In very rare occasions, individuals do things so profound that the ripples of change continue for centuries.
Bob Stacy is such a man.
Christ In Youth is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and at the half-century mark it’s impossible not to look back and take stock of all that God has accomplished during that time. And when you do that, you must look to the beginning – which starts, of course, with Bob Stacy.
The founder of this five-decade-ministry got his start as a young preacher in Upstate New York. Anybody who knew him back then would never have dreamed he would grow up to be a preacher, however. That’s because he had a stutter – a very pronounced one that he picked up while playing with a friend from the neighborhood who had a speech impediment. When he was very young, Bob would come home after playing with his friend and imitate him. Psychologically, this stuck – so much so that even today, some 80 years later, he continues to have a stutter. His mother sent him to speech therapists, and he worked with specialists in his school, but nothing ever helped the stutter go away.
That’s quite a stumbling block for someone who has dreams of being a professional speaker and preacher. But his mother always encouraged him to speak at Christmas programs, and he was such an upstanding young man that he was elected class president in high school two years in a row – which of course meant that he had to give speeches from time to time. That’s when he learned how to practice and prepare, often memorizing his speeches so thoroughly that he could “stand up and push a button and they’d just flow out.”
The real turning point was when he had an English teacher named Ms. Buck, who encouraged him with compliments. She was always so thrilled whenever he would speak, and that encouragement planted the seeds for his pursuit of preaching. It was during that same time that he was challenged at a youth rally in New York in the late 1940s to serve God with his unique gifts, talents and abilities. He dedicated his life at that camp to ministry … and the first seeds of what would become Christ In Youth were planted. What he experienced during those youth rallies would stick in his mind for years to come, until God was ready to water those seeds and let them bear fruit.
Bob preached his first sermon at age 16, and later that year he performed his first baptisms. Eventually he would go on to Bible college, first at Cincinnati Bible College and then Ozark Bible College, where he would eventually graduate. He met his wife, Nell, at OBC, and the two of them moved to Iowa immediately after graduation to pursue ministry and to further his education. Eventually he got a master’s degree from Lincoln Christian College in 1961 – the same year he and Nell welcomed twins to the world.
In addition to always wanting to preach, Bob also had a desire to teach, and in the summer of 1962 he was presented that opportunity when Walter Goodman – who was the chairman of the board at OBC – came to visit he and Nell and asked him to come teach at the college.
One of the first things Bob did when he started at OBC was institute traveling teams. By late 1963, he was taking groups of college students all over the country to do assemblies in high schools and perform crusades in churches – worship services in which the students would sing and he would preach. Bob became well known across the country for his booming voice that would reverberate across campuses and break through walls. These eventually became the first building blocks of CIY’s crusades.
In 1967, many of the pieces of Bob’s life all came together into one new dream that God was putting before him. The years of preaching, the years of overcoming obstacles, and the success of OBC’s traveling teams made him uniquely qualified to take on a task that would change the course of youth ministry in America and missions across the world.
Inspired by a message from David Wilkerson, Stacy sat down to dinner with his wife and an OCC student and began to write out the foundation of what would become CIY … on the back of a restaurant placemat.
Bob didn’t know that what he was about to build would go on to affect millions of young lives in more than 50 countries around the world. He didn’t know that the events and programs he would begin would inspire thousands of churches across the country to do youth ministry and preaching ministry differently. He didn’t know that his little dream on the back of a restaurant placemat would end up being the gateway for tens of thousands of young people to give their lives to Christ.
All he knew was that God was bigger than he was, and that God had proven time and time again that if we remain faithful to the things He puts before us, then amazing things can happen.
Never once did Bob take credit for the success of CIY. Always he would give the glory to God, often saying “Praise to Him who specializes in the impossible.”
But if it hadn’t been for Bob – if it hadn’t been for a man willing to say “Yes” to such a big dream – then none of us would be here.
CIY will celebrate its 50th anniversary and honor Bob Stacy during a banquet from 6-9 p.m. on Aug. 30, at Christ’s Church of Oronogo. To join the celebration, please visit ciy.com/50th.