If it hadn’t been for a ‘massive error’ in Washington DC, the late Bob Gass and United Christian Broadcasters might never have met.
When just 29 visitors came through the doors of the two-day CRE in prestigious Washington DC in 1989, the event’s UK founder flew home counting the cost of a commercial disaster.
‘We were advised by our American partners that the capital would be ideal for the first event of its kind on US soil,’ recalled Gospatric Home, now honorary president of CRE. ‘It was a massive error. Despite a powerful marketing campaign to many thousands of church leaders, the attendance was embarrassingly poor.’
The exhibition was still in its infancy in the UK and the fledgling organisation did not need a loss-making event at such a precarious time in its existence. Unknown to Gos, however, one of the handful of visitors had been the late Bob Gass. And one of the exhibitors was United Christian Broadcasters. Until that day, they didn’t know each other existed.
And, in the economy of God, from the smallest of acorns a mighty oak grew.
Bob proposed contributing a devotional to UCB under the title Word for Today. The first edition was published in April 1994 with a print run of just 3,500. The rest is history.
‘Today, we are distributing more than 300,000 printed copies quarterly to the UK alone,’ said UCB’s publishing coordinator Laura Foxon. ‘As well as this, more than 76,000 people are receiving it each day by email, over 88,000 people read the daily devotional online in the first quarter of 2019 and 76,000 people accessed the UCB Word For Today podcast via our app in the first quarter of 2019.’
More than 300,000 people each week listen to UCB 1 and UCB 2, which both broadcast the UCB Word For Today every day.
‘None of this would have happened if UCB had not taken a stand at the exhibition,’ recalled Gos. ‘UCB must have been hugely impressed by Bob but it is quite normal for an enterprise of this kind to start quite modestly and grow in popularity. Many significant projects have begun through “chance” conversations in the aisles of CRE and we are grateful to God that we have been able to play a small part in his divine plans.’
In 1987, CRE National moved from central London to Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey where it takes place again this year (Oct 15-17). By the 1990s the exhibition was also being staged in Birmingham, Manchester, Harrogate, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Torquay and Exeter.
‘CRE has played a huge role in showing churches how to move with the times and grow and develop,’ said Gos. ‘Thousands and thousands of churches have modernised and continue to change in this age of the internet. Meanwhile exhibitors have got better and better at presenting their resources to church leaders.’
More than 4000 local church leaders and members, representing all major denominations, are expected to visit CRE National 2019, to be opened by former Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones and actress Fiona Hendley.