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Posted: 09/16/11

Amazing Story: Norm Sper, founder of the "Grace to You" radio program with John MacArtur Goes to Glory

Norm was the founder of the "Grace to You" radio program.

As one of the elders of Grace Community Church in the mid 1970s (when John MacArthur's teaching ministry was just beginning to attract notice outside southern California), Norm was convinced John's teaching needed to be on the radio, so he approached John with the idea. Here's how John MacArthur remembers it:

Norm Sper came to me one time and said, "We ought to be on the radio."

And I said, "Well, that's great. Why don't you do that? Why don't you pray about that and pursue that ministry if God has brought you to that?"

The truth is, John MacArthur at first had very low expectations and a low level of enthusiasm for the project. Norm had no prior experience in radio. No one who actually worked in Christian radio seemed excited about the idea. Virtually everyone in radio whom Norm had talked to had tried to discourage him. From a rational and business perspective, the whole idea seemed impossibly fraught with negatives. Plus, John MacArthur made it clear from the outset that he had no time to sit in a studio and record a half-hour broadcast each day.

No problem, Norm said. He intended to air the sermons anyway. He would edit them into half-hour segments to make the broadcasts feasible.

That was the chief element of the plan that practically everyone with any expertise in the industry said was unworkable. They insisted the only way to be successful with a daily Bible-teaching program was to speak directly to the radio audience from a studio, the way J. Vernon McGee did it. Airing a sermon wouldn't do. Half a sermon was an infinitely worse idea, they said.

But Norm persisted. After a couple of short-lived attempts at buying time on secular stations (adjacent to a horse-racing broadcast, in one case) the first regular daily broadcasts of Grace to You in its current format began in 1978-launching simultaneously in Tampa, Tulsa, and Baltimore.

By the time I came to work at Grace to You in 1983, the ministry's foundation was already solid and the ministry was growing steadily. Norm retired again sometime around 1989 or '90, finally for the last time. Declining health in the past decade seemed to heap difficulty upon difficulty for Norm and his family, and though we will miss him terribly, we rejoice that he has entered the presence of Christ, whom he loved and served so faithfully.

Norm Sper was one of the gentlest, humblest souls I have ever met. My entire career and life's work were made possible by him. I'm grateful every day for his faithfulness. I can't wait to be reunited with him in heaven.

Click here to read the complete story of an amazing life used by God:


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