by Stephen Simpson

Publication: One-to-One, Summer 2015

In 1955, Dwight Eisenhower was still in his first term as President of the United States. Winston Churchill was nearing the end of his final tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The Brooklyn Dodgers were the World Series Champions and “The Mickey Mouse Club” reigned on television. Elvis Presley had not yet emerged on the national music scene.

Charles Simpson as a teenagerAnd an 18-year-old Charles Simpson was seeking God about what to do with his life.

Having recently re-dedicated his heart to Jesus Christ, he faced an unusual dilemma: to be a boxer in college or accept the opportunity to minister in a small mission group.

A series of events convicted his heart and mind that he was being called to serve the Lord wherever the Lord would lead him. He was soon ordained into Gospel ministry, not realizing that 60 years later, he would still be answering God’s call.

By 1957, he was invited to become pastor at Bay View Heights, a small, struggling Southern Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. Charles Simpson was 20 years old. He told the deacons, “if they had been a better church, they would have had a better pastor, and if I had been a better pastor, i would have had a better church.  And, if they wouldn’t tell, I wouldn’t tell.”  Still, with fervent prayer, leadership from the Lord, and wise counsel from his father and other mentors, he began to see positive change happening in the church and surrounding neighborhoods.

LOVE AND MARRIAGE
The next year brought one of the most significant and happy changes in his life and ministry; he began to court Carolyn dix (who was, unbeknownst to both of them at first, the daughter of one of his father’s closest college buddies). God Sovereignly brought the relationship about when Charles was conducting a series of revival meetings and needed a piano player.  A friend recommended Carolyn, who was a multi-instrumentalist; not only were the revival meetings a blessing, but a true love relationship was born.

Charles & Carolyn Simpson_Embracing the Truth_121_Sum_2015Charles and Carolyn were married in 1960, and all seemed well … a new marriage, a growing church, and years of attending seminary together. I was born in 1963, and we had a happy home.

Though the church was growing and more opportunities for ministry were coming, “Brother Charles”, as he came to be known, was becoming increasingly hungry spiritually, and feeling a sense of burn-out from intense activity and from deep concerns over where society was heading.

When his close friend, Rev. Ken Sumrall, experienced a baptism in the Holy Spirit, my Dad wanted to know more. He traveled to Brother Ken’s church in Pensacola, FL, which was just a small storefront place in a rough part of town.  Dad knew that his friend had become controversial.  Brother Ken had been kicked out of his large and thriving Baptist church following his infilling with the Spirit, and was considered by some to be a “holy roller”.  However, Dad’s own hunger for the Lord—and his trust in Brother Ken’s sincere and well-grounded love of the Bible—caused him to make the long drive to see what was happening.

FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
Charles Simpson with Ken SumrallThere, in that decidedly non-glamorous and seemingly unpromising location, my Dad had his own powerful encounter with God, being baptized in the Holy Spirit during a prayer meeting. Though he did not “advertise” his experience, it immediately affected his preaching and ministry.  Soon, many people in his church were repenting and coming to Christ and experiencing renewal in their lives.

A genuine revival broke out at Bay View, as people from all races and walks of life, and even many nations, traveled to be a part of something amazing that God was doing there. The church grew rapidly, and was part of many missions around the world.

Bay View became a leadership and revival training center, and the sparks from that spiritual fire went everywhere.

Groups and denominations that my Dad had once criticized were among the first to open their arms to him and invite him to come and share what God had done in his life. My Dad said he had to humble himself before God and these brothers and sisters, to repent of some of his previous attitudes.  Genuine love and reconciliation followed.  Soon, revival was breaking out among those churches and denominations as others, filled with the Holy Spirit, began gathering together, encouraging one another, preaching the Gospel, and seeing amazing signs following.

Charles Simpson ministeringWithout realizing or intending it, my Dad was becoming a pioneer in one of the great revivals in history.  What had once been considered a backwoods or fringe movement was blossoming into what became known as the Charismatic Renewal worldwide. Hundreds of millions of people in every part of the world have now shared these experiences in the past fifty years.

NEW WINE
In the late 1960s, he began ministering in conferences and seminars for a group called the Holy Spirit Teaching Mission, based in southern Florida. That group launched a Bible teaching magazine in 1969, called New Wine.

Teaching with the Holy Spirit Teaching Mission.

My Dad was invited to be part of the very first group of monthly writers and contributors to the magazine, along with a very diverse group of other Bible teachers, including Don Basham, Bob Mumford, and Derek Prince.  The magazine quickly exploded in numbers of readers and in influence.

However, one of the leaders of the publishing ministry was discovered to be living a double life of sin and deception.  Don Basham, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, and my Dad were asked to come into the situation to speak the truth in love and to seek repentance and restoration.  Though that man refused their counsel, and was subsequently dismissed, each of these brothers recognized together the great need in the Charismatic Renewal for genuine community, accountability, and walking in the light. They had witnessed too many other situations of leaders and believers falling into terrible traps.

As brothers, friends, and colleagues, they prayed and sought God together and made a simple commitment to one another to walk in covenant love and truth. Little did any of them know what would emerge from this prayerful agreement.

Over the next few months, in speaking ministry, and in their writing, word began to spread of their committed relationship to one another, and the need they saw for this kind of loving accountability before God.  The response globally was stunning. Tens of thousands of people sought these men out, seeking similar relationships and spiritual community.  Hundreds of churches were born and there arose an increased need for teaching, discipleship, and pastoral care.  Many young believers coming out of the “Jesus Movement” of the 1960s and early 1970s were looking for structure and basic life teaching, and gravitated to the ministries they saw emerging via New Wine. The rate of growth was dizzying.

Charles & Stephen fishingDuring this season of life, both my sister and brother were born, delighting my parents, and providing me with two lifelong best friends. Our family continued to grow together.  When Dad had to travel, Mom was a rock at home. When Dad was home, he always made sure to make times with us a priority, including regular prayer and Bible study together, as well as lots of games and fun.

THY KINGDOM COME
After a brief season of living in southern Florida, our family moved back to the central Gulf Coast in 1973.  Dad had been meeting with regional leaders and friends to pray and seek God together.  During one such time, Dad began to say the Lord’s Prayer and when he came to “Thy Kingdom come,” he could not go any further.  The anointing of the Holy Spirit fell in a very tangible way.  These brothers began to weep, worship, and shout together as the Lord’s purpose became clear: the Kingdom was not only for Heaven later, but the Father’s desire was for His Kingdom to be revealed on earth now.

Along with these other area leaders, Dad founded Gulf Coast Fellowship (later to become Covenant Church of Mobile) in August of that year, and became the Senior Pastor.

Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Ern Baxter, and Don Basham

Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Ern Baxter, and Don Basham

In 1975, 5,000 pastors spiritually related to the New Wine brothers, who now included Ern Baxter, gathered in Kansas City.  The World Christian Encyclopedia estimated that more than 100,000 Christians were now connected.

This growth and growing influence caused controversy and consternation among some Charismatic and Evangelical authorities, pundits, and clergy, on a national scale, and even locally along the Gulf Coast. Certain practices and extremes not taught by New Wine, but nonetheless attributed to the teachers, caused confusion and grief among some Christians who were part of churches who claimed allegiance to the movement, as well as other onlookers.

One popular flamboyant televangelist went on air, without personally talking with or verifying his rumors with the New Wine teachers, to excoriate them and to “ban” all of their publications and recordings from his network. He was followed by others who parroted that method and narrative, which spread like feathers in the wind.  Attempts at reconciliation proved difficult. Some notable ministries blacklisted the New Wine teachers and worked hard at disseminating negative stories. The New Wine brothers continued to reach out to these ministries, which eventually began to open new doors for fellowship and cooperative ministry.

Rev. Larry Cristenson & Charles Simpson in 1977 at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City

Charles Simpson with Rev. Larry Cristenson at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City

Plans proceeded for a larger Charismatic gathering in Kansas City in 1977 at Arrowhead Stadium.  Approximately 50,000 Christians came from across North America and the globe to worship Jesus together. During the days, breakout sessions were held; the “Shepherding Movement” meetings in Kemper Arena drew 9,000 people and featured Charles Simpson and other New Wine teachers and guests.

Charles Simpson also moderated one of the evening gatherings at Arrowhead, which featured his great friend, Pastor Larry Christenson from the Lutheran Renewal, and then-President Jimmy Carter’s sister, Evangelist Ruth Carter Stapleton.

OPPORTUNITIES AND OPPOSITION
Just after the Kansas City conference, Charles Simpson and the Shepherding leaders took a spiritual pilgrimage together to Belgium, where they were joined by Catholic Cardinal Leon Joseph Seunens, and then traveled on as a team to Rome and then to Jerusalem. Key ecumenical leaders from across the Charismatic Renewal were part of this pilgrimage as well.arles

Charles Simpson speaking with Cardinal Seunens and Don Basham

Charles Simpson speaking with Cardinal Seunens and Don Basham

My Dad and his Dad, Rev. Vernon Simpson, launched the FATHERGRAM publication, which was aimed at encouraging and equipping Dads according to practical, biblical principles. This newsletter gained wide readership, both as a stand-alone publication, and as a department in New Wine.

Back in Mobile, Gulf Coast Fellowship experienced continued growth and renewal, while we also battled spiritual opposition and controversy. Our family home was repeatedly attacked, including three crosses being burned in our front yard. While that was personally painful for my Dad, it only strengthened his resolve to seek God through prayer and Scripture, to deepen his relationships with our family and with his ministry allies, and to further dedicate himself to ministry and mission.

In 1978, New Wine moved its offices to Mobile, and coordinated with Gulf Coast Fellowship. The focus of Charles Simpson’s ministry continued to be on the mission of the Gospel and disciple-making, as well as strengthening families, encouraging men to step up in the Lord, the importance of leading a lifestyle of prayer and worship, and leadership development. By the early 1980s, the church had purchased land in west Mobile, and had been re-named Covenant Church of Mobile. New Wine and its parent company, Integrity Communications, moved to that location as well.

The President of Integrity Communications, Michael Coleman, had a strong background in administration, and also in music. As he and the New Wine staff read letters from readers, and subsequently confirmed via surveys, there was a great hunger for anointed worship music. Out of this came the development of Integrity’s Hosanna Music (which eventually became Integrity Media, the world’s largest privately held praise and worship music company).

By this time, there was a plethora of Charismatic teaching publications available, and many new publishing ministries had arisen. The New Wine brothers were now living in different locations across the United States, with varying emphases, and some felt that their formal association should be dissolved; that eventually happened in 1986.

Costs to maintain and mail New Wine were growing beyond a sustainable level, and the relational association that had long empowered it was no longer existing in the same way that it had.  And so, at the end of 1986, New Wine ceased publication.  The related teachers agreed to launch their own individual ministries closer to their own homes.

ONE-TO-ONE
Christian Conquest Magazine CoverHowever, there were still New Wine-related costs to pay and subscriptions to fulfill. A new kind of magazine was needed to fill the void. Prayers and plans began for this new publication.  By early 1987, Integrity Communications became Charles Simpson Ministries. The growing music division was sold to Michael Coleman and partners, and it was named Integrity Music.  Charles Simpson Ministries (CSM) launched Christian Conquest Magazine, which provided Bible teaching and ministry news. The magazine went on to win awards for publishing excellence and gained new audiences around the world, before being re-named One-to-One to better reflect our mission.

In 1987, Charles Simpson also began personally writing a monthly Pastoral Letter to communicate what the Lord was showing to him and to encourage his friends in ministry. This letter has become our most effective and sought-after resource, and, like New Wine and One-To-One, the archives are available online via csmpublishing.org.

One of the most notable characteristics of my Dad is his generosity. In addition to him giving personally out of his own pocket to bless and sustain countless numbers of folks in need, he opened up our home for folks to live and stay with us. He has made giving a hallmark of CSM as well.

Upon the sale of CSM’s worship music division, he and our CSM Board made a decision to give the vast majority of the proceeds to support Covenant Church of Mobile in its mission. Over the next seven years, CSM gave $750,000 as a gift to Covenant Church. In addition, since 1975, CSM has given more than $950,000 to support our partner Spanish-language publication, Conquista Cristiana, under the directorship of Pastor Hugo Zelaya, and hundreds of thousands more to support orphans, widows, and those in prison around the world.

For many years, CSM was the home of International Outreach Ministries, founded by Paul Petrie and subsequently led by Gary Henley. IOM continues its ministry today under the leadership of Michael McCarty, serving more than 100 missionaries globally.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw Charles Simpson and our team developing a comprehensive, systematic Bible study curriculum, The Covenant & the Kingdom, which provided detailed history of God’s dealings with mankind and His ongoing Sovereign purpose for the future.  This resource has been published in Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Telegu (india), and Slovak, and portions have been translated into Spanish as well. It is used in Latin America and in Africa, and has been a true landmark in Bible teaching and missions.

charles_radio_showDuring those years, Dad also had a national daily radio evangelistic broadcast, “Challenge with Charles Simpson”, which was heard in 22 metropolitan areas in the United States.

In the late 1990s, he received an honorary doctorate in pastoral ministry from the American Center for Theological Studies (ACTS).  He entered the new millennium with a fresh and pronounced emphasis on personal one-to-one evangelism, and wrote three short booklets on how to start and lead one-to-one groups, how to lead someone to Jesus, and how to grow in our walk with Jesus once we’ve received Him as Lord.  This is an emphasis he maintains and practices to this day.

JOY AND SORROW
In 2000, doctors discovered significant blockage in some of his arteries, and he underwent quadruple bypass surgery.  Typical of Dad, he reached out to his doctor, befriended him, shared the Gospel with him, and turned the entire experience into a series of deeply moving and effective sermons.

I still get excited about taking what God is saying to my Dad and facilitating in getting that word out all over the world in innovative new ways through CSM.

And, as the call of God became more clear upon the life of my sister, Charlyn, Dad and Mom fully supported her as she received her language and culture education in Costa Rica, where she then launched a ministry to widows and orphans. Today, she and her husband, Enrique, lead the Hidden Treasures Costa Rica Children’s Home ministry near San Jose, and have served literally hundreds of children with food, shelter, medical care, clothing, and educational supplies and tutoring.

Likewise, we’ve seen God’s call on my brother, Jonathan, who not only served CSM creatively and administratively, but now works with a global firm that is providing high quality, cost-effective construction material to help some of the world’s neediest citizens find affordable housing.

Charles and Carolyn SimpsonIn 2005, we got the shocking news that our mother was battling Stage IV ovarian cancer.  Dad and Mom always had a strong and loving marriage, but over the next three years, we saw a depth of love and commitment beyond anything we could have imagined.  Dad left no stone unturned in Mom’s care and treatment, left no prayer unprayed, left no tear unshed, left no loving word unspoken.  Jon, Charlyn, and I, along with our spouses and our children, witnessed perhaps Dad’s finest hour, though it was surely the most heartbreaking as well.

When Mom went home to be with the Lord in early 2008, Dad took a few months off from the rigors of regular travel ministry to once again seek God about the direction of his life.  In the past seven years, he has given himself personally to ensure that the torch of truth is being passed to the next generations of Christian leaders, including producing a prophetic, historical video series entitled, Words That Changed Our Lives. He continues to travel extensively, and also to welcome leaders into our home. He continues to personally reach out to encourage and heal the broken, and to personally ask people, “do you know Jesus? Have you considered giving your life to Him?  Have you prayed about it?”

PRAYER WARRIOR
In 2013, his book Straight Answers to 21 Honest Questions About Prayer was published by Chosen Books and became his best-selling work ever. It was the honest reflections of a man who can still be heard in his bedroom at night, calling out to the Lord on behalf of his friends and family; praying for the lost and the weary; interceding for our nation, for Israel, and for the world. He has written numerous other books including A New Way to Live, Your Home or His, Struck by a Loaf of Barley Bread, The Challenge to Care, Courageous Living, Take Your Hat off Son, and Ants, Vines, and Churches. He is the author of scores of magazine articles, and has preached thousands of times in traveling millions of miles.

I’ve watched Dad’s service and devotion to his own parents, to his in-laws, and to all of our extended family.  In 2009, Dad moved, along with our family, from the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay into a home together in west Mobile. I’ve learned as much from Dad in the past six years as perhaps in all of my previous life. It’s a priceless honor. In addition to serving Jonathan, and his wife, Sarah, Charlyn and her husband, Enrique, and me and my wife, Susanne, as our father, Dad is the devoted grandpa to nine grandchildren and many others who love him as “Abuelo”.

Folks that love him call him “Brother Charles” because he has truly been a covenant brother and friend to countless people worldwide.

Dad has led many to faith in Christ, prayed for thousands of people personally, counseled, held the hands of the sick and the hurting, encouraged the poor, the widowed, the orphaned, the imprisoned, and the rejected. He has turned the other cheek and walked the extra mile. He has helped restore people that no one else would touch.

Dad is a great example of “speaking the truth in love,” regardless of the cost. He has always been willing to be a pioneer and take risks for the sake of the Gospel. He is a prayer warrior and a soul winner. He worships God with His whole life, in laughter and in tears. I am thankful for his love and guidance, and most of all, for pointing the way to Jesus for our family and for countless multitudes.

As his own Dad would say, “The best is yet to come!”