Fifty-six-year-old Alfred Harrell founded the Christian Leadership Academy in January 1998 after earning an Ed.D. from Arkansas State University at Jonesboro.
In his 40s he toyed for some time with the idea of a school for Church of God members who wanted hands-on involvement in spreading the gospel.
"I guess it started in 1991 when I really got serious trying to come up with something that would be beneficial," he told The Journal in July 1998 during a visit to East Texas to promote the then-months-old CLA.
But classes per se didn't begin in 1998. Instead, the organization began sponsoring speaking engagements, featuring Dr. Harrell, in U.S. cities mostly in the South and Midwest.
A few months later during that early tour of cities, Dr. Harrell decided to focus his messages on the importance of Sabbath observance rather than a general call for people to repent and accept Jesus as their Savior.
In 2000 the CLA announced it would begin formally teaching classes in "evangelism" in four cities in Arkansas, following a curriculum of seven "levels."
"If you go through most religious schools, you are expected to teach everything that a school believes, which is its doctrinal beliefs," Dr. Harrell told The Journal in August 2000. "Our goal is to operate a school that does not teach doctrine but will lead a student toward the pursuit of truth."
At that time, questioned about his previous emphasis on the Sabbath in his public addresses, Dr. Harrell said he had concluded that "Sunday-keepers are not our enemy."
"Our enemy is Satan," he said, "not Sunday-keepers."
Dr. Harrell more recently said he has not backed off on his concern for Sabbath observance. But his seven-year ministry has indeed changed its focus when necessary because "some approaches work" and "some do not" when preaching to the public.
The latest thrust of the CLA is to deliver a warning directly to state governors and other governing officials.
The Journal talked with Dr. Harrell by phone recently while he was eating a late dinner in a restaurant alongside an interstate highway west of Birmingham, Ala.
Dr. Harrell acknowledges he has tried various ways to preach the gospel to the public and has concluded that expensive measures are not usually the best.
"The CLA is proving we can get the attention of the media by stepping out on faith," he said. "We don't need to ever buy TV advertisements. We don't need really to spend a lot of money on newspapers, because, the way Christ's gospel is laid out before us, we can become the news, and that's more effective than taking out an ad."
He explained that journalists in each state capital readily report the news of a traveling preacher making a proclamation on the steps of the capitol.
So far, after visiting 14 capitols, his addresses have been reported by several TV stations, and the coverage has been consistently favorable, he said.
He acknowledges he has had to fine-tune his approach over the years to determine which strategies work and which do not, but he remains optimistic because, he says, God would not command Christians to do something that cannot be done.
"I was convinced at the very beginning that God would not tell us to preach the gospel if there was not a way of doing it," he said. "And I was determined that I was going to find a way.
"Sometimes you have to try things to see how they work. So many things we tried and we have backed off on. We backed off proclaiming the Sabbath not because I didn't want to proclaim it. It was because we went on to try other things. CLA will eventually be proclaiming the Sabbath stronger than we've ever proclaimed it."
What can happen
In his 25-page "memorandum" to "Governors, Senators, Congressmen, and Chief governmental leaders in the United States," Dr. Harrell presents a "warning of what can happen to our way of life if we continually choose to ignore God."
What can happen is the setting up of "one world government" that would mean the "end of our government in this country as we know it now."
To avoid this outcome, and to prevent the United States going into "captivity," Dr. Harrell makes several recommendations after first listing "strengths" of the United States and "concerns" he has about the nation's shortcomings.
The strengths include:
o A government based on Christian values. Dr. Harrell believes God led the founding fathers to establish the country on Bible principles.
He acknowledged to this writer that many of the founding fathers were not Christian (many of them were deists: believers in God but unbelievers in direct revelation), yet they respected God and the Bible and could see the hand of the Almighty in the founding of the nation.
o A democratic form of government.
o A written constitution.
o Freedom of speech and religion.
o Concern about human rights.
The wrong way
On the other hand, Dr. Harrell's list of "concerns" summarizes the problems he sees with the modern U.S.A.:
o A movement away from God and against God.
o The teaching of the "unproven theory" of evolution in schools. "This line of thinking, both consciously and subconsciously, devalues human life."
o A breakdown in public education. Public schools are enduring a "crisis situation" brought on by "decades of denying God's existence, abandoning discipline, and false teachings."
o The banning of prayer in schools. "This is the most ridiculous of them all."
o Giving non-Christian religions equal rights. "Our nation was founded on Christian principles. Our forefathers based the constitution on these principles."
What about Jews?
During The Journal's interview with Dr. Harrell, he commented on practicers of religions other than Christianity, including Judaism, and talked about whether they should enjoy "equal rights" status.
"There is only one church," Dr. Harrell concluded, "and Jesus is not divided. You must accept Jesus Christ as your Savior . . . But God is very merciful to our nation. He's blessed us over so many years . . . If we are doing the best we know how to do, then God is going to protect our nation; He's going to protect our people.
"But we as a country have moved away from God, and when we become a godless country we put every religion on the same level with the Christian religion, and when you do that you're no longer a Christian nation."
Out of touch
Dr. Harrell's list of "concerns" continued:
o Idolatry. "Placing other religions on the same level as Christianity leads our nation into idolatry. Continued idolatry will eventually lead to the destruction of our country."
o An out-of-touch judicial system that has "drifted to a point where it is out of touch with the will of the majority." Many of the decisions made by judges "are contrary to the intent of our forefathers in the formation of our Constitution."
o The breakdown of the family. "Divorce has become the norm instead of the exception."
o Attacks on the Ten Commandments, which have stood as "the basis for our society since the beginning of our republic . . . Something is dreadfully wrong in our country if we cannot display them anywhere we want."
o Movies and television. "Unless measures are taken to stem the downward decline of the television industry, those dedicated to the true Christian way of life will have to eliminate televisions from their homes."
o The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which "could have served a useful purpose" but has "gotten completely out of control. God's will for our society seems to have absolutely no place within their decision-making process."
o Abortion. "Our country leads the world in government-sanctioned mass murder . . . It is not right to use the terms 'pro-choice' or 'right to life' . . . It is simply murder in God's eyes."
o Homosexuality. "In God's view this life-style is unacceptable . . . For our government and religious leaders to even consider accepting this movement as normal is an abomination in God's view."
o Heterosexual immorality, which is equivalent to an "attack on the sanctity of marriage . . . Sexual relations outside of marriage [have] now been accepted by many in this country as normal."
o Pornography, which Dr. Harrell calls "the largest spectator sport in our country." Smut, especially funneled into people's minds through the Internet, "is having a devastating impact on every facet of our way of life."
o The state of the world. "We are rapidly losing our credibility around the world . . . We are no longer in a position to tell any nation how they should conduct themselves."
o Europe's ascendancy. "Europe is about to explode on the world scene as the strongest economic and military power on the earth."
o A dearth of responsible religious leaders. The clergy "have disgraced their profession by being too cowardly to step out and take a firm public stand . . . They have allowed ungodly teachings and deceits to permeate their organizations."
What to do
What can governmental leaders do? Dr. Harrell makes specific recommendations, including:
o Proclaiming America as officially Christian.
o Forbidding the teaching of evolution "as fact" in public schools.
o Encouraging prayer in schools.
o Labeling homosexual relationships as sinful.
o Establishing the Ten Commandments as the basis of the government.
o Outlawing all abortions.
o Strictly regulating the entertainment industry to "clean [it] up."
o Proclaiming the seventh-day Sabbath as God's appointed day of rest.
The Journal asked Dr. Harrell how likely it is that his recommendations will be followed, that the country and its leaders will move en masse to adopt Sabbatarian Christianity as the official religion, outlaw all abortions, label homosexual relationships as sinful, etc.
"I think it's extremely important to hold out hope that our nation will repent," he said, "because if you don't it just becomes a blasting of our people. God has proven over and over that if a nation repents He will protect us.
"Even though I don't think it's going to happen, you have to have the attitude that it could happen.
"At the same time, you are reaching individuals, and individuals can and do repent. In fact, it's worth it for me when one person turns to God."
Dr. Harrell says he's excited about the reactivation of CLA classes in Little Rock in January.
"It's going to be kind of like a boot camp," he said. "It's not going to be a long, drawn-out educational process as far as classwork.
"It will have an impact in every church in the area. Our topics: communication law and ethics, supreme-court rulings and our judicial system, a basic-truth survey, principles of debate, extensive basic communication training.
"Once this foundation is laid, people will immediately be put into the field for the rest of the training."
The Harrell family
Dr. Harrell lives in Cabot with his wife, Marta. The Harrells have two grown children, Alfred, 28, and Laura, 24.
For more information on Dr. Harrell's schedule and the classes beginning in January, to download a PDF version of the warning for governors and to access the audio of Dr. Harrell's capitol-steps addresses, visit the CLA on the Web at www.cl-academy.org.
Write the CLA at P.O. Box 1844, Little Rock, Ark. 72203, U.S.A.
Phone the CLA at (501) 843-0004.