By Mark Ellis & Michael Ashcraft, Special to ASSIST News Service
SANTA MONICA, California (ANS — June 4, 2015) — Their disciples patrolled the Sunset Strip tirelessly witnessing to prostitutes and drug addicts in a “repent or perish” style that alienated as many as it converted.
During their heyday in the early 80s, Tony Alamo Ministries had hundreds of converts, a touring choir, and volunteer work crews that raised funds for their various ministry activities, including printing presses that churned out evangelistic pamphlets nonstop.
Then the movement’s leader, Tony Alamo, was convicted and jailed in 1994 for tax evasion and again in 2009 for sex crimes against minors. At 80 years of age, he is currently serving a 175-year sent in a Tucson prison for transporting five minors across state lines for sex.
Despite the hit to this ministry, the movement birthed with hippies of Hollywood did not disappear. In fact, as a mass distribution of pamphlets in Culver City attests, these radical Christians are back.
“You thought we closed down?” said one of their leaders at their church in Canyon Country, California, north of Los Angeles. “No, we never closed down.”
At a Sunday afternoon service recently, there was sincere love expressed by the approximately 30 people in attendance. It was a very normal Christian service: worship, testimonies, special music, offering, a sermon and communion – finished within an hour.
The disciples — some converts from the 60s and others young adults who had grown up in the church — are carrying out the mission left them by the Jewish-background Hollywood promoter who turned to Christ and became their pastor with his wife Susan.
“I want to serve the Lord, and I don’t care who likes it and who doesn’t like it,” said the preacher from the pulpit that afternoon. “The gospel is not about making money. It’s about saving souls.”
A van brought four people from Hollywood, just as Alamo taught them in the 1970s. After the service, a free meal was given to all. It’s an enticement for visitors and the way things are done for the church laborers, who since their beginnings in the Jesus Movement live something of a communal existence.
About the writer: Mark Ellis is a senior correspondent for ASSIST News Service and also the founder of www.Godreports.com , a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos from the church around the world to build interest and involvement in world missions.
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