Feature

Messenger of Hope

An interview with Dr. Gary M. Benedict

By

Dr. Gary M. Benedict, newly elected president of the U.S. C&MA

alife: Tell us about yourself.

Benedict: I’m from northern Minnesota. Betty and I got married right out of high school and have enjoyed life together for nearly 45 years.

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, then began working at Maytag in Newton, Iowa, making laundry equipment. While we were there a man came to our home to sell us insurance, and at the end of his presentation he said he would like to share something else. For the first time, we heard the gospel presented in a clear and concise way.

A couple of weeks later he returned with a friend who talked about how he had come to know the Lord Jesus. We didn’t really understand, but we agreed to become involved in a home Bible study. Through that study, we came to faith in God in 1966.

We were moving along in our Christian life, but the church we were attending didn’t seem to match up with our Bible study. We wanted to go to a church where the Bible study and the message from the pulpit were the same. Some of our friends attended a Christian and Missionary Alliance church, and we began attending there.

alife: What about your call to ministry?

Benedict: We were in our mid-20s when we began to hear the message of the Spirit-filled life. During the first Missions Conference we attended, we responded to the call of God, not really knowing what it meant. Three Alliance missionaries laid hands on us and prayed, Keep this young couple for the advance of the Kingdom.

We sold most everything and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, to attend St. Paul Bible College [now Crown College, St. Bonifacius, Minn.] in preparation for ministry. I graduated in 1972, then went to a church in Omaha, Nebraska, where we served for five years.

We moved to Menomonie, Wisconsin, and ministered until 1981 when I joined the staff of St. Paul Bible College. Being around the students, involved in promoting the college and in resource development were a great privilege.

I had been there for seven years when pastors from our district asked if I would be willing to serve as superintendent of the Northwestern District. While serving in that role, I was asked to consider being the president of the college. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and the Board of Trustees, and they elected me.

It has been an exhilarating experience to be involved in developing leaders at Crown College. But now God has brought an opportunity into my life to serve in a new way—a broader way than ever.

alife: What challenges will you face in your new role?

Benedict: I believe that the C&MA president has a threefold job description: to cast the vision of who The Alliance is, to continue to develop godly leaders and to mobilize these people. I am captured by Matthew 24:14: “‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached . . . to all nations, and then the end will come.’” That was a passion of A. B. Simpson, and we need to continue that passion.

The greatest challenge I see is connecting the “person in the pew” to the message of Jesus in all His fullness—that He is sufficient for every need. I think we have experienced a little separation from our historical mission and message.

The Alliance is all about what happens at the local church. I’d like to help churches be all that God wants them to be as Great Commission Christians and get the gospel to the ends of the earth by sending more missionaries.

I also would like to be involved in a creative funding initiative. I don’t think our problem is a lack of resources. When people give, they like to know where their dollar goes. People don’t want to see their Kingdom investment going through all sorts of layers of administration. We need to be able to unleash the resources in our churches to get to projects that really touch the hearts of God’s people.

alife: What about The Alliance brings you the most joy?

Benedict: Some unique features of the C&MA set us apart from other ministries. We are Christ-centered and not creed-centered—so it’s all about Jesus. We proclaim the whole Bible for the whole person for today. I’ve heard it said that we are the only non-Pentecostal denomination that holds to all the gifts of the Spirit. People often say, “Where has the C&MA been all of my life? I didn’t know I could have that type of position.”

Since we are not creed-centered, we cut a wide swath in evangelicalism, and churches have liberty to develop their ministries according to the cultures in which they live. I believe it is the will of God that we minister in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. In The Alliance the central theme is Jesus, and the outflow of that is world missions. To the glory of God, we continue to emphasize completing the Great Commission.

alife: What would you like say to U.S. C&MA pastors and overseas workers?

Benedict: To pastors I would say I understand the ecstasy and the agony; your 24/7 burden. I want to do everything I can to be an encouragement to you. Help me become a better president by helping me understand you better. I want to be an instrument of hope.

To missionaries—I haven’t been there, but I want to learn what it means to be in your shoes, to go cross-culturally, to experience the changes in climate and other pressures you go through. I will do everything I can to understand those challenges and your heartbeat for the nations.

To all Alliance workers I would say we need to enjoy Living the Call together. We have a message of hope for the discouraged pastor, for that young person who senses the call of God and may be saying, “How can I make it to ministry in that church or that mission field?” We need to bring the message of hope to them.

We also have a sleeping giant in the older generation. Look—I’m 63 years old, and I believe I have a long time to live. Think of all the people my age and older who are asking, “What can I do?” There may be people who aren’t recognizing their giftedness. The Alliance needs to tap into that. We need to do everything we can to be intergenerational, following the Master’s example of bowing the knee and submitting to one another.

alife: How can we pray for you?

Benedict: Pray that I can bring together teams of people in The Alliance that will be so energized that we all jump in, and we’re all part of the solution and not part of the problem. Pray for Betty and me—for wisdom, a fresh anointing for leadership and that we’ll have eyes to see beyond what’s on the horizon. We need the gifts that will help us be agents of hope, whether it’s in a church service, in an office or sitting down with a district superintendent or missionary.

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