History of LightShine

Believe it or not, LightShine International Ministries (our full name registered with the IRS) was originally birthed as a follow up ministry to a music outreach to the biker and rock culture. Eventually, LightShine broadened its focus to doing missionary work in Alaska.  Tom Denlinger & Jeff Zimmerman are the co-founders of the ministry.

The vision for LightShine Ministries started at a Bible study in 1987 when several musicians met weekly and talked vision for how they felt God was leading them. The original vision for LightShine started with Tom Denlinger who saw the need for a solid follow up ministry for the music outreach. Many Christian bands preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ but not many create a strategic follow up plan for those who give their lives to Jesus Christ as a result or their influence.  That is why LightShine was originally started.

At that time, two different music ministries that had follow up ministries inspired him:

Tom was highly influenced by Keith Green in the early 80s and when Keith died in a plane crash in 1982, Tom was highly motivated to carry on the calling of a “NO COMPROMISE” ministry that he saw in Keith Green and specifically, the preaching of the Word from the stage as part of each show. Last Days Ministries in Texas was the follow up ministry for Keith Green’s music and at that time, they were publishing powerful printed material that helped build up those who were drawn the LORD through his music.

The second ministry was Resurrection Band from Jesus People USA in Chicago. The fruit of their ministry was astounding to Tom and he knew that any music outreach in his future must be patterned after these powerful men and women of God. Their music moved their audience in the unchurched biker and rock culture to open doors for communication of the Gospel. Then the preaching of the word finished the work – bringing many to repentance. Their follow up ministry challenged people to think and live out their faith with passion. Their magazine they published was called “Cornerstone” and it impacted many people.  The leadership of LightShine in the 90s was highly influence by this band.  In fact, the name “LightShine” came from the song of the same name off Resurrection Band’s “Awaiting Your Reply” album.

Simultaneous to this vision, the music ministry of SARDONYX was being established as an 80s power metal ministry band of which Tom was the lead singer and main lyricist. During the time, Tom met Jeff Zimmerman at a youth center in Mount Joy, PA when SARDONYX came to do a guitar clinic and evangelistic outreach. After talking vision for many hours, Tom and Jeff formed a partnership and became the c0-founders of the ministry. Both are still committed to the original vision that they had from the beginning. Tom likes to joke that he is gifted in hacking new trails up the mountain and Jeff makes sure Tom hands in a receipt for the machete! They have been a great team and have seen many changes since 1990 when they met. Tom is a gifted visionary and performer and Jeff is an excellent administrator and prayer warrior.

The formal name of “LightShine International Ministries” was registered and approved by the IRS in 1991. We were “international” in those days because our small follow-up magazine was published and sent to 42 different countries.   Watch this YouTube video to hear Tom’s personal conviction in reaching out to the biker and heavy metal culture using music as a tool to reach them:

SARDONYX performed live music outreaches from 1988-1994. LightShine also had a Christian metal radio show on FM90.3 WJTL for 5 year years called “Thunder Zone“. Jeff Zimmerman, overseeing the show, also planned many concert outreaches during that time for the band. They also published a 16 page “LightShine Metal Mag” which tackled topics of interest to that culture from a biblical perspective. You can view those publications on SARDONYX‘s Facebook page. You can also visit our music website at: www.lightshineministries.com.

In August of 1994, SARDONYX did their last live show. Tom needed to do something completely different to clear his mind of all the pressures, positive and negative experiences of the music ministry. So he, his wife Ruth and 2 year old son, Alex traveled to see his brother and sister in law in Montana. On the way home, God gave him a vision to go to the place he had dreamed of becoming a missionary to since he was a teen – ALASKA.

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So in April of 1995, they served with SEND of Alaska in Glennallen, Alaska for 3 weeks and during that time, the LORD gave Tom a huge burden for the people of Alaska.

From 1996-2007, Tom personally led teams every year working predominantly with Copper Center Community Chapel. The main focus was on building Strelna Lake Wilderness Bible Camp for ministry to youth and children as a ministry of the church. In 2008, Tom made a plan to start training other team leaders so that more team assignments could be planned and more people influencing others. During that time, the board of LightShine was broadened and many of the people who serve on the board to this day are working team leaders who actively serve in Alaska.

From 2008 to the present, multiple team leaders lead their own teams and Tom’s job as Ministry Director changed from leading teams to overseeing the ministry to keep it on track with the original vision. He and Jeff Zimmerman and the rest of the Board of LightShine enjoy a close relationship and the ministry continues to grow. In November of 2017, LightShine was able to its first property that will be used as our home base in Palmer, Alaska.

We give God all the glory for teaching us so many things over the years! Live are being changed and local churches and other ministries in Alaska are being strengthened in Alaska because of the many people who continue to serve with us. God only knows how we will grow in the future! He is to be praised!