We had the good fortune of connecting with KEVIN ETTA and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi KEVIN, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
In Christian Ministry, risk taking is an important component as I am sure it is in any venture, pursuit or effort. You are taking the risk that entails putting yourself out there in front of the general public and advertising your brand, your product and your messaging. In our case, our brand, product and messaging are enunciated and displayed through the wide spectrum of offerings we have: prayer, counseling, teaching, instruction, etcetera. And over the years since we began this Gospel Ministry and Outreach in December of 2013, we have seen lives changed, transformed and revived in truly remarkable and miraculous ways. We have trained other Ministers to also carry out the work and have seen uncanny manifestations of God’s grace and power cascade over and across from them to constituents far and near as we carved out our niche as a place where dreams come true, and lives are transformed and made brand new. Naturally, our wingspan has grown in terms of our spread and footprint, to include both folks who are local and out-of-state.
However, things came to a precarious head at the unsavory advent of COVID-19 across the length and breadth of the U.S. early last year 2020, and at once we were confronted with the risk and challenges of managing expectations, participation and faith in our Ministry’s programs and vision under the unwieldy burden and weight of the virus and its devastating effects upon the society: the restrictions on public assembly and congregation not only for churches but for businesses and organizations across the board. People began to lose earnings, and many lost their jobs as the economy began its inevitable contraction and slowness brought on by the virus. A lot of folks began to experience challenges paying their rents and meeting their obligations as the domino effects of this contraction rippled through the economy. In this climate of uncertainty, despair and fear, people are, quite naturally, prone to backslide in their religious devotions and relegate them to the backburner while they address what they consider the more pressing issues of their lives. So, the risk quotient suddenly rose exponentially for many businesses that wondered if their brand would or could survive the COVID downturn and we as a non-profit religious organization were not exempted.
In the face of restrictions on public gathering and assembly and the imposition of social distancing guidelines as the virus flared nationwide, we acted in chorus with several churches and temporarily shuttered the physical structures and facilities of the church and reverted to online services. That necessity, in and of itself, represented another tier of risk. What was evident in the first few weeks amongst churches that were shuttered, was a general apathy toward church worship, doctrine and devotions as people wrestled with the realities of the COVID depression that manifested not just economically and physiologically (for any and all that were physically affected) but mentally as well. Online worship struggled to generate the same enthusiasm at the outset and understandably so.
Another factor was that churches depend on donations to stay open. And when folks are not physically coming to church, that can be a problem. These were all things that I wrestled with in my mind and spirit as events continued to play out and unravel the different levels of risk for us tier by tier. A lot of churches opted to re-emphasize the message of paying financial contributions and offerings even while people are dealing with so much. Others elected to resume in-person services earlier than some, whilst observing social distancing guidelines. I believe most of these decisions were made in good faith in the attempt to not allow the sheep stray too far from the fold during the grueling pandemic, even though I might personally have a slightly different or nuanced opinion about some or all of them.
Another tier of risk evolved for us: we decided we would remain shuttered for the present until the virus’ spread had abated and it was safe to gather once again for in-person worship. We did not change our messaging toward an emphasis on paying financial contributions. We were guided by our faith and other examples from the Scriptures in the knowledge that God pre-ordains all things with the care of His Saints uppermost in His mind. And so, He has already made provisions for us in and through these difficult times so long as we remain steadfast in faith and constant in our worship and devotions. This thematic bent became resonant in all our online messaging, sermons and communications throughout all our social media platforms (YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp) and the results were astounding.
We have enjoyed a wider and ever-expanding footprint throughout our subscriber base and the network of our participants and respondents, particularly in our Facebook and WhatsApp streaming video and messaging platforms –and particularly with Facebook, our pre-recorded and streaming messages/sermons reach a vast global network of, oftentimes, tens of thousands of subscribers and respondents. This is an experience we did not have prior to the COVID pandemic but we now see in our Ministry’s outreach and activities. For us, these respondents, many of whom engage us in follow-up prayer and counseling (via remote), may as well have been interacting with us in a physical building or auditorium for in-person meetings; i.e. we have achieved the same or similar effect of impacting their lives if they had.
On the financial side, as a church we have never been in a more secure place financially in terms of being able to maintain our obligations and facilities long-term. This is despite the rigors the pandemic has wrought upon us all and the fact we did not change our messaging to include a re-emphasis on paying financial contributions to the church. We simply taught our folks how to be empowered by Divine interventions in and through hard times and they acted accordingly and went above and beyond in fulfilling their individual and corporate obligations without instigation or coercion.
So, we have had –I have had –to think about risk a whole lot within the past year, and perhaps more so than I have done throughout the course of my public outreach and ministry. Particularly given that members of my own family were seriously impacted by COVID last year. But, again, in and through all God has come through for us and our faith in Him has not been disappointed to the extent we are even more empowered to preach and teach the Gospel with verve, vigor and vitality than ever we were before. This, in a nutshell, is how I think about risk and the roles it has taken and played in my life and Ministry.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am Head Pastor of SPOKEN WORD FAITH MINISTRIES in Garland Texas. The Ministry was always in existence in and through my itinerant ministry spanning Nigeria and America from 1989 to 2013 when the public outreach crystallized from the itinerant ministry into our local church outreach here in Garland Texas, in December 2013. We are a prophetic ministry that gives insights and counseling to persons in need of spiritual direction and healing. We are also a teaching ministry with a deep and rich foundation in Bible instruction from years of study, mentoring and teaching the truth of the Gospel across different continents to ministers and congregants alike. We preach Jesus Christ and the salvation, empowerment and nobility that come through knowing Him in a personal relationship and sharing in His vast celestial riches and wealth, which are convertible by faith to aid in overcoming all objections, temptations, challenges and tribulations of this life, in addition to providing eternal security to all who believe in Him for the Life which is to come. We have enjoyed and continue to enjoy a unique manifestation and communion with Him, where He engages us in conversation daily and provides guidance for our general health and well-being and the health and well-being of others. We have seen lives changed, transformed, revived, healed and restored in extraordinary ways. We continue to see God’s blessings in and through our word and ministry.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would certainly take any visitors to the Dallas area to the Dallas Aquarium and Dallas Zoo. Both are extraordinary places to visit and just be wowed by the natural spectacle that both avail. I would also bring them to our church to experience the Presence of God in a unique and vibrant way. They would have a personal encounter with God that they would not soon forget and it would open up paths of opportunity, perhaps hitherto obscured and obfuscated, that they could now pursue to widen the breadth and scope of their life’s experience significantly. We have seen this happen too many times to count.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like give a shoutout to all the Saints of God everywhere that call upon the LORD’s name in worship, devotion and praise and have continued to do so with untrammeled and undimmed fervor and enthusiasm in and through the terrible challenges of the past year, 2020… and despite the ravages of the COVID pandemic. You are my heroes, all of you… continue to lift your heads high, for your Salvation is near! Amen.