Dynamic preacher and television personality Carlton Byrd talks about this year's Christmas special broadcast, as well as the many exciting ministries at the Oakwood University Church — and offers some advice to our church leaders.
Question: Your media ministry Breath of Life is making a Christmas special called King of Kings that will be shown on ABC affiliates around the US on Christmas day this year. How long is the show? Have you taped it already?
Answer: The Christmas special (show) is one hour long. Yes, we taped it on October 27, 2018.
How did you decide who would be featured in the Christmas special?
When we were contacted by the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, sponsor of the special, about doing the Christmas broadcast, we immediately began to pray about the theme of the special and its structure. Given the diversity of the viewing audience, it was critical to acknowledge and minister to the multiple needs, cultures, preferences, and backgrounds of people. Hence, the persons who would minister in this special would need to reflect this diversity.
Can you tell us about the music?
The Oakwood University Aeolians, Sheléa Frazier, and Kirk Franklin provided music representing a multiplicity of genres including anthems, spirituals, and gospel.
I know Breath of Life made another Christmas special last year. Was that the first? How many viewers tuned in? Will this year's program be significantly different?
Yes, the Promise was broadcast in 2017. We're told that nearly one million viewers tuned in live. The first Breath of Life Christmas Special was “The Present,” recorded in October 2011 from the Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church in Atlanta, Georgia and aired on December 25, 2011.
While the format for this year's program will primarily be the same as last year's given the aforementioned musical artists interspersed with the spoken word by yours truly, there is an added feature where a young actress is portrayed as the innkeeper's daughter who offers eyewitness accounts of Jesus' birth.
Each year the production gets better as we acquire greater experience.
You will be giving a Christmas sermon, right? What will the message be? Presumably the majority of your audience will be non-Adventist. Will you mention the Seventh-day Adventist Church specifically, and offer a message that is uniquely Adventist? Or something more general?
Yes, I share a Christmas sermon that is shared in four parts at approximately five minutes each. This four-part message centers around what a King is, the fact Jesus is our King, His first coming as a King, and one day soon King Jesus is coming the second time to get His people!
The message is very general in nature. It appeals to all people groups of differing faiths, and even to those persons who may not belong to a faith group at all. In the introduction and in the closing credits, it is specifically mentioned that the broadcast is “being brought to us by the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
What are some of Breath of Life's other big projects?
In 2019, we are desirous of raising the needed funds to purchase a cargo vehicle enabling our broadcast equipment to accompany us when we travel enabling our ministry to do recordings and tapings “on the road” when away from our primary broadcast home at the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama.
We would also like to launch a new Evangelistic Training School where we offer workshops and training in evangelistic preaching, Bible instructorship, music, and media.
Additionally, we would like to produce a Breath of Life musical CD featuring several Adventist artists. This will help promote our Adventist artists' ministries, while simultaneously serving as a source of ministry and inspiration to our viewers and the population in general.
In addition to managing Breath of Life, you are senior pastor of the Oakwood University Church. What do you like about pastoring at Oakwood? Is there anything you find to be a particular challenge? Do you think you will continue to be there for some years to come?
I have served as the Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church (OUC) since January 2012. It is a joy to serve as Senior Pastor at the OUC as you're able to impact lives of a diverse audience inclusive of the university students, faculty, and staff, along with community residents in the Huntsville area.
It can be challenging to balance the enormity of the ministry needs of Breath of Life while simultaneously ministering to the needs of the Oakwood University students, members of the OUC, and community residents of Huntsville.
I believe that "the best is yet to come" at the OUC as we continue with our emphasis on relevant ministry through evangelism, media, community outreach, and economic empowerment. Hence, I want and plan to be a part of that!
What makes the Oakwood community special?
The rich diversity: students, adults, and retirees who have settled in the Huntsville area.
And what else are you working on? You seem to always have many ongoing projects!
We've just completed the construction of our 20,000 square-foot Oakwood University Church Family Life Center, and we're excited about the daily ministry that transpires in this facility to our community residents and church members alike! Our Family Life Center houses our vegetarian/health food market, barber shop, medical clinic, basketball and volleyball leagues in our gymnasium, outreach ministries (food and clothing distribution ministries); support groups (marriage, divorce care, bereavement, and substance abuse); and banquet/auditorium space for special events. Hence, we don't just offer one day per week ministry or a television ministry. We seek to provide ministry on a daily basis.
We are now poised to begin the construction of our Oakwood Adventist Academy high school classroom building (20,000 square feet) in February 2019, and the remodeling and renovation of our church sanctuary with completely new carpeting and pews (seating capacity: 3,000) in June 2019.
It’s wonderful to hear how the ministry at Oakwood continues to grow. Our wider church, however, seems to be going through some tough times. What do you think our church leaders could do differently? What should we church members in the pews be doing?
We all need to be praying — leaders and members. If there is something that can be done differently among church leadership, I would offer that we need to communicate better. Specifically, listen more and seek to understand the diverse world in which we live today. Our world is very complex, yet we are still called to share the gospel in this complex world. While our Advent message has not changed, the methods by which we share our message must change to relevantly meet the complex needs of our differing cultures today.
What do you think our church in North America specifically needs to do in order to stay relevant, energized and united?
Pray, listen, and seek greater exposure relative to best practices for ministry. There also needs to be an increased emphasis on active, relevant, and “scratch where it itches” ministry. We are living in a post-Christian society, and it is necessary that we move from “ministry discussion” to “ministry implementation.” In the words of the Nike marketing slogan, “Just do it.”
Dr. Carlton P. Byrd is senior pastor of the Oakwood University Church and Director of the Breath of Life Television Broadcast. He is a graduate of Oakwood University with degrees in theology and business management. He holds an MBA from Tennessee State University and a master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Andrews University.
Photo courtesy of Carlton Byrd.
Alita Byrd (no relation to Carlton Byrd) is interviews editor for Spectrum.
Editor's Note: The article has been updated (Dec. 22, 2018 at 8:40 a.m. ET) to reflect that the Christmas special will be shown on ABC stations.
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