means of a male quartet that the burden for gospel literature was carried to other churches. It happened that the members of this vocal quartet were among those who had pledged money to buy literature. When churches in the surrounding area invited our quartet to come and sing, we refused, until one of the pastors said, “If you will come and sing at our church, we will take up an offering for your missionary literature work.” Our pastor, Brother Ben Hardin, was in favor of this, as he had missions on his heart, so we went to the neighboring church and received an offering of about $16.

Other pastors caught on to the idea. They invited the quartet to their churches and took up offerings for literature evangelism. The funds were used to purchase Gospels of John for Mexico. Later the Gospels were provided for Central America also; then shipments went to Peru, Argentina, and Brazil. Later we shipped Gospels to Italy and Ceylon. Our goal was to give the Word to the world.

It was not long until the laymen decided they should organize this program, give it a name, and ask the Southern California District of the Assemblies of God for official recognition. A meeting was called and 10 men drew up a statement of purpose. The name Missionary Gospel Society was selected. A board of directors was organized. Sam Cochran was asked to be chairman. A vice chairman and secretary-treasurer were elected. In 1953 the organization was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in the state of California.

It was announced that the quartet would sing in any church that would receive an offering for the Missionary Gospel Society. A member of the quartet would speak to the congregation about the need of gospel literature on the mission fields. The quartet was not to use any portion of the offerings for expenses; traveling expenses would be paid by the members of the board of directors, and the offerings would be used a hundred percent for foreign literature.

Brother Cochran gave a large amount of time to the program. He took care of his insurance business during the week and spent his weekends promoting the literature project.

Experienced ministers who shared this burden for literature evangelism and were acquainted with distribution methods offered to travel with the quartet to raise funds for the work. Interest multiplied. As enthusiasm spread throughout the state it became evident that the small group of laymen who had started the work in Southern California would not be able to supply all the funds needed to promote it properly. An additional laymen’s group therefore was organized in Northern California.

By 1959 the work had spread to such proportions that the General Council of the Assemblies of God, meeting that year in San Antonio, Texas, decided to incorporate it in the program of the Men’s Fellowship Department and make it nationwide. Immediately after this a committee was organized in the Oregon District. Next came Southern Missouri, Arizona, West Central, Illinois, and Wisconsin/Northern Michigan. In each of these districts a committee of laymen was organized, and each committee member pledged to provide a monthly sum of money to underwrite all the costs of promoting the program and distributing the literature.

Since 1959 the program has been called “Light for the Lost.” Due to the fact that the laymen across the country make donations each month, all the offerings are used 100 percent for the purchase of gospel literature. Each district committee designates one of its members to serve on the National Men’s Fellowship Missions Council, which administers the program.

Sam Cochran is national administrator.

It has been thrilling to watch a vision become a reality. Although the growth has been gradual and many people have been involved in spreading the program, yet the miracle of the fulfillment of the vision is bold and clear. “Light for the Lost” began with a burden and continues because dedicated laymen of the Assemblies of God are willing to shoulder this burden for lost men and women around the world.

In 1961 “Light for the Lost” sent out more than 3 million Gospel portions. In 1962 it joined forces with the Foreign Missions Department by supplying literature for foreign city crusades.

“Light for the Lost” also has launched an Operation Saturation program of house-to-house literature evangelism, beginning in Mexico City. The program is expanding everywhere as members of Men’s Fellowship catch the vision that God revealed to Sam Cochran and consecrate themselves to the task of sending light to the lost.

Originally published in the Dec. 2, 1962, Pentecostal Evangel

EVERETT JAMES served as Light for the Lost national field secretary.


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