My friend's 4-year-old grandson, James, sat very attentively during a Sunday morning service. Seated next to his grandmother, he watched as the congregation partook of the bread and wine for communion.
Later, he looked on carefully as his grandmother placed her offering in the basket. And with the revelation that only a 4-year-old could get, he leaned over and whispered to her, "I know why God needs the money, Grandmother."
Todd Bentley was used to spark the Lakeland Outpouring, which raised the faith level of much of the body of Christ. Testimonies of healings and miracles from it are now virtually all over the world. When Todd's marriage failed, he abruptly stopped all ministry and virtually disappeared for almost nine months. In the meantime, his divorce was finalized and he has recently remarried.
Todd has taken full responsibility for the failure of his marriage. He and Jessa also admit that their relationship was premature and should not have happened the way it did. Both are adamant that it was not the cause for the failure of his first marriage, nor did they begin their relationship until Todd was convinced that his marriage was over. They have both expressed that it was wrong and premature. They do not want to try and cover this up even though they know many will never accept them for it. Even so, they are married now and are resolved to make the most of their marriage, their lives, and to continue to serve the Lord in the best way that they can.
My position all along has been that I will do my best to comply with Galatians 6:1, "If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (NKJV).To obey this Word, I have always felt that it did not matter what one had done, and that it was my responsibility to help them find the grace of God to return to the place from which they had fallen. I confess that with Todd, I am not just doing this as a duty. From the time I first met him nearly ten years ago, I knew that he had an extraordinary purpose and a gift of faith for the miraculous that would be desperately needed in these times. I consider helping any of God's children an honor, and helping Todd is a privilege.
I also confess to some selfish ambition in wanting to do this. I had a dream two decades ago in which one of my children had fallen into a sewage ditch and could not get up. My child was being scorned and no one would help him. A man came along who helped my child get up and then cleaned up. In that dream, I felt as if I would give everything that I owned to this man who helped my child. Then I heard the voice of the Lord say, "Jim Bakker is My child. Will you help him?" Since that time, I have been devoted to helping any of God's children that I could who have committed any trespass, because I knew there were few other things that would bring the Father's favor. I consider this willingness to at least try to help others this way a major reason for the extraordinary favor that our ministry, my family, and I have received. I love Todd and am glad to help him, but I also know by doing this, I will be doing something that means a great deal to our Father.
When we release someone to minister in the body of Christ, we are releasing him or her to minister to God's own children, and I personally do not do that with anyone who I would not allow to minister to my own family. For all that was done through Todd, and especially at Lakeland, which touched and helped countless thousands, many were also left confused and hurt by the way it ended. I think Todd is even more sensitive to this than I am. Although in some ways he greatly misses being in ministry and praying for people, he wants to be sure that when he comes back that his life and his ministry are on the most solid ground possible so that he does not cause these kinds of problems again.
Jack Deere and Bill Johnson have agreed to be a part of Todd's restoration process. I asked them to be a part because I know they will probably see things I don't, but also because both Todd and I trust them and know they would not sign off on something they did not really believe in. However, both of them are going to be involved in this at a distance, and therefore, I will be the main person responsible.
Being a believer in body ministry, I expect our whole leadership team, and to some degree, our whole local church, to be involved in helping Todd and Jessa. Our staff and all from the church that I have discussed this with are very happy about them being here and want to help them in any way that they can.
In future Bulletins, we will go into more detail about what we're doing and why, as well as what we think was a cause of some of the failures Todd experienced. We will only do this for the sake of helping others avoid the same traps. We know that trust has to be earned and that Todd will have to earn the trust of the body of Christ for future ministry, which will not be easy, nor should it be. Todd, more than most, does not want to jump back into ministry prematurely, even as much as he misses it in some ways.
I for one have been very encouraged by the expressions of grace and genuine concern so many have expressed toward Todd in this situation. It gives me great hope. As we have been constantly reminded, the Lord had great patience with sinners, but He had none for the self-righteous. We're all here because He had mercy on us, and we know we still need it. However, we also know that true repentance and restoration can only come if we refuse to compromise the clear biblical standards for morality and integrity.
Todd wanted to personally say the following:
It has been a long while since I have spoken publicly and openly. I am sorry for the hurt and confusion that my decisions have caused the body of Christ. It has been a true season of brokenness, hiddenness, and a long process of grieving.
As many of you now know, my previous marriage has endured years of unresolved conflicts. I apologize that it has ended in divorce, and I take full responsibility for my part for the ending of the marriage. I realize that my silence and decisions have caused many of you to feel hurt, confused, and offended. The reason for the silence was for my need of healing, creating a restoration process under a team of qualified leaders, much needed rest after the Lakeland Outpouring, repentance, and the divorce process.
I have now relocated to Fort Mill, South Carolina and have entered into my restoration and healing process under Rick Joyner, Jack Deere, and Bill Johnson. I am confident of this one thing-that God is faithful to His promise and my hope is to be fully restored, strengthened, healed, and to learn from all the mistakes I have made along the way.
Thank you friends and partners for your continued prayers, encouragement, and love. I am committed to the work of the Holy Spirit and confident that the good men around me will help me be restored first as a man, as a husband, and ultimately to fulfill God's call on my life.
Those of you who were touched by the Lakeland Outpouring do not lose your encouragement. What happened there was from God, and Todd is a true servant of God. He has made some mistakes, and he is trying to get his life back in order, and you can be confident that he will. Throughout the Bible, many of the greatest heroes in it also made some of the worst mistakes. King David, possibly the greatest hero in the Bible after Jesus, made one of the most horrible mistakes, not only committing adultery, but murdering the husband of the woman he committed it with. God knew that was going to happen with David when He called him, and He loved David before, during, and afterward.
One of the remarkable events in the Bible is that the Lord then used Bathsheba to bring forth the heir to the throne, Solomon, and she is part of the genealogy of Jesus. It still stretches me, but we need stretching in the grace of God. At the same time, we must balance it with how God hates divorce, and it is one of the scourges of our times that is tragically hurting many, many people. Marriage is under such an assault now because it is so important. However, legalism will not overcome lawlessness. This situation and similar ones that almost every church and family are now being faced with is one that we need answers for. We cannot run from Him, but must run to Him with our need.
Many of Todd's friends and former partners have asked if and how they might help. Donations can now be made to Fresh Fire USA at the following address:
Fresh Fire USA C/O MorningStar Fellowship Church 375 Star Light Dr. Fort Mill, SC. 29715
Make checks out to Fresh Fire USA or if you would like to donate by credit card, call 1-800-542-0278, and tell the operator that you want to make a donation to Fresh Fire USA.
In 12 years, there has not been a morning when I actually felt like getting out of bed. Having survived many difficulties, I've learned to start each day with a divine "turbocharge" in the form of a simple prayer: "Lord Jesus, please give me the strength for this day."
One month after I was married, 17 years ago, my husband and I were hit by a drunken driver. The accident resulted in years of neck and back pain for me. I began my honeymoon on anti-inflammatory medication, which would prove to be a major problem later.
Then shortly after the birth of our precious daughter Chelsea, a number of chronic health problems began. I became terribly weak with a kidney infection that was compounded by diverticulitis, a bowel disorder. Thankfully, God sent a clever doctor my way, and my health was restored. read more
Kari Jobe’s voice is smooth and airy but there is no fluff to her music. The rich lyrics are enveloped by easy melodies that will replay in people’s heads and hearts long after the CD has stopped spinning. Jobe has known since she was 10 years old that she would be a worship leader, and her calling and gift are clearly evident on her debut CD. She kicks off the album with the upbeat “I’m Singing,” with the chorus: “I’m singing to the God who brings redemption to the nations / Kings and oceans bow to Him in praise / And I’m singing to the God who wrote the book on our salvation / To the One who covers me in grace / I’m singing / Praise, praise to the Savior / Praise to the Lamb of God / Praise in all of His splendor / Praise for saving my life.” With the ballad “Beautiful,” it’s as if we are sharing a devotional moment between Jobe and God as she surrenders “everything that’s of myself” and simply worships. “Everyone Needs a Little” is a lighthearted song that reminds us that in the midst of our needs He is there. This worshiper exudes joy—even in surrender and vulnerability. She offers a collection of upbeat praise songs and worship ballads that first and foremost honor the Lord, but also encourage and renew believers. Jobe is surely an example of what it means to worship in spirit and in truth. —Leigh DeVore
Just Love By Brian Courtney Wilson, Spirit Rising Music.
Gospel singer and worship leader Brian Courtney Wilson doesn’t have the roof-raising voice that some of his colleagues possess, but he does have a refreshing sincerity that comes through loud and clear on debut Just Love. Wilson gives listeners a collection of pop, R&B and jazz-infused gospel songs that never pull any punches. On “No Other”—an icy cool R&B song—Wilson admits: “I want to be cool / Sing a song in a video / Pretty girls by the pool,” and later, on “Simply Redeemed”—a gentle piano tune with pop influences—Wilson sings: “I am a Christian / Do you know what that means? / It means I’m far from perfect, simply redeemed.” But it’s not just Wilson’s transparency that’s admirable; he’s also a pretty strong performer. Take, for instance, “I Need More,” a catchy song with an urgent club beat that Wilson pulls off with aplomb, or the aforementioned “No Other,” on which his vocals are silky smooth. Although some of these songs lose their way—the title track has a wonderful vibe, but lyrically it’s all over the map—most gospel fans will appreciate this diverse, sincere album from a talented newcomer.—Cameron Conant
Light in the Darkness By Freddy Rodriguez, Integrity Music.
This live album from Freddy Rodriguez was recorded at the Champions Center in Las Vegas where he is worship leader, and it begs the question, “Can really predictable worship music still be really good?” If this doesn’t sound like an Israel Houghton album, nothing does. But Rodriguez—who has a wonderful voice that at points sounds strikingly similar to Houghton’s—is very talented, and this album is remarkably clean-sounding, vaulting Rodriguez into the top tier of this subset of praise and worship. Light in the Darkness opens with a glitzy gospel tune and ends with one, and in between listeners are treated to a straightforward set of songs that range from brassy, upbeat praise to mid-tempo, pop-infused tunes to slower ballads. The album is most interesting when the songs offer, in a nod to Rodriguez’s heritage, Latino flourishes. It’s especially enjoyable, for instance, when he switches to Spanish halfway through “Lord You Are Amazing.” Rodriguez is pretty amazing here, too. —Cameron Conant
Chorus of the Saints By Revive, Reunion Records.
Revive have been together for more than four years and released three albums in their native Australia. In 2007 Third Day heard them perform and the music veterans became mentors to this young band. Last year Dave Hanbury (lead vocals), Tyler Hall (guitar), Mike Tenkate (drums) and Rich Thompson (bass) brought their music and ministry stateside. Musically, Revive fit in the pop-rock genre, but their lyrics also put them in the worship category. The title song and opener remind listeners of God’s faithfulness. “The Truth Is” turns down the volume a bit but not the energy, as the group declares that “there is none like You.” “You Know” is a standout with Third Day’s Mac Powell joining in. Worship ballad “Power” sings of the awe we’ll feel in heaven as we can only cry, “Power, glory, honor to you our King.” At times it seems as if they are trying too hard (pushing vocals), but their talent and passion mixed with experience will have them ministering in music for years to come.—Leigh DeVore
Some years ago, when I was working as a dancer in a nightclub, two customers summoned me to their table. Two more jerks, I thought, never dreaming that the one drinking a Coke would speak words that would change my life.
One of the gentlemen, Mr. Hobbs, was an architect who designed boats for the Navy. He asked me what abilities I had besides dancing. I told him that I'd been a secretary but could not make enough money to keep my 5-year-old son with me.
Mr. Hobbs told me of some missionaries his family supported in Mexico, and then he said, "They would give anything to have someone like you to help them." read more
Why the Universe Is the Way It Is By Hugh Ross, BakerBooks, hardcover, 240 pages, $17.99.
Hugh Ross, Ph.D., president and founder of Reasons to Believe, is not intimidated by big questions. In fact, his book Why the Universe Is the Way It Is overflows with them. But fortunately his question-and-answer format provides solid scientific explanations to questions such as “Why is the universe so big? So lonely? So dark?” Ross gives data, diagrams, charts and logic to counter any skeptic’s doubts. After establishing his case from a scientist’s perspective, he then looks at questions about the universe from a biblical viewpoint. He uses plenty of Scripture and analysis to support his beliefs on such topics as why there is not a perfect universe now, why the need for two creations, and why the new creation will be better. Ross presents a thorough, thought-provoking examination of God’s awe-inspiring creation. There’s no question about that.—Jeff Friend
Rebuilding the Real You By Jack Hayford, Charisma House, softcover, 240 pages, $14.99.
As Nehemiah looked at the ruined walls of Jerusalem, he was overwhelmed by the devastation of the great city, but he realized he could not leave it in such a defeated state. In Rebuilding the Real You, Jack Hayford parallels Nehemiah’s construction efforts with the Holy Spirit’s work in rebuilding and strengthening the believer’s life. Nehemiah had to develop a plan, furnish supplies, encourage the people, defend against attacks, and see the project through to completion. Likewise, the Holy Spirit provides everything needed to rebuild and restore a ruined life. Hayford gives insightful analysis of the history and importance of Jerusalem and its fallen walls and Nehemiah’s divinely appointed role in the restoration. By studying Nehemiah, Christians gain a practical, eye-opening example of the Holy Spirit’s desire and ability to transform a broken life into a powerful testimony of renewal.—Jeff Friend
Taking Jesus to Work By Vera R. Jackson, Chosen, softcover, 192 pages, $13.99.
While hundreds of books on marketplace ministry have emerged in recent years, Vera R. Jackson has written a definitive manual to help Christians treat their occupation as a divine calling. She cites her experience with leading several nonprofits and businesses, running a management-consulting firm, and serving as a pastor at Hope Christian Church under Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. This background lends authenticity to her observations about ways to introduce Christ in marketplace settings without being offensive or stealing time from one’s employer. Among the book’s many utilitarian purposes are lists of “dos” and “don’ts,” prayers to help guide marketplace ministers, and a list of worship declarations to keep one’s mind focused on God who provides. For those who still reason that the highest calling is “working for the church,” the author explains that Christ has given each believer a missions mandate that is just as valid in the marketplace as it is in the church. —Ken Walker
From Anger to Intimacy By Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham, Regal Books, hardcover, 256 pages, $22.99.
Working out anger issues in marriage is the theme of From Anger to Intimacy: How Forgiveness Can Transform Your Marriage by relationship author Gary Smalley with Ted Cunningham, a pastor Smalley has mentored through the years. The book is conversational and user-friendly, giving many relatable and sometimes humorous true experiences from both authors to illustrate the right and wrong ways to deal with conflict that can derail marriages as well as other relationships, including among those in church leadership. As the authors use the example of the Bible as a mirror, the book itself offers a reflection to the reader, with a few interactive elements such as personal inventories and quizzes to pinpoint underlying issues of the heart. The pair present a balanced biblical perspective, encouraging spouses to consider each other’s feelings and helping readers recognize their own hot buttons. From Anger to Intimacy will be a big help to couples struggling to navigate the challenges of marriage but should also be required reading for couples who feel like they’re doing just fine. It’s an easy read and also a good resource for spouses to refer back to throughout their marriage.—DeWayne Hamby
The Real Enemy By Kathy Herman, David Cook, softcover, 320 pages, $14.99.
Brill Jessup, police chief of Sophie Trace, Tenn., is reeling after her husband’s affair and throws herself into her work. When people start disappearing, she investigates the mysteries while contending with the locals’ belief that it’s the Cherokee spirit haunting the town. But Brill has an even bigger enemy—one she can’t fight with a gun.
If Tomorrow Never Comes By Marlo Schalesky, Multnomah Books, softcover, 352 pages, $12.99.
Kinna and Jimmy Henley, childhood sweethearts, had their whole life planned: marriage, children, a beach home. But infertility has left them brokenhearted. When Kinna saves an elderly woman from the ocean, they are given one final chance to give up their own plan and follow God’s.
According to Their Deeds By Paul Robertson, BethanyHouse, softcover, 368 pages, $13.99.
Charles Beale is a rare books dealer in Washington, D.C. When a client with connections to the Justice Department dies, Charles buys the man’s book collection. In one volume are papers that could incriminate a slew of major politicians—and might have led to murder. Now Charles is the one in danger and must try to unravel a host of lies and secrets.
It was Saturday morning, and I really wanted one of those flaky biscuit sandwiches from a local fast-food restaurant. Nobody makes 'em better than this place!
My husband and I had a busy day planned. We'd just swing by the restaurant, pick up our order, which we'd called in, and get on with the numerous tasks at hand.
We weren't expecting to be delayed by a hit-and-run accident. A car had entered an intersection on a red light. An oncoming vehicle swerved to avoid a crash and was forced up onto the median where it leveled a street sign. read more
I find it interesting that Charisma referred to Gov. Sarah Palin as a “remarkable Christian woman” (“The Faith of Sarah Palin” by Julian Lukins, January). There is no doubt she is intelligent. But from the beginning of her campaign she was anything but Christian. She attacked and perpetuated untruths without the slightest bit of apology.
—Cecil Youngblood, Beloit, Wisconsin
Although I suspect that Gov. Sarah Palin was hardly more than a pawn in John McCain’s flawed strategy, I respect her as a fellow professing Christian. My only regret is that your article was basically a review of existing material. I find it distressing that she should be so casually linked to the biblical Esther by professing evangelical Christians who ought to know better.
I would like to honor President Bush for an outstanding job completed as president of the United States. I would like to also sound an alarm for Christians everywhere to wake up and do their homework before blindly following or believing any media stories. President Bush has taken quite a beating from the liberal media, as if the war in Iraq and the economic collapse are his fault
—Jo Lynn Kraina, Weirton, West Virginia
We did it. We elected a president who is pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage and pro-big government. Is this the “change” we need?
My biggest disappointment over the campaign was the failure of top evangelical church leaders and Christian ministries to support the right candidates. They bought the lie that no candidate can win other than a “media-chosen frontrunner.” With Barack Obama we will see only negative change and a further loss of our God-given, constitutionally affirmed freedoms and liberties.
The real change we need is for Obama to be born again and to develop a committed personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Please pray for him and our nation.
—Bob Nesbit, Owatonna, Minnesota
When Christians align with a particular political party, we alienate many who would come to Christ. It becomes a stumbling block difficult for them to overcome. Let’s win souls for the kingdom, not the Republican Party.
—Bob Kennedy, Raymond, Washington
Why is it difficult for some Christians to accept the fact that Barack Obama just may be God’s choice? God is sovereign and the heart of the king is in His hand. How else can anyone explain—especially with our racist history—that a black man was overwhelmingly elected president?
—Rev. M. Bond, Chicago, Illinois
Once again Charisma has made its minority readers feel insignificant. Sarah Palin on the front cover? Give me a break; it’s laughable. It was out of place to put her in the same company with Esther. Palin does not speak for me. I cannot disagree more with her idea of running this country.
—Jonathan Adams, via e-mail
I want to give President Barack Obama a chance before making any criticisms of him. But I am appalled at the racism manifested among African-American Christians when I hear that they are against abortion and gay-marriage, but voted for Obama. Why? Because we want an African-American president? This grieves me greatly.
—Rev. Jack Fucci Jr., Middlesex, New Jersey
Thanks so much for putting the delightful Tina Fey on the cover of Charisma. In these tough economic times, anything that can make us laugh or smile is appreciated, and I always laugh when I see Tina—or Sarah Palin!
—Jeff Stevenson, New York, New York
Editor’s note: The image on our January cover is in fact Sarah Palin. But whenever Tina Fey wants to share how Jesus changed her life, we’d be very open to putting her on the cover.
I applaud Kimberly Daniels for her biblical stand against the policies of Barack Obama (Somebody Say Amen, November). Shame on all professing Christians for their less-than-biblical statements and behavior. The great white throne judgment awaits all believers.
—Carl D. Horkavy, Benson, North Carolina
Controversy in Ukraine
I’m shocked that many Christians, including Pentecostal leaders, have decided to play judge, jury and executioner of pastor Sunday Adelaja based on hearsay (Charisma Online, 12/19/2008). Anyone found guilty of fraudulent activities of this nature should be dealt with according to biblical truth and legislation. However, Pastor Sunday is being slandered and judged without any legal or legitimate process having run its course. He is a man of integrity, open and transparent.
—Rev. Eddie Ellish, Rustenburg, South Africa
My interaction with pastor Sunday Adelaja has revealed him to be a man of integrity. The unfortunate demise of the King’s Capital investment group, which happens to be one of many companies affected by the world economic crisis, is being put at the doorstep of the pastor because the promoters are members of the church. I read some of Pastor Sunday’s past messages warning people to beware of greed as it relates to high-yielding investment.
—Sunday Odunuga, Nigeria, West Africa
Over six months ago pastor Sunday Adelaja addressed his church with words of wisdom about high-risk investments. I wish Charisma had quoted that article as well as the recent allegations. I remember reading it on the church Web site. The complaints against him sound more like jealous pastors or envious government officials.
—Don and Kay Wood, Bedford, Texas
I have heard pastor Sunday Adelaja’s teachings, and he never told people to invest in a specific company. He told us about basic principles of business and how to be successful. Those fighting to pull down the church should remember the church belongs to Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. None can do battle with God!
—Chris C. Joseph, Lagos, Nigeria
I’m from God’s Embassy Church and can testify that the teachings of pastor Sunday Adelaja and the church are well-balanced and fully Christ- centered. We cannot blame him for the consequences of the financial recession just because one of them happened to be King’s Capital. I want to stress that King’s Capital is one out of a long list of institutions that have suffered losses due to the financial crisis.
—Svetlana and Michael Armstrong, Kiev, Ukraine
“When Christians align with a particular political party, we alienate many who would come to Christ.”
Though the questions are understandable, there are inaccurate assumptions regarding Ted Haggard’s objectives and mine in his visit to my church, Open Bible Fellowship in Morrison, Illinois (News, January). The invitation was issued after much prayer and was clearly explained to our congregation in advance. We did no outside publicity and issued no invitations to other clergy.
This was to be an exclusive “family” time in order to embrace, bless, love and honor the Haggards as part of God’s flock. I was also confident that Ted had a message that would impact our people. I was not disappointed, and neither were they. From the first week of his crisis in 2006, I have had regular contact with Ted. He has been thoroughly vulnerable with me. Nothing was glossed over as he processed through his pain, shame and isolation.
When New Life Church mandated that the Haggards leave Colorado in 2007, Ted and Gayle came to visit us in Illinois. We had secured access to a home where they and their family could live indefinitely as they sought to be healed and restored. However, they moved to Phoenix in order to be in close contact with pastor Tommy Barnett, a member of his restoration team, and to attend the University of Phoenix. Ted maintained an ongoing accountability relationship with leadership there, and he continued professional counseling that had begun in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Ted has never asked me to reinstate him, and it is important to clarify that I issued the invitation with no prompting from him. In fact, the Haggards agreed to come with some apprehension, temporarily considered rescinding their plans, but ultimately chose to accept my proposal. Furthermore, we have never discussed the idea, much less formally made plans for him to re-emerge into full-time vocational ministry. The messages he shared had a dramatic impact on our congregation.
—Rev. Chris Byrd, Open Bible Fellowship, Morrison, Illinois read more
On the day Obama was inaugurated I went to a seminar in Miami about how to utilize the Internet. It was fascinating to hear how companies are beginning to connect with customers in new ways to grow their businesses. As I listened, I wondered how we in the church can take advantage of this new technology to advance the kingdom of God.
I met one of the speakers after the seminar and learned that he is an on-fire, Spirit-filled Christian. I had an opportunity to visit with him, and we talked about the fact that in the Christian community there are some who have been successful on the Internet, but no one--including us--has yet emerged as a real leader. I'll write more about this later. But the nature of a blog like this is to give regular communication, at times shorter than at others.
And I also want your input. I'd like to know what you have seen on the Internet that you really like, what needs you have in your own life and in your church, and what things you see in the body of Christ, in our nation, and worldwide that we ought to be thinking and brainstorming about. read more
Seven years ago Mark Rutland walked around an aging college campus in Lakeland, Florida, and saw an institution where enrollment was dwindling, dormitories were dismal, and the academic atmosphere was uninspiring. Rutland had been asked to take over the presidency of the crumbling school, Southeastern College.
"Absolutely!" the enthusiastic minister told the board of directors who had invited him to be in charge of the small Assemblies of God campus. He went straight to work--and hasn't stopped.
Since Rutland accepted the top position, Southeastern has more than doubled in enrollment, turned around financially and built state-of-the-art facilities. Major construction projects include new dormitories, a cafeteria, administrative offices, a bookstore and a fitness center that now enhance the beautiful central Florida campus.
By all accounts, Southeastern College is a success story. Plans for its future include seeing it become a full-fledged university next year.
On first consideration, Rutland might have seemed like an unusual pick to lead the charge to save Southeastern. Trained and ordained a Methodist pastor, he had worn a number of ministerial hats during his career to that point--from traveling evangelist to worldwide missionary to megachurch pastor.
That well-roundedness, however, is just what seemed to give him the edge. He has proved to be a pastor with a strong business sense as well as an intellectual with a creative bent and soft heart.
In addition to college president, Rutland is founder of Global Servants, a worldwide missions organization; CEO of Rutland Group, a consulting agency; leader of Couples' Conferences, a ministry to marrieds; author of 10 books; and a sought-after speaker and preacher. He has found success--but it has come to him from an entirely different direction than even he would have predicted.
Yet the man who has gone from would-be-entrepreneur to college president and global evangelist remains humble about all he has achieved.
"I'm not sure there's anything unique about me, other than maybe my willingness to take a risk," the trim, well-dressed Rutland observes while sitting back on one of the couches in his comfortable office at Southeastern. "It has to be a rational risk because if you can't save the ship, you might go down with it. But there are many people who won't try."
'Blackmailed' Into Service?
In 1967, as a 20-year-old married college student at the University of Maryland, Rutland was ready to try anything. He was headed for a degree in public relations, and he was an officer of the Young Republicans as well as president of the university's Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He had his sights set on fame and fortune--and not necessarily in that order.
Then God came calling and turned Rutland's life upside down. The student with a head for business found he suddenly had a heart for ministry. Instead of entering the corporate world, he entered Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta and became a Methodist pastor.
Today he credits his success to three things: his surrender to God, a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit and the teachings of his parents.
He grew up in a family in which taking on adventure was accepted. His parents were "nomadic," he says, frequently moving but imparting a strong work ethic and sense of creativity to Rutland and his three siblings.
"My dad always instilled in us that, as Americans, you could learn anything if you had to," Rutland says. "He also said that nobody owes you; you owe life.
"I remember that I asked my mom why she always fixed up the gardens of the houses where we lived--because we didn't even own them--and she said that if in every house you leave the flower bed better than you found it, you'll be happy.
"That's what I try to do--leave the flower bed better than I found it," he adds.
Rutland's childhood "flower beds" were planted in Texas, California, Missouri and Maryland. When he was in junior high school his family became active in the Methodist church in Maryland, where they remained for his teen years. He went to church regularly, but it wasn't until he attended a youth camp during his early teens that the gospel pierced his heart.
Rutland was "blackmailed" by a youth pastor into going to the camp in Blue Lake, Alabama. The minister had bailed him out of jail after Rutland was arrested for joy riding with friends in a car he didn't know was stolen.
The pastor had agreed to post Rutland's bail if he would attend the camp. After the deal was struck, Rutland went out of his way to participate in the camp as little as possible.
One night, he was caught trying to skip the evening service. A camp counselor physically dragged him into the meeting, where Rutland says he heard the "first meaningful gospel message" of his life and made his way up the aisle to beg God for forgiveness. He received his salvation and something more: a call to preach.
A Loaded Gun and a Miracle
Through the rest of high school and into his first two years of college, Rutland ignored the call--and the Lord--and fell back into rebellious ways and materialistic ambition. He married his junior high sweetheart, Alison, when he was 19 and she was 17. She found God in a personal way at a Youth for Christ convention during high school.
After their marriage, Rutland realized his rebellion might cause Alison's spiritual downfall. He came under conviction, surrendered his life to God and finally heeded the call to ministry.
He embraced Methodism as his calling and after seminary at Emory was appointed to the Little River United Methodist Church in Woodstock, Georgia. There he learned how to preach and how to manage a church, but his personal ambition again reared its head. He maneuvered his way out of Little River by accepting a position at Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Atlanta.
Even though the position was a step up and the senior pastor a wise shepherd, Rutland entered the darkest time of his life. The couple's first child was born, and the added responsibilities of fatherhood made him think he was living a lie.
"In early 1975, I went through a really bad time," Rutland says, admitting that he battled sin and depression and attempted suicide. His marriage was falling apart, and Rutland says he felt like he was headed for a nervous breakdown.
At one point, he actually put the barrel of a loaded gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Miraculously, the gun jammed. In the midst of his turmoil his senior pastor at Oak Grove, Charles Boleyn, paid Rutland's way to a conference about the Holy Spirit.
'You Must Go to Ghana'
Rutland, who considered himself thoroughly evangelical, believed the manifestation of the Holy Spirit ended at the close of the New Testament era. Yet the mid-1970s had ushered in a charismatic renewal, and evangelical pastors were trying to figure out what to do with all the enthused believers now sitting in their pews claiming to have been changed by God's Spirit.
Reluctantly and with a large chip on his shoulder, Rutland attended the conference--and was never the same. He received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the second day of meetings.
"It was a seismic shift," Rutland says of his charismatic experience. "It was a polar shift. All of the gunk in the gears was suddenly gone."
He says his depression lifted completely and he was filled with a joy and fervor for ministry that has never departed. His marriage was healed, and he returned to Oak Grove and began preaching with passion about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, witnessing the manifestations among his own Methodist congregation
Soon afterward he experienced the call to become a traveling evangelist; an unction that he says was supernaturally confirmed through dreams and direct answers to prayer. He launched Trinity Foundation (today called Global Servants) and hit the road on a mission to teach and preach the "full gospel" in Methodist churches.
"I felt a great burden to bring renewal," Rutland says.
The work soon expanded until he found himself preaching revivals across the United States and branching into missionary trips all over the world.
"I never really made the decision to leave the Methodist church," Rutland says. "Doors just opened somewhere else."
For the next decade, he and his expanding family (the couple by then had three children--Travis, Rosemary and Emily) followed wherever God led. He spent time in India and South America, founded a girls home in Thailand, and followed a God-given vision to Ghana, which he recounts in his autobiography, Launch Out Into the Deep (1987).
In the book, Rutland writes that he awakened one night, saw a three-dimensional world map and was flooded with feelings of love for countries on the map as he began to weep. He then saw a picture of a large group of black people in an open-air setting, staring at him.
Rutland asked God to tell him if the vision had come from Him. He says God answered that it had.
"In the years ahead, I will turn your life upside down," Rutland heard God telling him. "Things will come into your life from directions you do not even know exist tonight. I will use you, change you, tax you, break you and send you as you cannot imagine. But first you must go to Ghana."
Shaken, he hesitantly shared the vision with Alison the next morning, then waited for further instruction from God. From March to October he waited. Finally, he felt an urgency to just buy a ticket and head to Ghana.
A One-in-2 Million Chance
Against the advice of friends and other ministers, he decided to go. In December 1980 he flew to Accra, Ghana, with no plan, no contacts and no idea what he was going to do when he got there.
Yet from the moment he landed, God brought people across Rutland's path to direct him--from a customs agent who led him out of the airport to a Spirit-filled Christian taxi driver named Moses. Rutland checked into a hotel and waited to see what God had for him in Ghana. He agonized over whether he had done the right thing, weeping and praying most of the first night.
The next morning a man named Bamfo knocked on his hotel door, looking for him. He had been sent by the faculty of a small Methodist college in the city of Kumasi that Rutland had written to months before to offer his preaching services. The president had received his letter only that week and had taken it to a faculty prayer meeting to have it prayed over.
During the meeting, one of the professors stopped the prayers, stating that God was telling him Rutland was already in Ghana. The professors contacted Bamfo in Accra, who went hunting for Rutland. In a city of almost 2 million Bamfo found him at the hotel and took him to the college to preach.
That "miracle" encounter led to weeks of revival and ministry in Ghana. It also fulfilled Rutland's vision from months before in which hundreds of Africans were seated in the open air, staring intently at him as he preached the gospel. Rutland's love for the Ghanaian people keeps him going back today.
The Road to Influence
After working 10 years in missions, Rutland received a call from Paul Walker, pastor of Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta, one of the largest churches in the country. Walker had a proposition for the evangelist-turned-missionary: Would Rutland plant himself in Atlanta for two years, preaching in tandem with Walker? Mount Paran had two campuses 18 miles apart, and Walker couldn't do it all.
Rutland accepted. From 1988 to 1990 he preached to thousands of well-dressed Americans in a megachurch instead of thousands of poverty-stricken natives in South America, Africa or Asia.
"It was really a defining moment for me--that Dr. Walker would make a personal investment in me," Rutland says. "It was such a high-profile church, and I got to witness that level of leadership."
After preaching nearly every Sunday for two years, a call came from Florida--this time from the Assemblies of God. Would Rutland be willing to take on the pastorate of the near-failing megachurch Calvary Assembly of God, in Orlando? Calvary was just weeks--perhaps days--away from bankruptcy, $16 million in debt and in turmoil from a scandal when Rutland--a Methodist who had been serving in a Church of God--was voted into its pulpit.
For the next five years, he battled to turn the church around, working with creditors and the congregation to improve the financial picture and doubling attendance from 1,800 to 3,600. The risk had paid off, but at a tremendous emotional cost for Rutland. Church members had been deeply wounded and scarred by the scandal and financial upheaval, and ministering to them was both rewarding and tough.
"It was somewhat like trying to adopt 1,800 abused children," Rutland says, adding that the five years at Calvary were the most educational, yet the most difficult, of his career to date. "It was just a very strenuous five years."
Still, the lessons learned at Calvary led him right to the helm of Southeastern. Having stopped one Assemblies of God church from sinking, he was considered by the Assemblies of God board of directors to be the perfect man to take on the rapidly declining Southeastern College.
"I think a passage of Scripture that is becoming clearer and clearer to me is that He orders our footsteps," Rutland says. "I don't think I really understood that until now.
"I know that I would not be alive today without the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I would not have been called to Mount Paran. Without Mount Paran there would have been no Calvary [Assembly]. Without Calvary, I would not have been ready for Southeastern.
"To be able to be president of both Global and Southeastern, when both had their best year last year, is great," adds Rutland, 57. "I am really enjoying my life. I feel like this is a season for bearing fruit."
As for Southeastern College, where others saw problems Rutland saw only potential. He continues to believe the potential is nearly unlimited.
"It just needed [defibrillator] paddles put on its chest and for someone to scream, 'All clear!' then give it a jolt," Rutland says. "I saw the opportunity to extend my reach, my message, far beyond the students to the board meetings they'll one day conduct, the Little Leagues they'll coach, the children they'll raise.
The concentric circles of influence seem almost intoxicating. It is very exciting."
A Master Communicator
Rutland longs to see the evangelical church winning souls with the Holy Spirit-infused joy of charismatics and the charismatic church winning souls with the Holy Spirit-filled passion of evangelicals.
Mark Rutland is more than just a preacher, teacher and college president. By day he wears the hat of college and ministry president. That role includes consulting even with family members on aspects of his ministry responsibilities--daughter Rosemary, who works with him on campus; sometimes with son Travis, who manages the work of Global Servants in Ghana; and daughter Emily, who oversees a girls home he founded in Thailand.
On weekends, he heads out to preach. But at night, Rutland hangs up his suit and holes up in front of a computer screen, pouring his soul into print and onto paper.
He is doing what he loves best--communicating in print.
A prolific wordsmith, Rutland is writing his 11th book--his first novel--which is due out next year. He says he grew up in "a house of words," where he and his siblings were encouraged--and expected--to express their opinions, and to read, write and learn.
"Words were important in our house," Rutland says. "My parents had a wide range of interests and were very bright, with an education that went far beyond any formal education they had."
His autobiography was published in 1987. Since then he has released several other books, most notably a series of gift-sized books with one-word titles that have become favorites of Rutland's fans. Collectively they are the Words of Life series.
In Nevertheless (2002), he demonstrates how Jesus used one simple word to overcome Satan. Rutland says in his introduction to that book: "I am convinced that there is a way for us to always have the last word with life and the devil."
In Dream (2003) he examines the lives of the biblical patriarch Joseph and Joseph the husband of Mary. Using their dreams as a backdrop he challenges Christians to take their own dreams seriously and to learn how to pursue a God-given dream.
In Power (2004), the newest in the Words of Life series, he examines the difference between human ability and supernatural strength. He also offers what he calls a "divine recipe" for spiritual success--which includes a heavy dose of humility and selfless sacrifice.
Humility is a constant theme in Rutland's books, including his 2003 release, Character Matters. His passion is that church leaders will embrace biblical values, starting with Jesus' fundamental decision to empty Himself and serve others.
For Rutland, that is the secret of all true success.
How does Rutland write so many books? Most ministers with as many jobs as Rutland undertakes probably would find it difficult to find the time to write at all. But he has turned this extracurricular activity into a science.
On a typical weekday, Rutland spends time in the morning having coffee with his wife, Alison. Next, he puts in a full day at the college, from 8 a.m. until about 6 p.m. Then he and Alison have dinner at home, or the two of them join students for a meal in Southeastern's cafeteria. He usually sits down at his computer by 9 p.m. and writes until midnight.
"I really love to write," he says. "It is a challenge for me, and I feel like I have something to say."
In his writing, Rutland communicates his clear belief in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit today, detailing the miracles, visions, dreams and healings he has seen. What makes his writing so appealing is his understanding of both Scripture and theological works. He writes from intellect more than emotion.
He longs to see the evangelical church winning souls with the Holy Spirit-infused joy of charismatics and the charismatic church winning souls with the Holy Spirit-fired passion of evangelicals. Only then, he believes, will revival truly occur.
"I feel that what I am called to do more than anything else is express the experience of the Holy Spirit in my life because that's what changed my life," Rutland says. "If everything else was gone and I had the Holy Spirit, I could rebuild my life. If I lost the Holy Spirit but had everything else, I wouldn't have anything. I would lose that joy."
Natalie Nichols Gillespie is a writer and author of The Stepfamily Survival Guide. She lives with her husband and five of her six children and stepchildren in Weeki Wachee, Florida. read more