This year we, as a community, are celebrating 60 years of Life Outreach International and James and Betty Robison’s incredible marriage, which helped to birth that ministry. What a legacy and pioneering pathway that these precious servants of God have left for all of us to follow.
For those who do not know, James is the founder of The Stream, and Life Outreach International helps underwrite this important work of education and empowerment for the Body of Christ in this important moment in our nation’s history.
Recently, I have been reflecting a lot about James’ impact on my personal life. There are no words for everything he has done for me. I don’t know how many “Thank You” notes I have written to him over the last few years, but they are many. So I decided, instead of penning another one, to write an open letter to him on the eternal truths that he has taught me that will stick with me forever.
First, Some Background
In the late 80’s my father was a depressed pastor who was trying to make it in denominational ministry without the life-giving power of God. I remember as a child that he didn’t come out of his room for many days. He was using the excuse that he had to prepare his sermons. In reality though, he was lying on his bed not wanting to meet with the people he was assigned to serve.
My father, Jack, discovered Reverend James Robison on television on the Praise the Lord (PTL) network just as James was beginning to preach on his newfound dependence on the Holy Spirit, his freedom from the bondage of lust and his love for the Body of Christ at large across denominational lines. Here was a Baptist preacher, preaching in coliseums around the nation, who had experienced his own challenges in ministry. My dad saw hope for his own life through James’ transparency.
He journeyed to Fort Worth, Texas, to a James Robison Bible Conference, had a life-changing experience with the Holy Spirit. Dad came home to our church in Vicksburg, Mississippi, a changed man.
A man who could barely get out of bed many days was now running to help his parishioners, weeping with them as they went through trials, and praying and ministering as I had never seen before.
This change in my father had a lasting impact on my life. I saw the power of the Holy Spirit on one leader and the overflow on our family.
A year or so later, we moved to Arlington, Texas, as my dad left denominational ministry to follow Jesus. He went to work answering the phones at James Robison Evangelistic Association. I was in the 8th grade.
When I was in high school, I went to Restoration Church with my dad, the same church that James and Betty attended. We sat a few aisles from them many Sundays. I was in youth group with their daughter Robin. I once went to a slumber party that Robin hosted at her house. I distinctly remember waking up surrounded by stuffed animal trophies from all of James’ hunting adventures.
Years later, I took a step of faith and, at the last minute, abandoned going to a four-year secular university to go instead to a Dallas Bible school — Christ for the Nations Institute. I had to figure out how in the world I was going to pay my tuition.
I heard through some friends that now Life Outreach International (formerly the James Robison Evangelistic Association) was hiring. I took a step of faith and applied, needing a job that would work with my schooling in the mornings. I landed an afternoon shift from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the ministry and was thrilled. After graduating from two years of Bible school, I would eventually take over the night shift supervisor position, working from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. overseeing several men and one woman three times my age.
During my time working at Life Outreach, we had to watch the TV program before every shift. We had to know what James and Betty were speaking about so we could connect with what the callers were calling about. Our department took in donations over the phone and prayed and ministered to people — taking, many times, 20 calls an hour. I also did outbound calling to LOI’s former donors asking them if they had time to listen to a short 2-minute message from James and then connecting them with a way to give after his message. This was before the days of the Internet where people could just go online to give.
Though James could never have picked me out from a line up during all those years, the annual visits to the Bible conferences, TV watching with my father when I was young, and viewing James and Betty ministering on the ministry set and around the world made an indelible impact on my life.
Here are just a few of the things that I have learned from James.
Love the Body of Christ Deeply
The Body of Christ is not separate churches, systems and denominations. We are one Body. One Church in a city. One Church in a nation. One Church in the world. We are diverse from every nation, we have different passions, extremely different church cultures, and sometimes a variety of beliefs, but there is one thing that should bring us together — the trust we put in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus desires for us to be One, but we think many times that oneness is sameness. Oneness in the Spirit is not sameness — it is respect, affection and working together regardless of our differences. Oneness is a love and respect for one another, whether we agree or not on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, on end time prophecy and timelines, on what day of the week we should worship or whether we are Calvinists or Arminians. Jesus prayed for His Church to be one in John 17 and that means all of us together.
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are One. (John 17:20-22)
When we see in each other the Spirit and try to find the treasures in each other, we will gain so much more than we would just walking alone.
James taught me about the glory of God that is revealed in His Body through watching a Southern Baptist minister embrace a Foursquare pastor named Jack Hayford, and many others. Somehow if they could lay down their pride and embrace each other, maybe we too might learn something about the heart of God and the operation of the Kingdom.
Jesus’ prayer that we “may be One” will be fulfilled. James is one of those ministry leaders who loves the Body of Christ deeply.
Transparency Brings the Word of God Alive
Watching a man bare his soul over and over again for days, weeks, months and years on television, at conferences, church meetings, and one-on-one with leaders … has taught me that as long as we stay grounded in the Word of God, God can use our stories and our emotions for His glory.
When James experiences something, the world knows about it. He is a gifted leader and communicator, and from his heart of love he wants everyone to experience the revelation that He has just received. Because of James’ transparency and realness, I believe millions of people around the world have experienced freedom, the Fatherly heart of God, and the empowering grace of God.
I remember when James spoke at our conference just a few years ago. We had a young evangelical leader speaking before him. She was dynamic and gave a great speech, but people were on their phones distracted even when as was sharing.
When James took the stage, his eyes alone staring at the audience captured the attention of the room. Many of them had never heard him speak before. As this man of God spoke of his upbringing and how God had rescued him as a young person, even through just a whisper, phones went down, and his words captured people’s attention. At the end, we could hear people weeping.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:3-4)
Delivering the Word of God with a rawness, transparency and tears in our eyes is not a weakness — it is a gift from God. Having tenderness before the Word of God and not being afraid to give that to others is a gift that I have watched James demonstrate over decades, and it has empowered me to be myself.
Love Your Family and Love the Least of These
If anyone has watched Life Today through the years and seen James and Betty flirt like two lovebirds on camera, you must know that that their love is real and true. The way James respects Betty, wants her to be next to him, and elevates her words and actions through praise is how every husband should treat his wife.
His respect and love for his children, Rhonda, Randy, and Robin (though she went to heaven too early), pushes them forward as leaders and is an example to all of us on how we must give Jesus to our children and grandchildren. I know that James has not been perfect, but he has attempted through his life to make his family the priority and to give them the Word of God, identity and unconditional love.
The overflow of their lives together as a family has fed millions of children around the world, cared for orphans in China, Romania, and Rwanda and many other places, and has dug thousands of water wells giving life to families — on top of ministering to all of us in North America. James has taught us how to sacrificially love, give, and change lives. Loving “the least of these” is an overflow of a family filled with love.
Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ — Matthew 25:45
Overcoming Pain and Showing Us the Value of a Redeemed Life
If you were a product of rape like James, who grew up in poverty many days and foster care homes, and never had an earthly father to care for you, it would be easy to stay in rejection, self-loathing, and pain. But James, every day of his life, has made a choice. Though not always perfectly, he has overcome insecurities and past pain and given the world what he has been given — the love of God.
To overcome our pasts we must cling to God, as there is nothing else that can save us. James has taught me that desperation for God leads to hunger, hunger leads to eternal food, and eternal food given away leads to lasting fruit in others’ lives.
We have no excuse to wallow in pain and past sufferings when we have been given everything in the love of our Father God. James Robison is a trophy of the grace of God. James is going to leave a legacy as he has showed all of us how to walk out of pain and suffering into a bright and life-giving future.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17)
The Leader that I Reached Out To
When I was working in politics and wanted the Congressman that I served to meet a leading voice in the Body of Christ — I reached out to James.
When I ran for Congress and needed prayer and strength — James reached out to me.
When I was carrying the beginning vision of our ministry, Christians Engaged, and needed wisdom and advice — I reached out to James.
When I had to pick a beginning headline speaker for our ministry’s first conference in 2021 — I reached out to James.
When I needed a stabilizing father to help me hold myself together in the middle of pioneering a new work — James reached out to me.
When I landed a publishing agreement with Frontline Books/Charisma House for my upcoming book — Jesus and Politics: One Woman’s Walk with God in a Mudslinging Profession — there was no one else that I wanted to write the Foreword. James had to be the one. I reached out to James.
And he did it. For that I am forever grateful. I can’t wait for you to read it.
This is My Thank You Letter
Thank you, James, for giving me and so many others the Word of God, teaching us about the power of the Holy Spirit and showing us through your example of how God can use one life for His glory.
Thank you for your love and belief in me as a leader to impact America. Our work together to awaken the Church is spreading and will spread like wildfire in the days ahead. You will reap the harvest with us, as souls gain purpose and destiny for their lives in this nation that we both love.
Thank you for teaching me about these eternal truths that I have outlined. These revelations are now part of who I am as a leader, and I am forever thankful.
From All of Us in the Body of Christ
I know so many people and leaders who are reading this thank you letter right now could write a similar tribute.
Just know this, James: You have invested in an army of Jesus-loving, bold servants of the Word of God, who are not going to stop loving until the world sees the beauty of the Body of Christ and Jesus gets His full reward. Jesus’ prayer in John: 17 will be answered, and you will have had a big piece in the fulfilment of that prayer.
If you haven’t read James’ life story in Living Amazed — grab it now through the ministry.
To join with the ministry of Life Outreach International to impact the world — give here. This ministry has so much more to do.
Bunni Pounds is president and founder of Christians Engaged — a ministry activating the Body of Christ to pray, vote, and engage regularly. Formerly a congressional candidate and 16-year political consultant, she is a motivational speaker and preacher of the gospel. Her book – Jesus and Politics: One Woman’s Walk with God in a Mudslinging Profession comes out nationally on 2/6/24. Preorder it now. Bunni is also the host of “Conversations With Christians Engaged,” seen here on The Stream each week — a podcast dedicated to helping believers continue walking in faith while navigating the muddy ways of politics and culture. Connect with her on Facebook @bunnipoundsTX, X — formerly known as Twitter @bunnipounds, Instagram @bunnipounds, or her personal website bunnipounds.com.
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