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Preach for the Stars

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"And I emphasize spiritual warfare, for we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Our animosity is not against human beings. But we do have animosity, and it is deep-seated and intense. We are engaged in a spiritual war of grand proportions...America is in the midst of a cultural revolution which has poised us precariously on the brink of moral chaos. And this is caused by the current crisis of homosexuality."

Talking about it in mixed company made him uncomfortable, he said, but "a pastor must hold the rod of God against the tide of evil."

While upset about the "repulsive nature" of homosexual acts, he described them for his hushed crowd, focusing on man-to-man action. His heart, he said, "is firmly set on mercy and compassion for those who are engaged in those practices."

Graciously, he added, "May they hear the Lord through us: 'I do not condemn you. Go thy way and sin no more.'"

In addition to their obsession with homosexuality, Ryle and Coach Mac shared--and still share--something deeper: a small group of guys with whom they worship and pray and confess. Ryle and McCartney are part of a five-man group they call Face to Face that goes on retreats and meets for confessional reasons, according to the Washington Post. The other members are Gary Oliver (a psychologist, author and radio host), Dale Schlafer (who was in charge of the D.C. rally), and PK's president, Randy Phillips.

PK's dense network of "ambassadors" and "key men" is based on the idea of small groups networking into giant groups. It's a multi-level marketing technique common in such huge entrepreneurial organizations as Amway--itself an organization that's heavy with evangelical Christians, top to bottom. The goal is to recruit, and each recruit seeks out others, and those seek out still others. Those below submit to the authority of those above them. PK has "key men" in evangelical churches across the country to spread its word. A chain of command has formed.

"We have these orders given to us," Ryle exhorted in his "Sons of Thunder" sermons in the early Nineties, "and here's what they are, because our commander, unto whom all power and all authority has been given, said to us, with that backing him up, 'Go into all the world!' We now know what we are to do! We're to go into all the world! And when we get there, we know what we're to do! Preach the Gospel! And we know the reason we're to preach the Gospel is so that we can make disciples! And we know that once they've turned to Christ and commit to being disciples, we're to teach them to do all the things that he taught us!...They're to join the army. They're to put on the uniform, too, so that they can stand under this order and join us as we turn back around and go again!"

That's how stadiums get filled with men and churches get planted. Of course, early Christians built their religion this way, too.

No longer a wimpy hippie, Ryle has developed considerable personal presence and become a polished speaker.

Ryle's eyes slope disarmingly at the outside corners, like a hound dog's, and his voice is a charming Texas twang. As a true evangelist, he talks a lot about loving Jesus. As a manly man of the Nineties, he's sensitive and humble enough to freely confess his own sins and frailties. He says he often hears God's voice and, to hear him tell it, he experiences prophetic dreams about as often as he brushes his teeth. He believes in coincidences and has a thing about numbers. There are always seven ways to do this, five ways to do that. The number eleven has an almost mystical significance to him. (Check out all the 11.11 Bible verses.) So does the number forty.

A Beatles wannabe as a rebel youth, Ryle now believes that the four musicians' talent was a gift from God but that they misused it by Satan's design. In his numerous dreams and visions about electric guitars, power amps and other things (give him a break--the guy did smoke a lot of dope when he was young), Biblical times come alive. But there's no mistaking what Ryle thinks of contemporary America. Men should lead; they should be loving and kind, and gentle but firm with their women.

The rest of society requires an even firmer hand. "The desperate conditions created by the increasing chaos of moral, political and social failures," Ryle noted in a survey of pastors conducted a few years ago by Ministries Today magazine, "have provided the church in America with the greatest opportunity to shine as a light amid a perverse generation, holding forth the word of life."

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Ward Harkavy
Contact: Ward Harkavy