August 8, 2001 - Orlando Sentinel: Richard Shakarian is rebuilding the Gospel Group for Businessmen
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August 8, 2001 - Orlando Sentinel: Richard Shakarian is rebuilding the Gospel Group for Businessmen
Richard Shakarian is rebuilding the Gospel Group for Businessmen
Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez will be addressing the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International on July 27 in Miami Beach. Read and comment on this story from the Orlando Sentinal that provides background information on the organization at:
HEADLINE: A BAPTISM BY FIRE FOR MINISTRY'S UPBEAT HEIR; RICHARD SHAKARIAN IS REBUILDING THE GOSPEL GROUP FOR BUSINESSMEN.*
* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.
HEADLINE: A BAPTISM BY FIRE FOR MINISTRY'S UPBEAT HEIR; RICHARD SHAKARIAN IS REBUILDING THE GOSPEL GROUP FOR BUSINESSMEN.
BYLINE: By Mark I. Pinsky, Sentinel Staff Writer
Like the sons of other prominent American religious figures, Richard Shakarian has a tough act to follow.
Demos Shakarian, who died in 1993, was the scion of an Armenian immigrant family who became a millionaire dairy owner and shopping center magnate in Southern California. Half a century ago, the elder Shakarian also founded the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International, a once-influential evangelical organization.
The organization, which has suffered a dramatic decline, begins its annual convention today at the Wyndham Palace Resort & Spa at Lake Buena Vista. More than 3,000 delegates are expected at the gathering, the first time it has been held in Central Florida in a decade.
Though Demos Shakarian was never as prominent as Billy Graham, Pat Robertson or Robert Schuller, Richard Shakarian has experienced the same kind of scrutiny and expectation that falls on men who are expected to follow their charismatic fathers into the limelight of a national ministry. For a generation facing similar challenges, his story might serve as a cautionary tale.
Richard Shakarian acknowledges that the leadership transition has been rocky and daunting, with the fate of the organization now in his hands.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the organization's leadership was buffeted by political controversy, dissension, allegations of financial impropriety, crippling illness and death, a family feud and the sale of its multimillion dollar headquarters. It still has not recovered.
Circulation of the group's magazine, The Voice, 800,000 at its peak, is now about 80,000 in the United States, according to the group. Annual domestic income, once as high as $6.5 million, is now $1.3 million. The full-time staff, once at 120, now numbers 15. More critically, observers say that its membership is aging, with defections to newer groups, like Promise Keepers, who have a similar message.
If the organization is to survive, experts say, it must transform itself. "There's no question the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship was a revival movement that impacted literally thousands of men and women in the workplace," said Lee Grady, editor of Lake Mary-based Charisma magazine. "For the organization to have an impact in the 21st century, they can't use 20th century strategies to reach business people."
THE FOUNDING FATHER
Demos Shakarian wrote that he founded the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International in 1951 after a divine vision: "The air around me suddenly became heavy, overwhelming, forcing me to the floor. I fell to my knees, then on my face, stretched full length on the patterned rug. I could not have stood up . . . So I did not try."
The idea, as the elder Shakarian understood it, was laymen reaching laymen for Jesus, reaching out to men at large breakfasts and lunches held in "neutral places" -- restaurants and hotel ballrooms -- rather than in churches.
Speakers at the nondenominational gatherings were business leaders, who gave "personal testimonies," instead of ministers giving sermons. These meetings also offered a practical benefit of building business networks. Despite the group's unwieldy name, the approach worked.
"It had its moment back in the late '60s and early '70s," Grady says. "Lots of men were being touched. It was a revival movement of sorts in the business community."
At one time, the organization claimed more than 600,000 participants in 130 countries, and was considered a force in the rise of Charismatic Christianity. Influence grew through a variety of media.
The Voice appeared in seven languages. Demos Shakarian appeared frequently on Christian television. And there was no question about the leader's mandate. A leaflet produced by the organization and distributed during the 1970s proclaimed: "As surely as God imbued Moses with divine direction to deliver Israel, He empowered Demos Shakarian, a humble California dairyman."
In 1987, the organization's 15-member executive board, seeking to preserve its tax-exempt status, reported to the Internal Revenue Service that Shakarian had received $276,000 in undocumented expenses and unreported benefits. This money, paid to the founder between 1981 and 1987, should have been reported as income, according to the board.
Yet the following year, after some furious politicking, the full board reversed the decision, voting 79-17 to vindicate Shakarian, supporting his position that the money had been authorized by the board as legitimate insurance and disability-related expenses.
Shakarian was shaken by the challenge. He admitted to poor record keeping but charged that the controversy was part of a power struggle, an effort by the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship's executive board to take control of the organization.
For the next few years, observers say, the organization drifted in this acrimonious environment, and Demos turned to someone he trusted, his eldest son. Richard Shakarian left the private sector, where he had worked for 30 years in the family's dairy business, to come to his father's side. His father called on him, the son says, because he knew Richard had the vision necessary to lead the organization.
Richard justified that trust. He lobbied for a change in Full Gospel's bylaws that allowed his father to serve as president for life, rather than subject himself to election, and to appoint his successor.
Demos Shakarian died at the age of 80, in 1993. Televangelist Oral Roberts officiated at the services. Richard then produced a letter from his father appointing the son head of the organization. The organization was not in good shape, he says. One of the first things he did was to suspend several longtime leaders, including his brother-in-law. "It was extremely difficult," he recalls. "We were millions of dollars in debt. It was a very challenging time, but I don't blame my father."
Three years later, the ministry's crown jewel, its 65,000-square foot headquarters in Costa Mesa, Calif., was sold to Trinity Broadcasting Network for $5 million and $1 million in television time.
Full Gospel moved to rented office space nearby. Richard Shakarian's assumption of leadership came under fire by some longtime supporters, who split off into their own organization, called Business Men's Fellowship.
Some of the old-timers were unable to accept him in his father's position, believing that "no one will ever fill that void."
Even his family was divided. Until her death in 1996, his mother, Rose, joined his brother and sister in support of the new group, according to published reports at the time.
This family division was painful, Shakarian says.
"There would not have been a family split if my father had lived a little longer," the eldest son insists. "When they walk away from you it's hard to chase after them. I don't think you ever get over something like that."
Still, he says, "I have nothing bad to say about any of these people."
Shakarian says he doesn't care how other evangelicals judge his leadership: "If you're trying to reach the world for Jesus Christ, you should concentrate on Jesus Christ."
And he is resolutely upbeat about the future. As with some other Christian denominations and organizations, Shakarian said, the recent growth in Full Gospel has taken place outside the United States, especially in Africa and Latin America. Within the next three years, he hopes to bring about 10 million conversions.
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HOLA! SOY UNA ESTUDIANTE UNIVERSITARIA, DESEO FELICITARLOS POR ENSEÑARME ACERCA DE DE LO GRANDE Y MARAVILLOSO QUE ES MI SEÑOR, DESDE QUE LEI EL LIBRO" LA GENTE MAS FELIZ DE LA TIERRA" ME DI CUENTA QUE DIOS ME AMA Y QUE DESEA QUE TODOS SEAMOS FELICES Y QUE CADA DIA LLEVEMOS A LOS QUE NOS RODEAN UN POCO DE ESA FELICIDAD...REALMENTE DESEO FELICITARLOS E INCITARLOS A SEGUIR ADELANTE. GRACIAS
By jhonny escobar perez (red-corpb34adsl-121.telnor.net - 126.96.36.199) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 5:04 am: Edit Post|
ME LLAMO JHONNY Y YO TAMBIEN LEI EL LIBRO "LA GENTE MAS FELIZ DE LA TIERRA " Y DEJENME DECIRLES QUE ME PARECIO MUY IMPORTANTE Y MUY HERMOSO , SOY AFICIONADO A LEER Y ESTE LO LEI CON MUCHO ENTUCIASMO .
SOY DE CHIAPAS, PERO RESIDO EN TIJUANA.
I have had the book 'The Happiest People on Earth' for years. Yesterday, I picked it up and read it. Timing in God's world is perfect. I know I have been called to preach and minister to women. I have no clue how God is going to use me in this area. I do know that I have had serveral 'encounters' with the Holy Spirit recently and one of them was the prompting to read this book. I am a fairly new realtor in Florida and am struggling. Thank you for the revised hope. Susan