A life well-lived: Keith’s story

Keith Cook passed away Jan. 10, 2022, after a life well-lived. He served as Chairman of the BILD board from late 1996 until his death. He also served as Chairman of the Board of Elders of Ames-Des Moines CityChurch. 

Keith started his faith journey on a farm near Greenfield, Iowa. His early days on a farm laid a lifelong foundation of connection to the land and the core principles of farming. These principles served him well in his faith as he knew the work of planting, tending, and harvesting the crop; a rich metaphor used by Christ to describe a life of faith in Christ. Keith left the farm in Greenfield and moved to Ames, Iowa, as his parents Chuck and Vera moved for a job Chuck took with the Iowa State University Beef Farm. Because of the move, the Cook family joined a small Baptist Church on Ontario Road in Ames, Iowa. This strategic shift would lay the important foundations that had Keith on the path to becoming a foundational part of BILD (Biblical Institute of Leadership Development). 

This small church in Ames was also targeted to become the ministry that became BILD. After Dallas Theological Seminary, Jim Schierling had apprenticed at the church pastored by Ray Stedman, author of Body Life. Jim was Jeff Reed’s youth pastor in Cedar Rapids. When Jim moved to Ames, he agreed for Jeff to join him to continue to apprentice under him to be trained for ministry, instead of Jeff going to seminary. Together Jim and Jeff led the change of this church becoming an independent Bible church, which embraced the concept of equipping leaders within the context of “body life” as taught by Stedman. A result of the equipping model was the formation of the Ministry Apprenticeship Training (MAT).

After high school, Keith graduated from Grace Bible Institute. He started a teaching career in southwest Iowa but soon left teaching to enter the University of Nebraska-Omaha. While at Nebraska, Carol and Keith made a decision that they needed to be part of a church community where they would be taught and able to serve the community. They decided that Ames was their home because of church and family. 

While working for Hy-Vee, their family moved around the chain’s locations to move up in management. While they were working away from Ames they kept coming back to Ames to stay engaged with their family and church family. Keith and Jeff connected because of their radical desire to see the church be what God intended it to be.

Carol brought a strategic perspective to their marriage. She was born and raised on the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission in North India. Carol’s father was an Iowa State University graduate that left for India to start a farm-based mission upon graduation. Carol’s India experience laid sovereign foundations for her life and after marriage these foundations were the beginning of Keith’s India passion where he and Carol were committed to growing the presence of Christ’s Church and impacting lives. 

As Keith moved up the Hy-Vee management path, he was transferred to stores that took them away from Ames but they never lost that connection to Ontario Bible Church and Jeff Reed. As Keith and Carol were living in Minnesota, the MAT program matured into a leadership development program that attracted interest across the evangelical community. They invited Jeff to have a conversation about the need to take leadership development to India and so BILD was born as an international ministry. As a couple, Keith and Carol were a powerful and dedicated team to growing the leadership development training. They suggested to Jeff that he travel to India because pastors needed the training there. Jeff captured their vision and set about growing BILD International with their support and the church’s support. This meeting led Keith and Carol back to Ames where he left the managerial path with Hy-Vee and settled into paid work that freed him up to become an elder and Chairman of the Board with BILD. So Keith, Carol, and their two sons, Maxton and Jordan set their life’s purpose on developing leaders to serve the church internationally. This move back to Ames was their last move as they worked tirelessly for the growth of BILD and the recovery of the Way of Christ and His Apostles in the church and the church’s mission to the world. 

Keith lost Carol in 2006. Losing Carol was devastating, but Keith remained faithful and continued to serve. Eventually he left his paid work and poured his life into the church and BILD as board chair. His presence at the BILD offices allowed him to provide valuable input in the daily work of BILD and also created a connection to international partners. 

In late 2021, BILD held a virtual conference and provided the platform for Keith’s last public words. As he reflected on his journey with BILD, Keith recognized the burden this ministry creates in a leader’s life. His reflection, however, focused not on the hard work or the pressures of leadership but instead on his life’s joys. “It was so nice to be here (Ames and the church) because my wife and I both felt we weren’t getting what we needed (where we were). It wasn’t a matter of knowing but that’s why we kept coming back. We decided (Keith and Carol) to move back but it was God working in us. It wasn’t any smartness on our part. God was leading us back here. I am thankful for what we have been able to accomplish here. As I said, it’s been fun. It’s been great here. I heard a song here by Keith Green, “That Those That Come Behind Me Be Faithful.” This sentiment has always been a challenge to me. If we look back over the last 40 to 50 years, there have been some hard times. But by and large we have had a lot of fun over those years. I am thankful for them because it’s brought us where we are today. The church needs to have strong families to make strong churches but you can’t have any of this without leaders who are leading and know the Scriptures and are able to teach and correct from Scripture. If you aren’t a part of an Apostolic group, you need to be looking for one. You need to be in on that, you just can’t go it alone. So, look for that, become part of that, and God will bless.” 

What a beautiful last life reflection that emphasized working in your life to serve the church and be part of the work the Spirit is doing in your life, your family’s life, your community, and around the world. His last words were focused on the work and the joy he experienced in a life of faithfully serving Christ as He builds His Church here and to the ends of the earth. Keith was a man that finished well and was marked by his faithfulness in his life, his family, his church, and the world. Here was a man that exhibited a life well lived, a life marked by love, service, and wisdom. We were all blessed by this leader.