Friday 7th June 2019
Dear Vision family
Today, we are sad to announce that Bob Gass, the author of Vision’s daily devotional, The Word for Today, passed away peacefully on the evening of the 5th June, at his home in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Bob’s wife, Debby has given us permission to share this with you, as we know that many of you will have been greatly impacted by his ministry.
Bob and Debby Gass have been great friends of Vision’s ministry for many decades – from almost the very beginning. Bob had a unique style and a rare gift of taking the Word of God and applying it to everyday life. He wrote The Word For Today - with the support of a great team – in a way that it appealed to those who didn’t know God (so that it acted as an ‘appetiser’) and it also helped more mature believers to go deeper in their faith (rather like a ‘vitamin’ especially in challenging times).
In the early days, Bob was an itinerant preacher and also had a TV show in the US, but he did not think of himself as a writer. However, on his wedding day in 1991, he and Debby were given a prophecy and were told that Bob’s writing would reach more people than his preaching ever would. Sometime later, The Word for Today became a written reality and from a small print run of 3,500 copies initially in the UK, it now has a global reach through print and digital platforms of over 7.6 million per quarter at the end of 2018. In Australia, we send it and the partner youth edition (in print copy alone) to over 150,000 people every quarter.
Bob’s heart was always that the readers would get deeper into the Word of God. It has never been about ‘him’ or his ministry, but about seeing lives changed with the truth of Scripture.
Bob himself, actually planned for this day, several years ago. The readers of The Word for Today were always at the front of his mind. As he grew older, he and the team wanted to ensure The Word for Today would continue to encourage and support believers for many years to come and he began a long writing project, which would mean the devotional could continue long after he passed away. Bob had a huge heart for ministry and wanted to ensure that when he finally did go to be with the Lord, the work would continue. We believe that Bob’s legacy will ensure that The Word for Today will reach even more people in years to come, than it has over the last 25 years.
Over many years, the devotional has impacted millions of lives and although today is a sad day of loss, we are also thankful for the incredible legacy Bob has left behind.
When a believer goes to be with Jesus, we feel the loss personally, but the Word tells us that ‘that we do not grieve like those who have no hope (I Thessalonians 4), as we know that one day, we will be reunited. We also know that in times of grief and loss, the Word and God’s love sustains us and helps to mend broken hearts.
Please keep Bob’s family in your prayers, at this difficult time. Thank you for all your support.
CEO, Vision Christian Media
What Will Happen to The Word For Today?
On a practical note, some may ask what this means for The Word for Today? Who will write it from now on? Will the publication stop?
The short answer is that it will continue and we pray will grow even stronger. Bob Gass himself actually planned for this day several years ago, having his readers always at the front of his mind. As he grew older, he and his team wanted to ensure the devotional would continue to encourage and support believers for many years to come, so he began a long writing project which would mean the devotional could continue long after he passed away.
Bob had a huge heart for ministry and wanted to ensure that when he finally did go to be with the Lord, the work would continue. He was surrounded by a dedicated and passionate team, who are committed to ensuring that readers can continue to be ministered to through The Word for Today. This is part of an incredible legacy, which we pray will benefit millions of people in the years to come.
Phil Edwards’ Interview with Bob Gass in 2011
"Congratulations On Your New Location!"
Many times we hear that God has used Bob's words through The Word for Today to speak to people the exact right words at the exact right time. Bob and Debby Gass are based in the USA, so it is only appropriate that the devotional he wrote years in advance, but was published on the day of his passing was titled: 'Congratulations on your new location'.
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History of Bob’s Life and Ministry
Bob was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father died when he was 12 and Bob’s mother raised Bob and his two siblings as a single parent.
Bob always described his mother as a formative influence in his life, encouraging him to attend church as often as possible.
‘She came into the Kingdom at a hundred miles an hour,’ Bob once wrote ‘and never slowed down. She took her family in one hand and her faith in the other, and said, “we are going to serve the Lord.”
Every week, she took us to church and I always remember that after the morning service, I would go to two Sunday schools – the Brethren and the Presbyterian. I once said to my mother, “my friends only go to one Sunday school, how come I have to go to two?” “It’s a back-up plan”, she would say, “just in case you weren’t listening the first time.” We also went to a Sunday night service, the prayer meeting on Monday, Bible study on a Wednesday and the youth service on a Friday.
One of my mother’s favourite verses was “[they shall be] planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God” (Psalm 92:13 NIV). And so as children, not only were we planted but we were fertilised, watered and pruned. But then an amazing thing happened, when I was 12, I got saved at a mission and soon all my heroes were preachers. I grew up in a culture where men didn’t cry, but I would fight back tears because I had this burning desire to preach. I had no idea how I would make it from the congregation to the pulpit, but I had this inner tug, this deep calling”.
Thanks to that early influence, Bob preached his first sermon when he was 13 years old. When he was 18, he left Belfast for America, arriving with just a suitcase and 25p in his pocket. A pastor and his wife took Bob in and invited Bob to speak at his church. Over the months that followed, Bob would record his sermons and the pastor would critique Bob’s speaking style and give him advice on delivery and speaking.
Bob wrote, ‘I never did get to go to Bible school, but I had a one-on-one teacher in the form of my pastor friend. He taught me so much; to memorise Scripture, how to speak, how to behave in people’s homes. He held my feet to the fire and kept me accountable. So in my heart, I have always been called to the ministry, but while the calling has never changed, the method has.’
In later years when Bob married his wife Debby, they were given a prophetic word on their wedding day which said, ‘The Lord says that you will reach more people through your writing than you will in all the years of your preaching.’
Bob did not think of himself as a writer and said, ‘I didn’t want to write, I didn’t feel qualified, but my wife Debby wrote the prophetic word down and we did not forget it.’
Some years later, when Bob met Ian Mackie and a small group of volunteers, who were trying to launch Christian radio in the UK, he discovered their biggest challenge was ‘how do we get the message out?’ They had no support base and the government wouldn’t give them any radio space or time.
Bob realised then that one of the most read parts of a daily newspaper is often the horoscope section. He wrote, ‘Thank God we don’t need horoscopes, but I realised that by reading them, people want guidance, encouragement and they want answers. So I said to Ian and his team, “I’ll write a daily devotional for you. I’ll provide Scripture and thoughts for each day. You can give it out at conferences, set up a table and say to people, ‘would you like a free devotional?’”’
Three-and-a-half years after Bob and Debby received that prophetic word on their wedding day, The Word For Today was printed for the first time. It was just 3,500 copies and only in the UK. 25 years later it has grown to reach millions worldwide including hundreds of thousands of people in Australia (the Australian edition was also first published in 1994).
Bob had a special place in his heart for Australia, coming here many times during his itinerant ministry years. His final visit was in 2010 where he was very warmly received.
Bob once wrote, “people ask how ‘I’ do it. I believe with all my heart that without God’s spirit, I don’t have anything to say, but when God’s spirit touches God’s Word, something ignites and something comes to life. I am reminded of Paul who said, ‘not that we are sufficient of ourselves … but our sufficiency is of God’ (2 Corinthians 3:5 KJV). It’s His Word and all I do is distribute what God says.”
“I believe we all have a kingdom destiny. We are each called by God to be priests and as believers, we all have access to the same anointing. The same Holy Spirit, the same presence of God rests on each of us and we need to get the message of the gospel to this culture. We live in a world where people are searching for happiness and looking for it in drugs, multiple relationships and money. People think that if they get just one more thing or make some more money, they will be happy. But that is not the answer. We have the answer and His name is Jesus Christ.”
“Jesus is the most exciting, thrilling person and we need to let people know how it’s possible to have a living relationship with Him. If I had a million lives to live, I would live them all for Jesus”.
Bob's Aussie Connection
Listen to Bob share his Aussie connection in a 2011 interview with Phil Edwards, or read the transcript below
“Some years ago, I had a small ministry with a staff of three and I was $27,000 behind because one of the things we have done for 20 years, just rescue children in Romania from state run orphanages in the sex trade and put them into families. So we'd gotten behind and uh, I was exactly $27,000 in debt and couldn't move it. It was one week after the Oklahoma City bombing. I was at a little church in Ohio and at the end of the day they gave me a cheque - an honorarium for speaking of $2,000 and immediately God spoke to me and said, that's not for you.
And people say to me I wish God would talk to me. I look at them and saying, well, exact ly what would you like him to say? Because if He talks to you, he may not be telling you what you want to hear. So I've got into this kind of argument with the Lord. You might say 'how did you know it was The Lord?'... Because I would never have told myself to do that. And the devil is called a thief, so I know he would never have told me to do it. So that just leaves the one other option. And so finally I said, okay Lord, I'll send it at the cheque was to be sent to the widow of a minister who had died in the Oklahoma City bombing - a Spanish pastor called Gilbert Martinez, with a wife and five children, the youngest was an infant in her arms.
God said, I want you to send that check to his widow. So I did. And you say, well, how did you feel Bob? Honestly, I felt hopeful. I remembered saying, Debbie, I hope this works. I waited for weeks, and then months. I would call my office to see if there were any cheques in the mail - I would take my friends, shake them by the hand and say, "has God been speaking to you?" And, nothing.
Three months later, I got a cheque from Australia. I had just preached at the National Council of the Assemblies of God at their big conference in Melbourne. The lady there who had been touched by the ministry, started getting my tapes and books and eventually when a loved one died and left her on inheritance, God wakened her and told her to send me a cheque. And when we checked - and here's the funny thing - when I was having my argument with God about giving $2,000, three nights in a row, God wakened her and prompted her to give a tithe of that inheritance to Bob Gass.
Long story short, I got a call from Tommy, my assistant. He said come to the office, you have to see this. He handed me an envelope postmarked Australia and I opened it up and inside is the cheque for $23,000 - the biggest check I had ever received in my life. One day later, I received a cheque for $5,000 from a Pastor and his wife in New York who said I was on their heart an God had told them to send it within 24 hours. I had $28,000 of debt, I couldn't move. God wiped it out in 24 hours, plus put an extra $1,000 in the bank.”