Heroes of the Christian Faith: Jack and Carol Klemke

by Sadiri Joy Tira

(Editor’s note: This is the 8th post in a series on Heroes of the Christian Faith.)

heroes of the Christian faith, Jack Klemke, Sadiri Joy TiraOne of my mentors, a true practitioner of Business as Mission, shared a shocking statement with me two decades ago. Pastoring a local church at the time, I was well aware of the many perspectives on the 10% tithe, but I was flabbergasted when a respected businessman and committed supporter of evangelism and discipleship said, “I don’t believe in ‘tithing.’”

What I would learn over time, was that tithing for Jack Klemke and his wife, Carol, was a moot point, especially when seen in light of the statement “everything belongs to God.” This couple did not ‘tithe’ the Levitical tithe; instead, they considered all their earthly resources God’s property, and lived off a small portion of their earnings. Through their personal commitment, the Klemkes have become catalysts, making a tremendous impact in world evangelization.

From a published profile of Jack Klemke:

Jack retired from active participation in the family business (T.A. Klemke and Son Construction) in 2008 after 59 challenging and fulfilling years. Philanthropically, Jack and Carol’s involvement over the decades, in partnership with various interfaith groups, has focused on helping to spread the message of the Bible internationally. Jack and Carol have travelled extensively, always working toward effecting change in people’s attitudes from intolerance to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Many organizations could attest to the description in this profile. Of note is the Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC, now CRU), with who Jack served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for CCC Canada for many years. Jack and Carol have been involved with CCC for over four decades, supporting multiple projects to help fulfill the Great Commission. Notably, the multi-language translations and worldwide distribution of The Jesus Film and the Life of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Luke film in various formats. Over one billion people have viewed these films via a variety of settings, including campuses, cinemas, theatres, open-air showings, and televisions.

Through their commitment, the Klemkes have donated thousands of films to various religions, denominations, and sects such as Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, etc. Recipients have been the political elites, socialites, business leaders, academics, ordinary men and women, children, blind, deaf, handicaps, etc.

Millions have decided to follow Jesus Christ because they saw and heard Jesus through motion pictures!

Some of the best people who could have described Jack and Carol’s involvement in missions and evangelism were the late Drs. Bill and Vonette Bright, co-founders of CRU and themselves heroes of the Christian faith. In the volume dedicated to the Klemkes, Missions in Action in the 21st Century, Vonette writes:

The Klemkes have been such a vital part of … the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ worldwide. Their personal lives are such an example of a true disciple of the Lord Jesus. Their relationship with each other, family, business operations and their compassion and commitment to giving so generously to projects around the world have all made such a difference in many lives. They are truly among a handful of people who have been so dramatically used to help in changing the world.

I too have witnessed the Klemkes’ commitment to the cause of missions and evangelism.

While I was pastoring the First Filipino Alliance Church in Edmonton for over a decade, Jack and Carol graciously provided The Jesus Film DVD for all the new immigrants who would arrive in our church each year.

In Toronto, they resourced over 500,000 The Jesus Film DVDs to partner organizations that were reaching out to the diasporas and new Canadians. Four years ago, I brought 1,000 copies to Kiev, Ukraine to be distributed to top-ranking government leaders. They also provided 130,000 The Jesus Film DVDs to every police officer in the Philippines. Through their support, The Jesus Film was shown via national TV in Iran.

Today, Jack and Carol are involved in yet another project: a film called The Gospel of John (www.thegospelofjohn.org).

One day while having lunch with Jack, I asked why he believes and supports the worldwide distribution of The Jesus Film and The Gospel of John. His answer was: “These (are) the Gospel in motion picture. The Word of the Lord will not return void.”

Henri Aoun, one of the Life Agape leaders based in France, writes about the Klemkes’ commitment to Bible distribution:

Following the Gulf War, God opened the doors for us to send large quantities of Bibles into Iraq and the first generous contribution again came from the Klemke family. Through this donation, the first shipment of 50,000 New Testaments was made from Jordan into Iraq. Every copy was mightily used by the Lord to expose Iraqis to the Gospel.[1]

I write about the Klemkes’ contribution to global missions and evangelism not only to encourage them, but also to highlight the potential that business people have for becoming actively involved in global missions. God uses people in the workplace, not only professional missionaries and pastors, to impact the world for Jesus Christ. Furthermore, technology has a vital role to play as varying formats (e.g., TV, radio, films, Internet) become dominant forms of and powerful tools for evangelism.

The Klemkes are now in their mid-80s, but their passion and energy for evangelism remains dynamic. Their commitment to missions and evangelism has not changed since Bill and Vonette Bright influenced them to become evangelists. Indeed, Jack and Carol use all their resources for God’s mission. They even use these tools on a personal level. Every time we go out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in a local restaurant in our home city of Edmonton, Jack is faithful to reach out to those he meets (i.e., restaurant owners, managers, restaurant servers). Before we leave the restaurant, Jack prays for the workers he has befriended over meals and presents them with a gospel tract, CD, or DVD. He always has something to pull out from his jacket pocket!

Everything belongs to God. Indeed, Jack and Carol have dedicated all their resources to God. May the Klemkes inspire many to actively participate in global missions by emulating their non-tithing model.

[1] Henri Aoun in Missions in Action in the 21st Century (Tira & Wan 2008), p. 302


sadiri-joy-tiraSadiri Joy Tira is senior associate for diasporas with Lausanne and diaspora missiology specialist with the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University and Seminary (Calgary, AB, Canada).