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Pastor Bayless Conley: Drugs and Alcohol, Cottonwood Church, LGBTQ and More…

Exclusive Interview by Karen Beishuizen

Bayless Conley is an American pastor at Cottonwood Church in Los Alamitos, California. He has a worldwide audience through his TV and online Podcast “Answers with Bayless Conley”. His appearance on stage is casual and he has a way with words: storytelling with jokes in between. Check him out when you get a chance.

KB: Did you always want to be a Pastor?

No, I didn’t always want to become a pastor. Before I was saved, I had very little to do with religion and I worked various jobs. Once I became a Christian, I gave my all to Jesus and wanted to do something for Him. I had a sense in my heart that I would be involved in ministry, but I was not sure that it would be pastoring a church.

KB: You have made no secret of the fact that you were a drug addict and an alcoholic. How long have you been clean and sober now? What made you quit?

I have been clean and sober for about 47 years. After I came to Christ, people laid hands on me and prayed for me (in the same little street mission where I was saved). When they did, I was set free from my need for drugs. From that day to this day, I have never had another illegal drug in my body. Within a matter of weeks, the strangle hold that alcohol had on me was broken as well. it was Jesus and the working of the Holy Spirit in my life that brought me liberty.

KB: When did you founded The Cottonwood Church and how difficult or how easy was it to get people come to your church?

We founded the church in August of 1983. And honestly, we haven’t had some great strategy to make the church grow. We’ve just done a couple of things consistently. Firstly, we have always tried to feed people a good meal. Meaning that we teach them the word of God when they come. People come because they are spiritually fed. Second thing that we’ve done is we have genuinely tried to love and appreciate people. People want to be loved and they want to be appreciated and they want to know that they are appreciated.

KB: I have watched you on Sunday mornings on TV in Europe many times and it always amazes me how down to earth you are. Where does the storytelling gift come from? How do you keep people’s attention when you start talking?

I can’t actually tell you how I do that. I just seem to be wired up that way. My dad was a good storyteller, so maybe some of that was passed down from him. But more than anything else, I have to say it’s just the gift of God’s grace.

KB: Your service is not your average church service. You keep it very light and don’t go all deep like other Pastors do: What made you decide to do it like this? (I love it).

You know, it’s not good to feed the sheep giraffe food. You don’t want to give people things that are over their heads, and you don’t want to feed them ant food either, so they go away hungry. We need to feed sheep food for sheep. Jesus taught in parables that people could understand. He talked about soil, He talked about seeds, He talked about floods, He talked about vineyards. He spoke in the language that people understood, and I try to do the same thing. I go into a service with the goal to help people and to help them get their eyes on God and I try to make it as simple as I can. And honestly, I think it takes a lot more work to make something simple than it does to make something complex.

KB: You said that you found God 35+ years ago through a 12-year-old boy: Can you tell me this story?

Yes, though I was not interested in organized religion, I was looking for God, you could say, for answers. I wanted to know why I was here, I wanted to know what happened when you die.

Unfortunately, I looked in all the wrong places. I did look into eastern religions and different aspects of Spiritism. But everything was a dead end. One day I met a 12-year-old boy in a park, and he was the first one to ever tell me about Jesus Christ and to tell me that He was alive. It’s a bit of a long story, but through my encounter with that boy and meeting his mother, I ended up in a street mission in a town called Medford, Oregon where I gave my life to Jesus Christ. So, it was through the witness of a 12-year-old boy that God revealed to me that Jesus Christ was alive. I’m sure I’ve worked with many Christians throughout the years and I’m sure that I was in conversation with Christians, but no one ever spoke to me about Jesus. He was the very first one.

KB: You have many ministries around the world: Can you name a few and how often do you visit them?

What we have around the world are offices and friends. There are a number of countries that we have offices in, such as Nepal, Germany and Switzerland and Egypt and a number of other countries. We have people there that help get our materials to folks that contact the office through the broadcast. I have numerous friends around the world that we work with. I will go and preach, or we support the work they are doing in various ways through prayers, through finances, through sending small missions’ teams. All in all, we are very engaged in world missions through the broadcast, through translating materials into different languages and getting them to the people that live in those countries. Through sending teams, through going and preaching and supporting the work that others are doing in various regions of the world.

KB: How difficult was it to keep the church up and running during the pandemic when it was closed for a long time?

It was a difficult time for us as well as, for everyone else. We kept our eyes on God, who is our Source. In fact, He alone is our source and so He helped us through that time. We started by having outdoor services and then eventually moved back to indoors, but it certainly was a difficult time. All I can say is that God was faithful, and we did have things in place to have an online presence, so people continued to join our services that way. I’m glad that we’re back to having normal services now. But to answer that question, all I can say is it’s because of the faithfulness of God.

KB: Many pastors stick to what it says in the bible and don’t look any further than that therefore rejecting the LGBTQ community and calling it a sin. Since you are rather unconventional, what are your thoughts about this? I presume you have people coming to Cottonwood Church who are gay.

We do accept God’s word (the Bible) as the final authority for all matters of conscience and living, including matters of sexuality. Our church welcomes all people, and we believe that when a person fully gives their life to Him and genuinely comes under His Lordship that He will begin conforming them, by His Spirit, into His image. This includes how we deal with our finances, how we conduct our home lives, our attitudes and how we express our sexuality. As King David put it in Psalm 119:128 – ‘I consider all of your rules, about all things to be right’.

KB: You have written many books and on Sunday you perform your service. If you could give people 3 tips of how to live a happy life, what would you tell them?

I’d tell them 1. Put God first in everything. 2. Put others before themselves. 3. Encourage them to take time for themselves and grow in their own personal relationship with God. To spend time reading the bible, to pray and to wait on God. And to have fellowship with other believers. So, number 1. Put God first 2. Put others before yourself 3. Grow in your own spiritual relationship with God.

Check out Pastor Conley’s website: HERE

Find him on Facebook: HERE

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