by Ron Cooper
Overview: This complete interview was made with Answers In Genesis Co-founder, Mark Looy on Jan 15, 1996 at the Landmark Baptist Temple, Cincinnati, OH. Mark was be our speaker at our first annual banquet on June 17, 1996. He will cover his role in outreach and why he came to speak with us. Ron: Why don't you introduce yourself and the kinds of things that people would like to know about you.
Mark: Well, [like Ken Ham,] I was born in Australia. I was involved with Ken Ham and Mike Zovark in co-founding this new ministry, Answers In Genesis (AIG). It is about two and a half years old now. My interest in Creationism goes far back--when I was in my Christian High School in California. I heard Dr Duane Gish come and speak from the Institute of Creation Research (ICR). At that time I had all sorts of doubts about the Bible because to my knowledge evolution was a fact and at least I hadn't heard otherwise. I had gone to public school prior to attending a Christian school and to my recollection we hadn't talked much about the subject at all, if ever. Dr Gish came and spoke at our Christian School and the light bulb went on figuratively above my head that Genesis was true. In his forty- five minute talk Dr. Gish gave the basic evidences for creation and against evolution. And I don't want to say it was in an instant, but my whole view of the Bible changed as a result. Because if I could trust Genesis, which is the most attacked book of the Bible--that is where most of the darts are thrown--then I could trust the other 65 books of the Bible. So after high school I thought, where in the world could I go to further my Biblical education now that I have developed more and more of a Biblical world view. I decided to go to San Diego and study under Dr Morris and Dr Gish at the Institute for Creation Research and Christian Heritage College. I got two years of Bible and apologetics there. And I have been involved in creation ministry since then part time until the last eight years on a full time basis. As I worked my way through my Bachelor's and Master's Degrees I hosted and produced a nationwide program called "Science, Scripture and Salvation" that's still on the air. Eight years ago I got into full time creation ministry particularly trying to influence the Church. Indeed there is a hugh ministry need, of course, to reach non-Christians with the message of Genesis. But a lot of Churches were contacting Creationists organizations, saying "We need seminars. We need to train our young people so when they go off to college, they won't lose their faith." Since most of the requests for ministry were coming from the Church, I felt mostly led to present the Biblical Creation message with the scientific creation message to lay people in the Church. That is what the ministry of AIG is mostly about. ICR is predominately a research think tank, a scientific think tank. They do a lot of original research there and we use some of that in our seminars. I borrow from it, but our ministry is primarily directed at equipping the Church--putting into effect I Peter 3:15, making sure that people are ready always to present an answer to people who ask them a question of the hope that is in them, to paraphrase that loosely.
Ron: You know all of these things are meaningless if they aren't directed toward not only to the Church, but to the family. Tell me a little about your family and the impact this ministry has had to your family.
Mark: We have three young boys at home, an eight year old, a five year old and a two year old. Of course, children are fascinated by dinosaurs and dinosaurs is a good way to present to them that creation is the better explanation over evolution to explain the appearance and the disappearance of dinosaurs. I already have my kids "brain washed," in the best sense of the word, to spot evolutionary thinking at a million miles. My eight year old is specially adept when he hears the term on television, or sees it in the newspaper, "Millions of years," he immediately says, "Ah Ha! Evolution, that's wrong." Even at my family level, I can see how creation can be a good tool to explain [beliefs]--to put a whole world view together based on Genesis. But also how dinosaurs actually fit well with the Bible and not the evolutionary point of view. The whole ministry is geared at getting this message out to the lay people and to the family. We are here recording this at Landmark Baptist Temple; we have a full house of 90 children in a workshop, ages 7 to 12. We will have student meetings tomorrow for grades K-12. We have something for every age range, and we even have books and materials for the pre-schooler. So, yes, you are right. Ron, we have a ministry that is very, very much centered at the family and equipping the family to have answers.
Ron: With your background and the newness of your ministry, obviously AIG has organized so that it can operate well. We know you are one of three people who lead your organization. In your role, what is it's simplest form. What is your help to the rest of the team. Can you sort of elaborate in this vein of thought?
Mark: Ken Ham is our primary spokesperson--radio, seminars and written materials. We have a business manager in our office, Mike Zovath, who is the other co-founder. The area of my responsibility primarily is outreach, the things that go on outside of the building and there are three major categories. Outreach is comprised of meetings, media and publications. [Our meetings include] seminars, such as the one right here; but we also do lectures, debates, Sunday services. In fact, Ron, you were one of the first ones to contact us, I think about a year and a half ago, about doing some kind of a ministry in the Dayton area. We receive an average of over 600 invitations to speak in a year. Unfortunately, we can't accept all of them. We say, "Have patience with us." We [will] offer a video seminar soon [now available]. Also we have a media division, of which radio is our primary part. Our "Answers, with Ken Ham" radio program is now on about 218 world wide stations. We also have Ken on a number of nationwide talk programs. We have a publications department with Creation Magazine, a full color publication, as the hallmark. We also produce a monthly newsletter and all sorts of different publications.
Ron: The things that you do, I think, are essential to the ministries of anyone who wants to be involved in creation. But as a local organization, we have taken a different slant. We think that there needs to be that permanent presence in our area. And we would like to see it happening in many areas of the country, with a very wide vision. You may or may not be aware of it, but one of our decisions, at least in the initial years, was to make AIG our mission. We give ten percent of all of the money we receive for general funds and memberships to your organization. That's because we think that you are the best we can support at this time. It may be more in the future, but it certainly is significant over time. Give me your viewpoint of the local creation ministry, and it's importance and how you interface with it?
Mark: First of all, Thank You, Ron for being a part of our ministries. The seminar at the Nutter Center was extremely well attended back in September. But you are right, we travel around the country; we do two or three day seminars and we pull up stakes. We come back to the Cincinnati area. Thank goodness, in many areas, we have that local creation group that can do follow-up ministry, that can interact with the local Church. They can give presentations to Churches, Sunday Schools or whatever. They can be advocates in getting the creation message out, maybe organizing meetings with other ministries or organizations. So you are right, we have to rely in many instances on locally established groups to help us come in their area. We can whip up the interest regionally, but afterwards all we can do, frankly, is send out our materials, our newsletters and such. But for personal one-on-one contact, that is where your group, The Ark Foundation, fits in.
Ron: We do a lot of the same things. We even would like to build a local creation and science museum and we make no apologies about that. We think that there is so much to be done, that if we did it 50 times it wouldn't be enough. But from your viewpoint, what do you think is the most important thing that you do that helps groups like ours, besides coming into seminars.
Mark: Pumping the local area up with the seminars--that is the way to add names to your mailing list and give you a high profile. After that, it is continuing to develop good teaching tools so that you can go into Churches and present video seminars perhaps on one, two, or three nights. Also, although it will be a long process and there are many grades involved, we are developing a Sunday School curriculum, perhaps with videos that local groups can help in implementing in local Churches. So we exist as a partner with local creation groups, especially in getting materials into the hands of Christians who have questions, as well as non-Christians.
Ron: There is an obvious advantage to that kind of support for us because as a volunteer organization we don't have time to do the professional work that obviously you have committed your lives to doing. I find it hard to believe that you commit only 40 hours a week to this. How is life on the road?
Mark: Actually, Ron, you know this is a new ministry, and we are growing very substantially. So 40 hours a week--the last time that might have happened was Christmas week! But we all do it, I think, joyfully. We have a committed group of people down here in Florence, Kentucky, of which five of us, packed up and left our families in California--not the immediate families, of course, but extended families--to come out here and set up this ministry. The nice problem that we have on our hands is so many people want to have our speakers and materials, that we just can't meet the need. Either we are telling people to wait awhile or we are saying we are hoping to add more speakers to our staff to meet those needs. It's a wonderful blessing to have too much ministry. I'm just glad it's not the other way around. And we do have the "luxury" of having a support staff: we now have 25 full time people on our staff, a faithful number of volunteers, and a number of part-timers. So the "luxury" is we have that support staff where your ministry depends primarily on volunteer support and those people who can put in some work in the evening and on the weekends. So you are the ones to be commended. You're the ones putting in the extra hours above and beyond what you do in your full time jobs and with your families.
Ron: That sort of brings up the issue of how do you support all of those people and pay for them and how much money does it really take to do that. I have heard it said, critically, by those who might be called critical of our ministries that we get an awful lot of support and we have lots of money; and they need to fight that and condemn us as much as possible as being money hungry kind of people. I think that you could probably address that fairly simply. What is the money angle here anyway?
Mark: The income that comes into our ministry, frankly, is through the sacrificial gifts of people who donate $10-$15 a month to this ministry. In fact that's a small percentage actually of the people who support us. It's those people who give on an occasionally basis, and even the smallest gift, $5 or $10 when you multiple it by X number of people, really helps the ministry. We do these large scale seminars; and we charge a registration fee at some of the seminars, although this one here is free and we will sell a lot of materials, but these materials are heavily discounted, usually in a packet. But still overall, the majority of the income that drives this ministry comes from those people who donate to us. Some is on a monthly basis. But let's say that of our entire mailing list, I'd say that eight percent of those people have actually given to the ministry. So it is not a huge number of people, but when you combine like gifts of $10 and $15 every few months, it all adds up and with what we sell at seminars with registrations and books. We don't receive any government monies, no foundation grants that I'm aware of. That is what supports the 25 people back in the office and pays the rent, the phone bill, paper costs and all that.
Ron: It takes a lot of money just to live. Even for a volunteer organization, I know, it takes a lot to just sent out a newsletter or do mailings. There are issues again of where are we headed in creation ministries? Our goal is to build a Biblical Creation Science Museum in ten years. I have never heard a time table, but my own projection is, I would like to see you get it done in six years. That's still ambitious. I know I'm thinking twenty million dollars for ours and about thirty or more for yours--at least the value of it. You may get some donations in terms of things that go in it. But the value of it is going to probably be over thirty million dollars easily; but that is what it takes to do a world class activity; and I think that is what we all want to do is something that we are proud of and glorifies God. What kind of future do you see for your ministry when you look out five and ten years ahead.
Mark: First of all we aren't raising thirty million dollars to build the museum, but we already have some exhibits available to us of quite good value. We hope to raise something on the order of like two and a half to three million dollars just for the building and for the acreage, because we want to build a nature park as a part of this museum to glorify the God of Creation as He is seen in nature. One of the reasons we do a lot of local ministry or regional ministry here is the fact that we want to build something world class that could rival some of the Natural History Museums like you have in Dayton and we have one here in Cincinnati. But something that Christians could be very pleased to take their non-Christian friends to, not only to hear about the creation message but the gospel message will also be clearly presented too in this Museum. So we will be more open about our financial needs when the land is finalized. We think that once we say we have taken this first step, the land; we think people will be willing to say "Hey, these guys have gone out on faith, got the piece of land, I am going to help them with my gift, above and beyond my regular giving to the ministry." That is why you see us do a lot of ministry here in the region to draw interest to highlight the fact that we are here to help the local Church. This museum will be a walk through history, and an auditorium. People can come in and hear Ken and Gary Parker, and come in and have pastor's meetings, home school workshops, and so forth. This will be an outreach, not only to Cincinnati, but to the whole country. By the way, two-thirds of the US population can drive to the Cincinnati area in about one day. So demographically this is a good site, but we want to be a source of a blessing to Churches and ministries such as yours that are here regionally.
Ron: Sounds like you want to be a local ministry to the East Coast.
Mark: That's a big local ministry, isn't it?
Ron: Yes, it is. There is a lot of work that has to be done. Do you see the kinds of things that we are doing in The Ark Foundation that take a lot of time for a volunteer organization as something that you would want to support by providing speakers occasionally to our own meetings as we grow bigger. Or do you think that it is better to go the video route and not necessarily personalize it with visits.
Mark: Well, there is nothing better than having the personal touch with having a speaker on board. Our hope is that within the next year to have three speakers or so, that would be living in this area here, that can do regional ministry. Right now it is Ken Ham. He lives here. Dr Parker lives in Florida [until Sept. when he moves here]. We have some adjunct people on the West Coast who do ministry for us from time to time; but you are right, we would like to do more. I believe we get a request every week, if not more, from Churches in Cincinnati or Dayton who want to have someone come in person. I take some of the engagements too. But I speak mainly to civic groups and small Church groups and Sunday Schools. Your group would like to have someone with a scientific standing. So our desire is to bring more full time people on staff, living here in the area, so that we can meet the needs of local Churches and again draw more attention to what we would like to do in Northern Kentucky and that is our Creation Family Museum.
Ron: We found one primary way for us to promote is to use a very good newsletter. I have been told two things about ours. It's got a lot of words in it and it makes people think. Unfortunately I think you haven't seen one in a little while; but several of your staff have and I know Buddy Davis, who is now one of your part-time staff and his wife, are absolutely ecstatic about the newsletter. And you have your own newsletter. Would you give little viewpoints on the value of a newsletter. Also state how the newsletter is a different vehicle than the Creation Magazine; how does it focus?
Mark: Yes, you are right. We have two main publications. One is a newsletter called Answers In Genesis, it's the name of our ministry. It's a newsy type of newsletter to let people know what we have been doing, what we want to do, in terms of ministry, the status of the creation museum. There is some teaching in it too, so people who don't subscribe to Creation Magazine at least get a commentary by Ken Ham on how he relates the creation/evolution issue to the "hot button" topics of our day and little faith building articles; but it is primarily a publication that has news in it. Our main teaching is done through our full color magazine called Creation; so people who come to our seminars and listen to us on radio and are looking for more in depth teaching, that is their primary source.
Ron: Well, I want to continue with emphasizing the Creation Magazine. It is literally a beautifully done, informative magazine and I think I'll let you say a few more things about the value of that kind of literature to everyone. But I am prejudice.
Mark: Well, you are prejudice with the truth and there is nothing wrong with that. So many Christians subscribe to magazines like National Geographic, Discover, and Omni. You probably know that there is a heavy evolutionary bias to those magazines. We think there is a need for a magazine that is well done with a lot of colorful photography and well written articles to counteract the evolutionary teaching that often pervades Christian homes and even Christian Schools who don't know otherwise. It's what we say is our answer to National Geographic and a way to address a family magazine need. It's shared amongst the family, but surveys have indicated that Creation Magazine is usually seen by three other people outside of the family. It's often in Dentist's offices, Doctor's offices and it is a great witnessing tool because the gospel is clearly proclaimed in some of the articles. So in many ways, it is the hallmark of our ministry along with the seminars and radio and probably what people say is the finest ministry tool that we have.
Ron: I want to conclude with one of the areas that's very important to an awful lot of people--home schooling. Home schoolers have a great need for good materials of which you definitely provide a lot of those, but there are some other materials that probably the needs haven't been met from a creation viewpoint. And then the Sunday School curriculum is lacking in several areas. As a group, The Ark Foundation, has made a commitment to at least produce this year some Sunday School materials and a pamphlet similar to Duane Gish's on "How to Teach Creation" for parents and for the secular schools. What kind of plans does your organization have for these home schooling groups and publications that are specifically geared in that direction. Can you comment about that?
Mark: Sure. In fact, much of our outreach is supported by home school parents. When we do our student meetings sometimes up to a third of the audience will be made up of home school parents and their young people. Ken Ham who's one of the founders and our main spokesperson is a home schooling parent himself. Three children are still at home, being home schooled. Two are now in university who have been home schooled. So it's close to our heart. First, we intend, and I don't know what the date will be, perhaps later this year, the center portion of Creation Magazine is a four page full children's section which we intend, because many home schoolers have asked us to, we intend to expand to eight pages from four. Also we are developing, it's one of those projects that we are getting to slowly-but-surely, a curriculum that could be used for Sunday Schools and home schoolers on Creation/Evolution. Now there are some materials already out there, but we are more and more working with home school groups around the country and speaking at national conventions so the expansion of the Creation Magazine and the development of more curriculum certainly is on the agenda. Because we are a new ministry there are three or four things we want to make sure that we do well right now. We are concentrating on those, but next up will be more and more materials and outreaches to the home schoolers.
Ron: I agree with the consensus that you can only do so much at any one time. And home schooling, I think their time has come for us and, perhaps, for you, this year or the next. And also that outreach that we can touch the hearts of public school teachers. You didn't comment on it in this answer, but the public school teacher has a lot of conflict about what they can and cannot do; and I am hoping that you as will as us will teach or help them in laying out the facts and saying which would you choose. As Gary says, "Just think about it?" It's a winning combination. We can work on those directions effectively. Is there anything you would like to conclude with that would be inspiring for those who want to go out and win souls or just learn or anything like that.
Mark: Well, as Ken Ham has said so often, creation can be a powerful witnessing tool. Not to name drop, but just last year I had a brief time with Josh McDowell. I spoke to him in Nashville and I asked him whether or not the creation/evolution question is still popping up in witnessing situations on university campuses and high school campuses and he says just as much as ever. Probably the questions related to creation/evolution may be the second most asked question that university and high school students are asking. Now if we can get out there and provide those answers; and show that evolution is a false view of earth's history and that the Biblical account of Genesis is the true one. When you can do that you remove a hugh stumbling block to people who might be rejecting the gospel message because they say there is no God or evolution has shown that there is no need for a creator. And, of course, if you acknowledge there is a creator that means there must be a purpose and meaning for life; and that the creator has spoken, told us how we should live, set down the standards in the Bible. So if you can remove that evolution stumbling block, it can be a great witnessing tool.
Ron: A Romans 1:20 summary.
Ron: Well thank you very much for your time and hopefully you'll get to read this.
Mark: Thank you and I look forward to working with The Ark Foundation in the future.