Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith of Agape International Spiritual Center
By: Philippe SHOCK Matthews
In this exclusive interview with Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith of Agape International Spiritual Center, you will discover the origin of a great spiritual leader and minister to millions!
I was totally stoked when I was personally invited to Los Angeles to attend Mark Victor Hansen’s Mega Book Marketing University and discovered that The Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith of Agape International Spiritual Center; one of the metaphysical movement’s most influential visionaries and teachers of New Thought and Ancient Wisdom was giving the invocation for the event!
The Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith of Agape International Spiritual Center was also joined by his phenomenal wife, Rickie Byars, who ministered with music and a message that set the tone of divine order for the entire conference. At the end of the three-day event, I got a chance to have some face time with Dr. Beckwith and talked with him about his mission, message and the many people his ministry touches all over the world.
THE BEGINNING OF AGAPE
Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith of Agape International Spiritual Center is the church founder and Senior Minister, as well as star of the Secret and an Oprah spiritual advisor. Since its doors opened in 1986, Agape’s active teaching and practice of the New Thought-Ancient Wisdom tradition of spirituality has expanded into a trans-denominational movement and community of 9,000 local members and 1,000,000 friends worldwide. Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, USA, the Agape International Spiritual Center is associated with centers in Brazil, Jamaica, and Africa.
In was about 25 years ago when, Dr. Beckwith held a meeting in his home with approximately 20 people in attendance. The purpose of this meeting was to become in consciousness the kind of church they would want to attend. Today, Agape is a spiritual community of God with outreach programs that care for the community of the city, country, and the world.
The Agape International Spiritual Center; home of the Agape Church of Religious Science, supports over 20 ministries and projects that are dedicated to the realization of the Presence of God, Peace, and Love on this planet. The Agape Church is one of the largest multicultural churches of its kind in the United States, and it’s been said by visitors that walking into a service at Agape is like walking into the United Nations.
I asked Dr. Beckwith to define the philosophy behind agape, he says, “The word is unconditional love. It’s the love of God operating in the human heart. It’s the highest form of love because it’s God’s love. God is the same today as He was yesterday, today and forever and God is love; so that perfect love is always expressing. You can never convince God to love you any more or any less because God is always the same. When that begins to operate in the human heart, we begin to love each other and not because we like them or because they are part of our tribe or that they agree with us; we love individuals because we’re able to see the that they are emanations of God all coming from the same source. That kind of loving is very difficult to realize so it is a part of spiritual practice through prayer and meditation. We begin to tear away the barriers to right seeing and not judging by appearances but we’re able to ultimately see that each and every one of us is an emanation of God.”
Agape is also an expression of self-love, as Dr. Beckwith further explained. “You can only love another to the degree that you are willing to love and accept who you are as a spiritual being. So, Agape the spiritual community; it’s foundation is unconditional love and it is a transdenominational, metaphysical community that cuts across denominations and religions to understand that there are kernels of truth in all religions and we teach the principles of new thought and ancient wisdom which is really the crux of all major religions. When people describe their religion, they’re basically giving a self description; they are not describing their religion because if you go to the source from all the great teachers there’s really no difference at all.”
THE MAKING OF THE MINISTER
Not since Martin Luther King has there been a Minister that is so widely admired and focused on non-violence and teaching unconditional love. Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith of Agape International Spiritual Center shared the history of why he decided to form a church dedicated to Agape. “It was over 25 years ago when I had some inner spiritual breakthroughs. At the time I was attending USC, I was a Psychobiology major and I began to have this inner awareness of the presence of God, but at the time I didn’t know that is what it was. I thought that there was something wrong with me—that I was going a little crazy and it culminating into a dream I had; in which I was killed in this dream and the pain was very excruciating when I woke up. However, when I woke up, I could see that I was surrounded by the presence of God and that it was present in every thing and the only thing that covers it up is our perception and filters but God is everywhere, that’s universal principle. I was able to see that and that led me on a search. Because I had left the church around age 16 and theology wasn’t sitting right with me, I began my search through eastern and western mysticism. Not to become a ministry; I had no intention on becoming a Minister. If someone would have bet me that one day I would have become a minister, I would have taken that bet and won a tremendous amount of money – I never wanted to become a Minister!
But, I began to search and practice meditation, affirmative prayer and just as a natural, evolutionary process of what was happening to me, my life was dedicated to God-realization so over the years, there came a time in my life where I couldn’t deny being in the ministry in some way. I had discovered religious science and a friend of mine took me to a church one day and I heard the minister say that heaven and hell are not places, but stages in consciousness and I yelled, ‘He’s right!’ And, everybody turned around and looked at me because I was so surprised that there was a church that was saying the truth and not the old, fundamental theology, which is based on separation from God. So, along with the work I was doing on myself, I began taking classes and discovered that there was something called a religious science practitioner that was a spiritual therapist; so I said to myself, ‘This sounds good.’ It fit with who I was at the time; I didn’t want to become a Minister, so I thought, ‘Religious Science Practitioner.’ That fit well with me, because at the time I was going to go to Medical School and become perhaps a Psychiatrist. But, with that sudden shift that happened inside of me, I became feverish for the spiritual path and the enthusiasm that I had for it 25 years ago has not waned in any degree at all. I’m just as on fire with it as I was then.”
Dr. Beckwith became a licensed practitioner of religious science and saw over 6 people a day, sometimes 6 days a week as well as becoming the Director Of Training at the World Ministry of Prayer at the United Church of Religious Science. “I was there for about seven years,” Dr. Beckwith recalled, “I began to take classes in the School Of Ministry, and I was also teaching classes in the School of Ministry; but still, I didn’t want to become a Minister. I liked my weekends free, I didn’t need to have to have an organization, and I had a very full life. I was speaking at churches, I had a full clientele and all was well. I took classes for about five years, just picking and choosing the best teachers that would come through and taking my time; growing, maturing spiritually and I remember that the assistant dean of the school approached me one day and said, ‘Why don’t you go and graduate?’ and I said, ‘Why?’ I was enjoying my life and I loved being a student and she said, ‘Well, you’ve taken so many classes and if you took a full load, you could graduate and within a year and alumni takes classes for free.’ So, I said to myself, ‘If I graduate, I can take as many classes as I want for free and never have to pay for them…sign me up!”
THE BIRTH OF AGAPE
Little did Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith of Agape International Spiritual Center know that his love was grooming him to become one of the most prolific leaders of unconditional love. Dr. Beckwith remembers when he started to make the transformation from Student/Teacher to Minister/Leader. “A couple of things happened. I was speaking at this church that didn’t have a minister and some of my students belonged to this church and they asked me to come speak at their church. Then, they asked me to become the minister of the church and I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ And, they said, ‘What if everyone wants you to be our minister?’ and I said, ‘If that came to me, I would look at it.’ So, I went to speak at the church and the congregation was overwhelmingly desirous of me becoming the minister of this church. I thought about it, and inside I really didn’t get a click; but it was so much energy around it, I said I’ll give it a shot.”
Dr. Beckwith went back to speak, and the congregation wanted him to be their minister except for a very small group on the selection committee who didn’t want a Black man to be the minister of a church, which was predominately white. “They began to speak rumors and holding a very racist perception and saying a varied manner of things,” Dr. Beckwith shared, “Unfortunately, it split the church because many of the congregation didn’t know they were sitting next to racists; but they never had to deal with it before because there were never any people of color in the church. So, it got very hot and heated and I said, ‘I don’t need to be a part of this.’ And that church split in more ways than one. It was the year of the big earthquake and the church actually cracked and they had to condemn it and for many years that congregation had to meet in a Jewish synagogue until they could rebuild. It was a metaphorical split and then there was a physical split.”
He knew his days were numbered in the organization and while playing at that level that’s when Dr Beckwith began to feel his calling. “I began to feel this pull to do ministry and I realize that the people who attended my seminars and did a five-week intensive with me who were about to go out into the world, but didn’t really have a community that would support their spiritual growth and unfoldment; so these things began working on me. I eventually gave in and said, ‘Ok, I’ll start a ministry, but because of my experience with the other church, I wasn’t going to put myself in a position of going out and being hired by anyone.”
“I was pulled to start my own work so at the end of 1985, I started a vision group to begin the work of Agape. I pulled a number of people together that over the years said to me if I were to start something to count them in. I pulled them all together and explained to them that I was called to go ahead and start my own work and we were going to do this vision process that I was innovating at the time and when it was right, and I felt it inside, we would then go public and actually begin to have our first service. We had our first service November 30, 1986 at the Santa Monica Bay Women’s Club. It started off with a bang. We worked in small hotel rooms and eventually the grand ballrooms, and then moved into and grew out of three buildings in Santa Monica and moved into our present location and we’re now raising some serious money and consciousness to buy some land and build a facility that is suitable for the amount of activity that will happen there. It’s been a blessed unfoldment.”
Agape is dedicated to providing an environment where each and every individual has an opportunity to know their oneness with God and live this understanding in their everyday lives.
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