I first met Al Newhart at the 1995 ATS meeting in Philadelphia. He was recording the meetings for his ministry, American Cassette Ministries (now American Christian Ministries). I was impressed with his straightforward manner and conservative commitment to the truths of the Bible. We became long-distance friends, of the kind between Paul and the younger Timothy. More than once I referred to him as a "Dutch Uncle" due to his forthright advice when I would ask for it. I asked Al to participate in this interview for two reasons: To hear from one of the seasoned warriors of the Advent Movement, and to advertise the new American Christian Ministries App -- Gerry Wagoner
HI AL. THANKS FOR GRANTING US THIS INTERVIEW. You're welcome! My purpose and intention of participating in this interview is not to focus on a man, but more importantly upon a ministry—its message and its mission, so my personal info will be minimal.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EARLY LIFE. On October 16, 1929, I was born into a family of six children and was known as the “black sheep” because of my personal choice of high school over academy. My interest in basketball overruled spiritual things. The 1950's included my army service in the Korean War, my marriage to a Catholic in the Catholic Church, and the birth of two of our five children.
The faithful prayers of my Mother and Grandmother and the Holy Spirit's leading resulted our attending the SDA church along with my wife through the positive influence of our children's Sabbath School teacher. Our journey to a church included appointments with different Catholic priests in the vicinity who gave the same answer to my final question, "What about the seventh-day Sabbath?" by saying, "We changed it and the Protestants worship on the day we made holy."
WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO START AMERICAN CASSETTE MINISTRIES? When the Bell Telephone office transferred me to Harrisburg in the early 1960's, we attended the Harrisburg SDA church where our decision was made for baptism. Friendship with a member who shared his reel-to-reel recorded messages with our family inspired my interest when I recognized the benefit and blessing of sharing recorded presentations. As a result I began recording special events at the local camp meeting with my own equipment to share with others as well.
July 7, 1975, marked the birthdate of American Christian Ministries (formerly American Cassette Ministries). On that day, while in my Bell Telephone engineering office, attention was drawn away from my work to a strong impression that began capturing my thoughts. It started with the imprinting in my mind the detailed images of Revelation's Three Angels and an urgent call to begin a ministry. These special Three Angels then became the ministry's international trademark, and I prepared to respond to the Lord's calling with the ministry name, the logo, letterheads, etc.
After some time, I asked the Lord, "Please show me how to get this recording ministry started." It was then that the unlisted number of my desk phone rang and the voice of Emilio Knechtle, General Conference Worldwide Revivalist, was heard saying, "My name is Emilio Knechtle, would you do my tapes?" This began a 20-year working relationship of recording him locally as well as internationally. About the same time, the Lord also opened the door to record the Breath of Life Crusades by C.D. Brooks in 1978 and again in 1979.
WHAT OTHER STALWARTS OF THE FAITH DID YOU RECORD? Other noted recording relationships that developed were with Dr. Leslie Hardinge, Drs. Agatha and Calvin Thrash, Lewis Walton, Ed Reid, and many others. As this recording ministry evolved, other ACM speakers were actively traveling to present our global ACM revival seminars. Other recording venues included multiple camp meetings, church sponsored Religious Liberty events, SDA Pioneer Commemorations and numerous conventions including ASi, ATS, GYC and the 2000 General Conference in Canada to mention a few.
TELL US ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE STORIES. There are so many it's hard to choose just one. One time I was recording several of our fine theologians at a meeting, and the late Gerhard Hasel stopped by our booth. He walked down to the end of the table and just stood there looking at all the cassettes of solid Adventist material. He turned to me and said "This is a great thing you are doing!" Within a few years he was gone (killed in an untimely automobile accident).
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU ENCOUNTERED? To believe that the Lord would provide when it became necessary to resign from the engineering office in 1982 and give full-time to the ministry was one of many tests of faith. From the beginning and throughout its 43 years as a 501c3 ministry, my wife and I have chosen to serve without pay considering ourselves as missionaries, not entrepreneurs. Other ministries may have their own individual calling and purpose. However, I believe that the real reason that ACM has been a spiritually profitable venture is because it was destined from its birth to preserve and present the present-day truths without compromise for today when every wind of doctrine is blowing.
WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN THE MEDIA MINISTRY? From its modest beginnings, God's miracles of sustaining and growing this ministry have continued:
From a "home production center"
To a working office with employees and volunteers.
From reel-to-reel recording
To cassettes, then CDs, and now MP3 downloads.
From in-house recording
To the recording of conventions and international events.
From a 10-page catalog
To a website and app displaying over 7,000 items.
From one speaker (Emilio)
To hundreds of different voices to be heard.
From the printing of books
To the electronic conversion of books (ebooks).
From a change of name
To the same Bible-based, uncompromised content
To celebrate our 40th Anniversary, ACM took another step of faith in providing all audio presentations in the MP3 format for free. This free access from the ACM website evolved into the development of the free mobile ACM app that was first introduced at the international GYC convention one year ago. Even though this is causing a sharp decrease in sales, our dependence is upon the Lord to impress people to show their thankfulness and appreciation through their love gifts.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU SEE IN THE ADVENTIST CHURCH? We believe it is time to step out boldly, for the SDA church is facing a huge iceberg of danger and needs to be warned and equipped to meet it. Our church is polarized with conservatism and liberalism. There is lack of unity, and rebellion in our midst. Our basic pillars of belief are crumbling and our lack of belief or respect for Ellen White as a prophet is at its lowest ebb, etc., etc.
HOW CAN WE HELP THE CHURCH IN THESE TIMES OF FERMENT? Thankfully, there are many ways that God is providing to keep the "ship" afloat until it reaches its destination. He is not only raising up websites such as yours, Fulcrum 7, but he has also preserved the ACM archive of well-established truths with teachings and warnings that need to be made known to bring true revival and reformation and hope within our ranks. Years ago, I could have responded positively to the General Conference offer of employment at the Adventist Media Center.
Looking back, I believe my decision to remain independent, but supportive of the church, was led of the Lord. This made it possible for the Lord to direct the building of an archive of biblical truth and authentic Adventism to be preserved for these times--all without any hierarchial control--only God's hand at the helm.
WHAT ARE THE FUTURE GOALS OF ACM? New avenues of exposure are needed to make known far and wide the blessings of the ACM resources as found on our website and the new ACM mobile app, so we appreciate this opportunity to respond to your interview questionnaire. We are thankful for your willingness to help spread the news of over 7,000 presentations by 100+ speakers including 50 different topics found on the ACM mobile app to listen or to download for free. Please let us know if you have any questions or need any other information.