Faithful Central Bible Church is reaching Los Angeles with family-friendly entertainment.
Out To Transform Hollywood
Mixing faith with finance isn't a new concept for Faithful Central Bible Church in Los Angeles. But this time last year, the ministry was in the throes of what may have been the biggest step of faith in its history.
||Kenneth Ulmer: Standing for Jesus in Los Angeles
That's when the 11,000-member congregation set out to purchase the Great Western Forum, former home of the Los Angeles Lakers, for a cool $22.5 million. Before the venue became available, the church was planning to build another facility to accommodate its growing crowd-an $18 million venture that would seat 5,000. But its pastor, Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, says the December purchase killed another bird with the same stone.
"We believe there's a very particular, very specific call on this church?to reach out and have an impact on the entertainment community," Ulmer said. "We don't believe we're in this city by accident, but that God has called us here to be light in what, for the most part, is an area of darkness."
Currently, the venue is still the home of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks and the ABA's Los Angeles Stars, and the facility frequently hosts concerts and other entertainment events. Both a for-profit venture and ministry tool, the Forum will maintain a family-friendly orientation, Ulmer says.
Disney on Ice, the Harlem Globetrotters and Sesame Street recently performed there. Groups that are sexually explicit or otherwise offensive will not be allowed, he says.
This unusual marriage of Christianity and entertainment is bound to bring some criticism, Ulmer acknowledges. But he says Faithful Central is called "to be very deliberately involved in the fabric of our community," and he is determined to reach his city" by any means necessary."
"I think (the church has) tried to?put ministry into a box. And every time you do that, you're going to miss somebody," Ulmer says. "I don't think it's a matter of compromise?I think it's a matter of fleshing out and being the incarnation of the principle that Paul presents about diversity in unity (see 1 Cor. 12) on one hand and about being all things to all people on the other (see 1 Cor. 9:22)."
Though there are no altar calls at most events (church services also are held in the 17,500-seat arena), Ulmer says less overt ministry opportunities still exist. For example, when Madonna rehearsed at the Forum-"She didn't do a performance here; she (only) rehearsed here," he notes-Ulmer sent her children a basket filled with children's books along with a note that the church was praying for her.
"She said they had never been anywhere where somebody said, 'We're praying for you,'" he says. "So it's that level (of ministry)."
Consecrated a bishop in the Full Gospel Baptist Church, Ulmer resigned from the organization two years ago and now oversees 75 pastors in his Macedonia International Bible Fellowship based in South Africa. Ulmer says he hopes the fellowship will inspire and encourage pastors to be more effective for the kingdom in their own local settings.
He knows Faithful Central's model won't work in other U.S. cities, much less halfway around the world. Yet he believes any ministry can identify its purpose, catch God's vision for the church and run with it. But he warns, it may require taking "church" out of the box.
Reprinted with permission from Charisma and Christian Life, October 2001. ? Strang Communications Co., USA. All rights reserved. Visit Charisma's Web site at www.charismamag.com.