Californian preacher Bayless Conley gives City News reader insight to his worldwide ministry.
By Dawn Seow
A drug addict found God through an innocent 12-year-old boy who was walking through the woods. That was the start of Bayless Conley’s amazing journey with God. Today, that former drug addict is pastoring Cottonwood Church, a thriving congregation in Orange County, California. Conley is also a frequent conference speaker and a television personality.
Conley pastors Cottonwood Church with his wife of 30 years, Janet. They have three children: Spencer, who is the house band guitarist of popular FOX television series Glee; his twin Rebecca, who is a traveling missionary, and Harrison, their oldest son, who serves as Cottonwood’s youth pastor.
City News talks to Bayless Conley about his church and his television program, Answers with Bayless Conley.
City News: Cottonwood Church focuses on strong families—what are some key things husbands and wives must have in order to build a strong family?
Bayless Conley: The two most important things for a husband and a wife is this: the husband must love his wife and wife must respect her husband.
More than anything else, wives want to be loved and husbands want to be respected. But the thing is, women are really good at loving and men are really good at respecting. A lot of women think that “if I love him more, he will love me” but that is not the case. If a woman wants her husband to love her more, she’s got to respect him. Likewise, if the husband wants to get respect from his wife, he needs to love her.
Next is communication. That is the most important thing in a relationship–so you need to spend time to talk. The man tends to like stony silence while the woman loves to talk. Sometimes the man needs to learn to talk more and the wife needs to learn to just be with her husband and not say anything.
Another key thing is to be quick to repent and quick to forgive. Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s wife, said that a great marriage is the union of two forgivers. When a couple gets into a fight, they should really have a race to see who’s quicker to repent and forgive.
Having experienced drugs as a teenager, what advice do you give to parents of teens going through the same experience, and to the teens themselves?
I think it is super important to have communication between parents and children. One of the biggest problems is parents and children don’t communicate. They need to try to communicate whether that is the culture or not. Parents need to be informed, so that they have a basis to talk to their kids about different issues.
It is also important to get the children into the House of God. It says in Psalms that when brethren dwell together in unity, God commands the blessing. When the (church) family dwells together, there is an anointing that goes down to the least of the members. When we can get our kids into this environment, it makes a difference.
Your show Answers With Bayless Conley is widely watched in America and on international Christian networks. How did you get the idea to start this series?
We’ve got a few on Christian networks but we are also on secular television stations in America and around the world. We’d like to go into a country or a region which the gospel cannot reach. We have been broadcasting in Europe for 24 years now and it is all on secular channels. We are also broadcasting in Arab and African nations, Australia, New Zealand, and in Tokyo, Japan. Some of it we subtitled, some of it we dubbed.
In October of 1979, I was praying and the Holy Spirit spoke to me saying, “You will minister the word of God on television.” At that time I was living in an old flat with minimal furniture—that vision was as far away as the moon. When we got started, we were on what they called a public access television station. I had a film show for three months with some other gentlemen from church, and then they let my wife and I have a five-minute spot. We filmed a little thing and they put it up in the middle of the night on channel bazillion and five. Nobody watched it. We started to do a marriage thing and sort of bicycle it to other local city channels. We did that for five years and never got one card or one phone call. Never once in five years did I meet anyone in the market that said, “Hey, you’re the one on TV.” For five years the only one who watched was God.
But God said the faithful in little will rule over much. We subsequently went on a channel that covered all of Los Angeles. It was hugely expensive for us, but from there we have branched out as far as God would allow us to.
We try to be faithful, but it is really God’s grace and mercy that makes all this happen.
Answers with Bayless Conley provides viewers with practical teaching of the Bible in a non-religious way. How do you talk about the Bible in a non-religious way?
It is similar to what I was doing (in CHC’s church service) today. People are looking for hope and they need hope in God. A lot of what we do is to give hope to people through the Scriptures. It is just our style, and people in different regions of the world seem to like our style of communication. We just try to make things simple and speak to people in the language they understand.
There are some things all people share in common, all people have a spiritual longing for God—they may not have identify it but they have it—all people have a need of material supply, all people have a longing for peace, no matter where in the world you are, what culture you’re in or what your religious affiliation is. And the Bible speaks about all those things and Jesus came to fulfill all those needs. We talk about Jesus because He is the answer to all those problems.
What are some of the most common questions you are asked?
On the level of meeting people’s spiritual needs: where we came from, where we are going, what happens when we die. People think about these all the time. There will be times when people come face to face with their humanity and the gravity of life. Those are the times when people’s hearts are open to people speaking to them.
We get other questions like, God is good so why are there so many bad things happening in the world? How can a good God allow good things happen to bad people? Those are the questions that people have and I’m not afraid to tackle them through the Scriptures.
Read City News’ report on Bayless Conley’s service at City Harvest Church.