About our Founder and Executive Director, Chuck Graham.....
Are you a reverend or a pastor?
I am not a reverend, pastor, or minister of a church, though I was ordained in 1983 as what would best be described as an elder-deacon. People who reply to the Notes frequently call me Pastor, and I guess I am pastoring our readers and do appreciate it when people say that. But in the sense of ˜Do I lead a particular church?", no.
What are you denominationally?
Ciloa is strictly a non-denominational Christian ministry. We have had and continue to have men and women from many different congregations be a part of and support us. We do not see it as our calling to support one group over another, but to encourage everyone in knowing God more and following Him in this life. As for those who are or wish to be a part of Ciloa, we ask only that they agree with our Statement of Faith.
As for me personally, most of my life I have been a member of churches that belong to the Southern Baptist Convention. But SBC churches can be very different even among themselves. One of the things I have enjoyed about Southern Baptists is the tradition of encouraging independent study of the Bible and determining what you believe. Over the past few years I have attended a number of different congregations which has been good for me because I enjoy the different styles of worship.
Are you related to Billy Graham?
As far as I know, we are only Christian brothers, although it is possible there is some distant relation. Dr. Graham is originally from North Carolina (USA) and much of my family a few generations ago came from North Carolina. So it is possible. Some of us in my family playfully refer to him as Uncle Billy, but I'm not aware of any direct relation.
Hmmm. Now I'm curious. Has he ever wondered if he's related to me?
Why don't you write blogs?
There have been interest and suggestions for this from some of our Directors as well as a good number of our readers, but we currently have two problems: the web site and the time. As for the web site, it would take a couple of weeks to engineer it to handle blogging as well as develop a team to oversee it. So there's an administration issue. The larger problem concerns time. Currently Ciloa does not have a paid staff and we all have jobs outside of this ministry. I have more flexibility than most, but even I often cannot keep up with what we already have going. But I expect that in 2009 we will get into blogging, at least on a small scale.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm cute and cuddly. How's that? Not enough?
Well, as I remind our readers each year in a shameless attempt to get presents, I was born on July 15, 1954 in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, USA. I have lived virtually my entire life in the State of Georgia, where I did all of my schooling, including studies at the University of Georgia where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, magna cum laude, and a Juris Doctorate in law, thank the Laude.
After passing the Bar in 1979, I began practicing law, then in 1983 formed my own firm, and finally went into solo practice in 1992. I have had cases from the smallest courts to the U.S. Supreme Court, but no longer do trial work. I have a varied practice, mainly in corporate law, but spend much of my time helping churches, ministries and other Christian organizations around the world.
I have taught and spoken at many churches, associational meetings and conferences, especially on Christian reconciliation, integrity, and encouragement. In 1996 my first book Take The Stand was published, which led to 138 radio appearances across the USA and Canada. I have since written A Year of Encouragement and Another Year of Encouragement as well as two novels, A Journey and The Lie.
More personally, I have been married to my high school sweetheart since 1978. In fact, she's the only girl I ever dated. We have 4 wonderful children: Chase and Jenna who were married in 2006, Mallory and Matt. We also have a dog and a cat.
How did you get into this ministry?
Excellent question. I've discovered over the years that every time "I" have a great idea for God, He seems to see things a bit differently.
After speaking at a lot of places for several years, I came to the conclusion that many if not most Christians had no idea how to truly love each other and I believed (and still do) that most often the missing element is encouragement. At that time I could not find a single church that taught its members how to encourage each other or even what Biblical encouragement was. Instead, they seemed to think that upon becoming a Christian, a person suddenly knows what to do and no training or instruction is ever needed. Even a cursory reading of the Bible proves that assumption is wrong.
So in 1987 while dining at a local Huddle House, I explained my idea of an encourager's ministry to my friend Dana Abernathy. We both were excited about it, but instead of trying to create something ourselves, we searched for other ministries teaching encouragement so we could join with them. But we couldn't find any.
Over the next several years we continued to talk about such a ministry but many things were happening in our lives. As for me, my dad had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) and helping him and my mother took a lot of time. After 7 brave years, he died in 1990. My law firm was growing, becoming recognized, and taking on high profile cases, but the time came for a new direction and with it, the difficult process of starting over. Then I wrote my first book, Take The Stand, which took much more attention and work than I had thought.
But my dad's death had a deeper effect on me than I realized at the time. For quite a while I was very bitter about some of his friends. As his condition grew worse, fewer would come by to see him. Men he had known and played golf with for years and years, suddenly stopped coming. One even told others he had kept up his visits. But at some point while thinking about their failure to be there and encourage my dad, God gently and simply said, "They don't know how."
It wasn't that they were bad people. They just didn't know what to do. So being aware of their own inability, they chose to stay away, never realizing that the main thing my dad wanted was simply to see them.
This new understanding renewed my interesting in a ministry that would encourage others, but now, also one that would teach them how to become encouragers. I developed and taught seminars, but that wasn't enough. Finally I put the burden on God and told Him that if He really wanted such a ministry, He needed to come up with a name because even that was beyond me.
In 1997 I was extremely busy. My solo law practice was getting back to a level where I could pay myself a salary and we were growing a bit, especially in my work with churches and ministries in other countries. I was speaking a good bit and doing a few seminars. And I was very busy promoting Take The Stand and speaking on Christian radio. In short, I had no time for anything else...I thought.
Then one day God said, "Christ Is Lord Of All ... call the ministry Ciloa." My response was basically, "You've got to be kidding. I've been waiting 10 years and now that I'm busy with everything else, you want me to start this? I don't think so." Of course, I was able to win Him over with my incredible debating skills...which actually means that Ciloa was immediately begun.
How did you start writing the Notes?
I would love to say they began as the result of my incredible wisdom and foresight, but that would not true. As with many things in my life, how the Notes came about is a bit embarrassing.
In 1999, the Board of Directors for Ciloa held one of its quarterly meetings and someone brought up something about the Internet, email and how we might be able to use that as a means of encouraging others. But I had more important projects on my mind and this seemed like a distraction. So my response was on the order of, "Sure, sure, sounds good. Now let's move on."
But they didn't move on and this became a frequent topic at later meetings, much to my irritation. In fact, the year 2000 was one long discussion from a growing number of Directors who really liked the idea, until it became everybody else against one. I was the one. In exasperation, I agreed to write one of these each week for 3 months and then we could evaluate it. That made everyone happy, but I was certain this would be over in 3 months and then they would see the wisdom of my ways.
The first Note of Encouragement was sent out on Sunday, January 1, 2001, to about 432 people, mainly in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. And much to my surprise, a Note has gone out each week since. Notes of Encouragement now reach into 163 countries (many of which I have to look on a map to figure out where they are). Through our own distribution as well as the republishing of the Notes by more than 50 organizations, churches, ministries, and individuals, the Notes are made available to about 30 million people each week.
God has used the Notes in absolutely incredible ways that none of us could ever have imagined. Ciloa has become truly international and much stronger as a ministry. And I, well, I have learned how important a wise Board of Directors can be.
Is this what you do for a living?
Not at the present time, though that is what we are hoping for. But I guess "what I do for a living" may be too broad. Ciloa is the work God has given me and the other wonderful people involved in this ministry. I spend a great amount of time each day in this, but presently Ciloa does not pay a salary to anyone. That's not because we don't want to. The Board, for example, has made it a goal to provide a salary for me so that I can retire completely from my law practice. But for the time, we do not have those resources or the expertise in how to raise them. I am terrible at anything like that, so I focus on the encouraging/teaching side of the ministry and leave the whole area of contributions for others to handle.
So, long answer to a short question, no. I continue to practice law which God has blessed so that we can pay the bills.
How long have you been writing and teaching?
I've been writing in general terms since I was in the tenth grade. That would be about 1969. Except for an occasional piece, my Christian writing did not come along until the 1990's. My first book, published in 1996 by Broadman Holman Publishers, was Take The Stand, giving my view on the state of Christianity in the world and why it has become so weak. The Notes of Encouragement began on January 1, 2001 and have continued each week since then. There are two published collections of the Notes, A Year of Encouragement (Xulon Press, 2004) and Another Year of Encouragement (Xulon Press, 2006). I have also written 2 novels, A Journey and The Lie, which we hope to publish in 2009.
I began teaching somewhere around 1983, mainly as a Sunday School teacher for youth and then later adult classes. But about that same year, I also began teaching and speaking on Christian integrity, reconciliation, and encouragement in churches, conferences and seminars, for both lay and clergy audiences.
Would you join my Internet groups?
I would love to but I can't. Every day someone sends me an email asking me to join a chat, conversation, friend, or interest. There are just too many requests, and if I did even a portion of those, I would never get all of my Ciloa work done. I'm very honored and humbled by it, but it just isn't possible for me right now.