What piqued my curiosity about Tony Alamo is that, despite that by court conviction he was an child sex abuser and by most accounts a cult leader, people got saved in his ministry. I visited his church in Canyon Country, CA, and found its service to be pretty much like any other church. The people talked mostly about and focused mostly on Jesus. Meanwhile, their pastor — the church is run by lay leaders — is in jail. TRIGGER WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: I can’t avow for his ministries.
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.” Read more.