A horrible and shocking thing has happened in this land — the prophets give false prophecies,and the priests rule with an iron hand. Worse yet, my people like it that way!
But what will you do when the end comes?
Jeremiah 5:30-31 (NLT)
“The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves. but they can get very excited by those who do. That is why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest, the greatest and the most spectacular.”
― Donald J. Trump, Trump: The Art of the Deal
Grady Alex Himaya is a self-described “visionary.” He is also the senior pastor of a multi-campus Southern Baptist Church called BattleCreek Church, located in the Tulsa area. To be a member of BattleCreek Church requires that you “catch” Himaya’s vision, a vision that always entails members donating ever increasing amounts of their hard-earned cash to finance Himaya’s grandiose dreams.
The faithful would parrot the company line and tell you Himaya’s visions are simply to spread the Gospel throughout Tulsa, the United States, and the world, while, at the same time, teaching you to surrender all to Jesus.
The skeptics among us would tell you that Himaya’s sleek giving campaigns appear to be designed to separate the faithful from their money.
The following three videos illustrate my point. The first is from a sermon given on 11/19/2017, nearly four years ago.
The next video is an appeal to give to the Christmas 2020 giving campaign.
Less than a year later, Himaya goes to the well once again. This time to ask for the biggest give yet! He wants members to dig deep and uses a slick, six week giving campaign that steadily ratchets up the pressure to be “All In” and meet the giving goal of $50 million.
For the amount of money Himaya is asking church members to pony up he gives shockingly sparse details on how the money will be spent, and I am told the form of church governance allows him him to be largely unacountable, but the faithful don’t seem to mind.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
In a previous blog I showed a photo of Himaya playing golf at Southern Hills, an exclusive country club in Tulsa with his friend, Mike Baab, the Executive Director of the church. Baab is a wealthy man and takes no salary for his work at BattleCreek.
Below is a photo of Himaya, who mentions he was golfing with his friend, Steve Largent. Largent was a famous wide receiver who played for Tulsa in college and then went on to an excellent career with the Seattle Seahawks.
David Nasser is Alex Himaya’s best friend. Nasser is also a wealthy man. In 2018, as a Senior VP for Spiritual Development at Liberty University (in spite of not even having a college degree) his salary was $381,774. Nasser’s wife, Jennifer was also on the Liberty payroll. She pulled down a salary of $96,688 in 2018. Additionally, their son, Rudy was on the Liberty payroll. He was compensated $34,237 for unreported duties in 2018.
For some great information on Nasser’s job at Liberty University, see this article in Slate.
The charity has been renamed “For Others” and David Nasser brought his son, Rudy along with him to the new job. I have no idea if David Nasser will be compensated as well as he was at Liberty, but my guess is it will be close.
Below is a clip of Himaya introducing Nasser as the speaker at BattleCreek Church.
It appears that the Himaya and Nasser families are, as Alex Himaya, stated, very good friends. Below is a photo of them on vacation together in the UK.
Here is a photo, shot by Nasser, of the Himaya’s feet, poolside in a warmer climate than Tulsa. This photo was taken on Saturday, November 18, 2017. The video below is from the next day, Sunday, November 19, 2017. I am told that Himaya reads his sermons off of a teleprompter and I believe it because the sermon that was delivered matches the script almost perfectly.
The Pressure to Go “All In”
Next I want to include a few clips from Sunday’s last, big push by Himaya to get everyone to join the All In giving campaign. First, let’s start with his disarming ploy of telling his church members they should not feel pressured to give.
Next, we have the children tugging at the heartstrings of the adults.
Next up we have a teenage girl, loaded down with guilt and shame, but wanting to surrender all and join the All In campaign.
Next we have a young married couple that apparently struggle to make ends meet, but they are going “All In.”
Himaya tells his members that there were 65 people that had never given any money before, but they had decided to go “All In.” And, just like Generis taught in my previous blog, Himaya gives this group of first time givers special recognition.
Next, Himaya must have forgotten that he had just told his audience about the 65 first time givers, because he tells the church members that what they give is between them and God. ….Right; more like between you, God, the staff that enter what you gave on the software that tracks donors and their gifts, and the pastors that have access to the donor records.
I have more clips I could add, but I think you get the picture.
Next I want you to see some interesting documents that BattleCreek leaders filed with the State of Oklahoma. The first document is from 2003 and states that the Bylaws for the church were adopted by and may be amended by the Board of Directors.
The second document is from 2020 and was a filing to change the name of the church. You will notice the box checked shows a majority of members of the governing body voted for this, versus the box that states that the members of the church voted.
So, since the church was formed in 2003 the members of the church have never had a vote!
Your job as members is, to be blunt, attend church, sit down, shut up, and dig deep in your pockets to support the vision of Alex Himaya and his fellow Board members.
If you don’t mind being sheeple, this church is for you. If you like to have a say in the business of the church and value accountability then you would be wise to find another church.
BattleCreeks Mission to Egypt
In the video below Alex Himaya stated that their church in Cairo is averaging 3,000 people per week. Additionally, he stated that in the last 5 years they have had almost that number accept Christ every year. According to my math, that equals about 15,000 people, I assume mostly Muslims, have become Christians.
Perhaps Alex Himaya is telling the truth, perhaps there is a mighty move of God in Egypt.
I am skeptical.
Remember the Trump quote at the top of this article? He said “a little hyperbole never hurts.” I believe Himaya may be engaging in a bit of hyperbole himself.
Why do I say this? First of all, I have looked into the Cairo situation quite thoroughly. Here is a photo of what appears to be the largest meeting room in the building.
By the way, I do not believe this is a meeting of Christians, rather it is a meeting that Alex Himaya’s friend/Egyptian pastor runs for mentoring leaders. Notice the woman dressed in black in the front row? She is covering her face because there is a photographer up front snapping photos. Taking photos of Muslims, particularly Muslim women is culturally frowned upon in the Middle East.
But the point of this photo is to show that there is no way this room could hold anywhere near 3,000 people.
Below is some information Tony George has put out for his mentorship program. I would think this would be in Arabic, but perhaps it is made for American audiences.
Here is a photo of Alex Himaya “ordaining” Tony George. I was unable to find any information on what type of Christian education George had, although that is not necessarily a requirement to be an ordained pastor.
From other photos I saw this looks to be in the same building as George conducts his mentorship program in.
Another reason I am skeptical of Himaya’s numbers is the fact that I have spent 9 years in the Middle East. I know for a fact that converting to Christianity as an Egyptian Muslim is a very tough decision to make, fraught with danger and one that very few people make. You must be willing to give up everything if you convert – your marriage, your children, your job, all your social connections. We had a young man in the pastoral internship program at my church in Dubai. When his father in Egypt found out about this he told his son he was going to kill him. He was serious. The young man decided it was best for him to leave the Middle East, which he did. He also changed his name.
I also had an Egyptian woman in my care group who was born Muslim. She had been a Christian for a long time but was very worried whenever she traveled to Egypt that she may get in trouble because her passport still listed her as a Muslim.
The few Muslims I heard of that converted in Dubai never would worship publicly in a Christian church. This was a point of contention with some expat Christians from the west. They thought they should be willing to be publicly baptized and make a public profession of faith. There is Scriptural backing for this position, but I certainly understood why most of them remained hesitant to lose everything. Easy for us Westerners to say that, but walk a mile in their shoes.
I believe that were there 15,000 conversions to Christianity because of the work sponsored by BattleCreek Church, and were there 3,000 former Muslims attending weekly Christian worship services, they would have attracted the attention of government officials and most certainly shut down.
Read the following excerpt from Human Rights Watch:
Egyptian Muslims who wish to convert to Christianity face a serious dilemma. The state does not recognize conversions from Islam and refuses to allow citizens legally to change their religious affiliation, or to change a Muslim name to a Christian name on national identification documents. Among other things, this means that converts face significant hardships in areas of family law governed by religion, such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. They are also unable to legally raise their children in the faith that they now proclaim. Some obtain fraudulent documents recognizing their new faith, but this places them at risk of criminal prosecution and imprisonment on charges of forgery and falsifying documents.
However, in the absence of any state law or decree recognizing and protecting the right to convert from one religion to another, the Egyptian government claims that it follows Shari`a on such matters. Egypt’s Civil Code governs issues of conversion, and Article 1 stipulates that in matters not covered by the code and where there is no legitimate customary administrative practice, judges should apply the principles of Shari`a.
Egyptians who are born Muslim and wish to convert to Christianity (or any other religion) thus confront the likelihood that they and their immediate families will face official as well as social discrimination, including the automatic nullification of marriage between the convert and his or her Muslim spouse and forced separation from children, who are compelled to reside with the Muslim spouse or a close Muslim relative.
Converts also risk imprisonment. The government has used Article 98(f) of the Penal Code to criminalize actions or other expressions of unorthodox religious views, including conversion from Islam. The article prescribes, among other things, “disparaging or contempt of any divinely-revealed religion or its adherents, or prejudicing national unity or social harmony.” As the testimonies in this report indicate, officials have interpreted this article to proscribe conversion from Islam on the grounds that such conversion disparages Islam and is thus incompatible with public order.
For these reasons, few if any born Muslims have initiated the formal steps necessary to change their religion. One lawyer who represents a Coptic cathedral in dealings with the government told Human Rights Watch that:
“Muslims wanting to be Christians can go to prison. The only thing we can do is send them abroad, but this is very difficult after 9/11.”
Source: Human Rights Watch