As the crowd streamed into the auditorium at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa, one thing was evident. The Men for Christ rally was going to be a bit different this year, organizers having invited women and children to attend as well. Four hundred people are expected to attend; perhaps there will be more walk-in guests later in the day. Event organizers refer to the family emphasis as a bit of an experiment related to theme, “Biblical Creationism in Your Local Church.”
Frank Garlock opened the 2:00 p.m. session by leading the crowd in “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place,” conducting the crowd with broad gestures. No song lyrics on the screen here. “Some of you don’t have your hymnals yet,” Garlock said. “Can the ushers pass some more out over here?” Hymnals are still important to Garlock, and he politely avoids noticing that this particular hymnal is not produced by his company, Majesty Music. Garlock, a trombonist and graduate of the Eastman School of Music, picked up his trombone on the second stanza and played with the congregation, later commenting that Homer Rodeheaver used to play the trombone while leading the Billy Sunday revivals. After the opening hymn, Garlock played “I Stand Amazed in the Presence” as a trombone solo, accompanied by his wife, Flora Jean. The congregation then continued with “All Hail the Power.” So far, no praise choruses.
Carl Kerby began his opening address with a question: “Is Genesis Relevant to Today’s World?” For Kerby, a founding board member of Answers in Genesis, the answer is a resoundig “Yes!” Kerby had worked behind the scenes at AOG for ten years—he’s the brains behind the organization’s well-regarded website. He had no aspirations to a public speaking ministry, preferring instead to support the ministry of Ken Ham. But then came a climactic moment when they arrived at a Japanese airport, only to discover Australian Ken Ham would not be admitted without a visa, despite a carefully planned itinerary of speaking events. Carl, who often travelled with Ham and whose wife is from Japan, had the needed paperwork and was admitted. “Ken spent five minutes with me in the airport, then handed me a stack of overhead transparencies,” Carl remembers. “That was it, and I was on my own.”
Despite the inauspicious beginning, Kerby has become a dynamic and popular speaker for the rapidly-growing Answers in Genesis organization.
Earlier, at lunch, Carl explained his unique qualifications for his apologetics ministry—an industry that tends to be populated by college professors with PhDs. Carl tells us how his father was a professional wrestler (Luke “Big Boy” Brown), and how he spent his early adult years as an air traffic controller at O’Hare airport in Chicago.
“Qualified?” Carl asks of his life experiences. “That, and a quarter, will get you exactly nothing.”
I teased Carl a bit as we talked—“For being an air traffic controller, you don’t seem high strung,” I said.
“Who, me? Of course I’m high strung!” Carl answered. Loudly.
He went on to explain that his real passion is for evangelism—connecting the truth of God’s word to people who know little or nothing about the Bible. His message today can be seen as a summary of AOG’s operating premise: the book of Genesis is a powerful tool for evangelism.