The Billy Graham for a New Generation

These last two weeks have been exhausting. Two major party conventions, replete with mudslinging and categorical lies, dominated the media and the social conversation. The primary election is now in full swing, and the world is watching in earnest. Donald Trump is in hot water again after his insulting remarks regarding a fallen US Army soldier and his Gold-Star family. Hilary Clinton can’t seem to keep her data from being hacked. The world is spiraling into an uncertain future as this year comes to a close. 
 
 In times like this, it’s helpful to step back and shift our focus to the brighter side of society. As displayed by the recent events where prisoners helped save the lives of their jailers, it’s important that we invest our energies and minds in the stories that show humanity still has a soul. The Chicago Thinkers Journal sat down with just such a story-maker, Corey Fifield. Corey is the founder and president of Phokos Global Ministries. Below is the interview.
 
 CTJ: 
 Thanks for sitting down with us, Corey.
 
 PHK: 
 My pleasure.
 
 CTJ:
 Tell us a little about you and your life’s passion.
 
 PHK:
 I was raised with no religious affiliation, and I experienced a radical conversion to Christianity in my early 20’s. I’m a graduate from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago (with a BA Biblical Studies) I’m a teacher, preacher, evangelist, and the Founder/President of Phokos. I’ve been married for eight years. We have two boys, and another two girls that we have received through foster care. I love God. I love my family, and I enjoy spending time with both.
 
 CTJ: 
 Congrats on the family. You have a whole set. What motivated you to adopt the girls?
 
 PHK:
 The boys are adopted, but the two girls we received through foster care with DCFS. What motivated it? Well, a couple things I guess. Certainly we believe that adoption is close to the heart of God. I heard a preacher say once, “Many Evangelicals are known for being pro-life (which is also good in my opinion), but not enough are known for being pro-adoption, and I think they should be… Because God was pro-adoption.” 
 
 CTJ: 
 What is Phokos?
 
 PHK: 
 Robert Herjkavec from Shark Tank told someone recently, “Don’t start a business. Find a problem, then find a solution. The business will come.” I was motivated to found Phokos because we’ve identified two problems, and one solution to meet both problems simultaneously. Godly men needed housing and empowerment, so we provide housing for several categories of godly men that need it, who pray, practice good works, preach the gospel, and partner with Bible believing local churches in exchange. 
 
 The vision began as somewhat of a simple transitional housing idea for graduates of Bible based recovery ministries in the Chicago area. I wanted to stop the bleeding by providing these men with stable Christian housing post-graduation, so they could continue to grow in Christ.
 
 We chose the name Phokos because it’s the combination of two Greek New Testament words which mean “Light of the World.” We pronounce it the same way you would say the word “focus” because, “Bringing the Light to the World, is our Phokos.” Jesus said of His followers, “You are the Phos (Light) of the Kosmos (World). If we are the light of the World, then the darkness in our political and cultural arena does nothing but reveal the great opportunity and great responsibility we have to light up the World as well. 
 
 These men understand that they are the “Light of the World,” called to do good works, and called to point people out of the darkness and into the light.

CTJ:

The alliteration is catchy. Was that a strategy, or did it just work out that way?

PHK:

It really just kind of worked out that way. Many things with this ministry have been, and continue to be, guided into place. Maybe that was one of them. The ministry model is intentionally simple, and the four Core Values are very important to us. Prayer is fundamental to everything that we do. We practice good works because we want to, we’re told to, it’s part of letting our light shine, it builds relationships, and our good works often pave the way for us to preach the good news of Christ.

Finally, we believe that when we do these three things, people will come to know Christ as Lord and Savior. When they do, we want to connect them into solid, Bible teaching churches in their area. That’s why the partner piece is so critical.

CTJ:

Tell us a bit about how Phokos thinks differently.

PHK:

Several things separate Phokos from the pack, making us truly unique. There are a number of ministries on the planet, and many of them are doing a great work, but I know of no other organization doing what we are doing. Albeit, there are a number of transitional housing opportunities out there. I’d have you to consider our deep spiritual emphasis, the diversity within our homes (missionaries, Christian refugees, bible students, and graduates from Bible- based recovery ministries), and the fact that this diverse team of Christian men is having major Kingdom impact.

Since the home is their compensation, we have a very cost efficient ministry model. On average, each of our men put in 10–15 hours per week in the 4 ways just mentioned. When you consider our model in major cities that already have a heavy church presence, hands down we’re having a much greater impact, with far fewer dollars spent.

Consider the traditional “John and Jane Missionary” scenario: John Missionary is from suburbia Nashville. Jane Missionary is from rural Ohio. They meet at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, both want to be missionaries, both have a heart for Africa. They fall in love, graduate, get married, and start raising support to be full time missionaries in Nairobi Kenya. John and Jane are a good Christian couple. They love the Lord, they love the people of Nairobi, and they set out to raise a humble salary of $30,000 USD per year. They work their network, hit their target fairly quickly, and they are off to Nairobi. In five years at $30,000 per year, the people of God have invested $150,000 in John and Jane Missionary. After five years, John and Jane barely have a handle on the culture, much less the language, and even after 10, 15, 20 years they’ll never be “one of them.”

Now look at the Phokos model: For that same $150,000, we can buy an entire four bedroom, two bathroom home in Nairobi. We can employ eight missionaries, versus two with the John and Jane model. Also, that building will be standing far longer than the five years it took to reach the 150k investment in John and Jane.

Furthermore, all of our men are native to Nairobi. They know the city. They know the people. They know the culture and they speak the language fluently. The Phokos model is clearly more effective, more cost efficient, produces far more hours of Kingdom work, all while providing a safe secure home for eight godly men who need it.

It’s clear that we have a distinct vision that will have a major impact on every city that we have a presence in.

CTJ:

How important is it to emphasize the ROI on charity resource dollars?

PHK:

I’m not just the Founder and President of Phokos, I’m a donor. Like any donor, we invest in causes we believe in, and we want a good ROI on the resources that we invest. I think the Phokos model is very appealing in that regard.

CTJ:

I’d add the word pragmatic to that word soup. They used to have an old saying, that some Christians were “Too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”. What kind of staff do you have?

PHK:

We have a powerful leadership team who are all bi-vocational, and a slim administrative staff, so our overhead is very low. When talking about the staff at Phokos, I have to emphasize the godly men who live in our homes. They are doing the bulk of the day to day ministry activities by exercising our 4 Core Values of prayer, practicing good works, preaching the Gospel, and partnering with Bible believing local churches.

CTJ:

Speaking of overhead, how is Phokos funded?

PHK:

Phokos is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization that is completely funded by the donations of our generous supporters. Praise God, we have a growing base of people who are catching the vision, see the multiple needs being met, and recognize the effectiveness and cost efficiency of our model.

CTJ:

Efficiency and sustainability are ever so crucial. In what other ways is Phokos different than traditional faith-based charities or Christian social justice organizations?

PHK:

Phokos is unapologetically Christian. We are also evangelistic centered with a firm understanding of the finished work of Jesus Christ. The Bible clearly reveals a story of redemption, that at the same time reveals the huge spiritual need felt by every living human being. In the third chapter of Genesis, the Bible describes the “Fall of Man” in the Garden of Eden. The 5th chapter of Romans looks back at that event, explaining that “sin” entered into the world at that time, and was passed down to each one of us, like a spiritual disease. This is why the third chapter of Romans says, “There is none righteous, not even one” and “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard.”

One quick comparison of any human life with the Ten Commandments will indisputably reveal that fact. However, Christ was sinless, and offered His life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. The redemptive story in the New Testament is that by grace, through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, we can be made right with God.

CTJ:
 Un-apologetically Christian. Nice. There’s alot of unapologitism going around. The Republican nominiee for president certainly proud to be in appropriate.

PHK:

Unapologetic does not automatically mean inappropriate. It can be, and often is, but it’s not always inappropriate to be unapologetic. Certainly, one can be incredulous and unapologetic, but that’s ignorant pride. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and He is the authority on all truth. So, when God says X, and the culture disagrees, we will be found unapologetically standing on the firm foundation of God’s Word.

There’s nothing inappropriate about that. There are inappropriate ways to do that, but there are also ways to “speak the truth in love,” to shed light, remaining steadfast, while letting our words be “seasoned with grace.”

CTJ:

In keeping with the pragmatism that you’ve woven into the organization, would you say that, in any way or shape, Phokos is poltically or socio-culturally active?

PHK:

We are an Evangelical Christian, non-profit organization. As such, our activities revolve around His Kingdom. However, I want to point out that by being active with the message of Christ…the message of the gospel…we are certainly, if anything, being indirectly politically and socio-secularly active.

Name one social woe that can’t be cured by a supernatural conversion from Almighty God, and we’ll change gears. The gospel message not only saves souls, it indisputably changes lives.

From the time it rolled out until the day Christ returns, the message of the cross will be rearranging people from the inside out. The fifteenth chapter of the second book of Corinthians states, “When a person becomes a Christian, they become a whole new creature.” Jewish Jihadists like Saul of Tarsus are transformed into some of the greatest missionaries to ever walk the planet. Gang members in Chicago become Bible study leaders, and pimps become preachers.

A handful of untrained, uneducated gospel preachers completely flipped this planet upside down two thousand years ago. Their first priority wasn’t to be politically or socio-secularly active. Yet, every single corner of the culture was impacted by their work, and I’m telling you for sure, it can happen again.

You know that old hymn “Amazing Grace?” The man who wrote it was a debaucherous, hateful, drunken, slave trader… until his heart was confronted with the gospel message, and he was shaken to his core. Lots of politicians on the stage today who can fit that description. Do we want to end political corruption? Yes, so we preach the Gospel. Do we want to end sex- trafficking? Yes, so we preach the Gospel.

CTJ:

“Jewish Jihadist”. That’s powerful langauge. How impactful has your organization been on Islamic demographics?

PHK:

We’re not targeting any specific demographics, but every demographic gets impacted. As it relates to Islam, Nairobi has a dense Islamic population. The Phokos Nairobi team and I stood on a raised platform in the middle of the Mathare slums in Nairobi, in front of hundreds gathered, and hundreds more that stood at a distance, or listened as they passed by. Many of them were dressed in full Muslim garb.

Clearly, not all of them were happy about our preaching, but many listened. In fact, one of our partner churches in Mathare reported that six new people were added to their church the Sunday following our crusade there, and two of them received Christ as their Lord and Savior. I say “Jewish Jihadist” simply to shed light on the supernatural power in the Gospel message. It has, it does, and it always will have supernatural power to convert a Jewish Jihadist like Saul of Tarsus into one of the greatest men of God to ever walk this planet.

That supernatural power is still at work, and the man you’re talking with right now is further proof.

CTJ:

How has the mission of Phokos been affected by recent political and cultural events?

PHK:

Watching the news inspires me. It spurs me on.

CTJ:

Why?

PHK:

As I mentioned, we have the answer. We like to say, “We ‘phokos’ on solutions. Keeping an eye on current events reminds us that we are living in the last days. It also reminds us what happens when the lights channel their resources into purchasing big, beautiful, ornate bowls to gather under on Sunday morning, with cushy seats to sit on while they bemoan how dark it’s getting “out there.”

CTJ:

Alot of talking, and not much doing. Looks like Phokos doesn’t have that problem.

PHK:

I certainly agree. The Bible says, “Don’t merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” There are several categories of godly men in our world who need housing, so we’re doing something about that. Prayer is active, and it changes things; that’s why it’s our first Core Value, and the foundation of everything that we do. People all around the world have felt-needs, so we do something about that by practicing good works in Christ’s name.

All of mankind has inherited a sinful nature from Adam and Eve, and can be reconciled to God through preaching the message of the cross, so we do. It’s essential that believers be connected to a solid, Bible-believing local church. That’s why we partner with good, local churches, so that the body of Christ can be built up. We’re definitely taking action.

We “Phokos” on solutions to the problem.

CTJ:

We always try to think of the end-game. As a teacher, I would always tell my students that my mission was a success if they no longer needed me. What would it look like if the mission on Phokos was successful?

PHK:

Success is relative. Men may count a certain event as unsuccessful, while all of heaven is standing on their feet rejoicing. It’s hard to imagine Noah’s ministry as successful by the world’s standards, when we read that only eight people got saved from the flood. Yet a faithful few, going against the tide of a godless culture, following the call of God no matter the costs, is wildly successful from Heaven’s perspective.

I don’t know how God will write this story. It’s His to write. Maybe I’ll die a martyr in the streets in a short while. Here is what’s on my heart, and if God grants it, I hope to see it before He calls me home:

  • Hundreds of stories will accumulate from men of God who will testify that the free housing, opportunity to rub shoulders with and live, commune, and serve with a diverse team of godly men was a pivotal and timely provision from God.
  • They will say that the experience forever changed the course of their lives.
  • It will be said that we have had hundreds of men living in our 20 homes, situated in major cities across the seven continents.
  • Those men will have an un-quantifiable impact through their fervent prayer.
  • They will touch many lives, and rearrange how people view Christians, by putting Christians everywhere in a good light.
  • Through their regular practice of good works, countless numbers of souls will be saved and lives changed because of their faithful preaching of the Gospel.
  • All of those people will be plugged into solid, Bible believing local churches in their area to continue their growth in Christ, building up and strengthening the body they are now joined to.

CTJ:

I think is was Reverend Billy Graham that once said his biggest regret in his ministry, was not following up with those who came to the altar.

PHK:
 That’s interesting. I didn’t know that about Billy Graham. That dear man has devoted his life to preaching the Gospel, and online reports say that Billy Graham’s ministry has reached more than two billion (with a B) people with the message of the cross. I respect his work, and I’ll say I also respect his reflections on his work.

Follow up is critical. This is why I simply cannot emphasize enough how important the partner piece is to our mission at Phokos. All of our activities have partnering with the local church as the end goal. Phokos has a specific work to do, and the culmination of our work is not just that people are saved. The culmination of our work is that people are saved, connected to a Bible believing local church, and growing in Christ.

CTJ:

What are some recent success stories regarding that specific work?

PHK:

One May afternoon, I listened as David Muir from ABC World News covered an International headline out of Nairobi, Kenya. A seven-story apartment building collapsed, killing a hundred people, with many more still missing. Our Phokos Nairobi team arrived on site to serve. They intended to get right in the rubble and help rescue those still missing, but the authorities were only allowing pre-approved groups like the Kenyan Red Cross.

So Phokos Nairobi made the most of their time on site, praying for and sharing Christ with people at the scene. Furthermore, our team gained direct access to the hospital rooms of those affected by this tragedy, to share Christ with them and their family members. Through this tragedy, there was a noteworthy reminder of why we exist.

Last month, our Phokos Nairobi team gained access to the 2nd largest university in Nairobi, with more than 50,000 students enrolled. The types of activities they’ve been permitted to do there, would never be allowed in the US: Open air crusades on a secular campus property, door to door evangelism throughout the dorms, all-night prayer and worship services led by a member of our Phokos Nairobi team. It has been an incredible opportunity for Kingdom work.

CTJ:

You sound like the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for a new generation.

PHK:
 Oh, well…um..wow…It is crystal clear that God’s heart is to seek and save the lost, and it’s important to remember that we are only broken vessels being used for noble purposes by a gracious God. This new generation is ministering in an America that is not only Post-Christian, it’s becoming Anti-Christian. I’ve had to expand my thinking a bit, but I can say that I am inspired by the work of many in this new generation to creatively get the Gospel to their world. I’m also grateful to be part of Phokos, as we contribute in the ways God has called us.

CTJ:

What are the best ways that interested parties can support the mission of Phokos?

PHK:

When more domestic sites roll out, I would like to see partner churches participate with us as we exercise our core values. Right now, we are building and growing, and donations are the most important way that interested parties can support the mission of Phokos. We are currently running a campaign to raise $50,000 between now and the end of 2016 to continue our work in Nairobi, and prepare to launch a Phokos site in St. Louis, MO. Donations can be made on our website at www.globalphokos.com

CTJ:

It’s been a great interview, Corey. Thank you.

PHK:

Thank you very much.

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