By Amy Wenk
Dr. Michael Youssef wakes up at 4 each morning.
“I don’t have a choice,” the Buckhead resident said.
“I find my complete fulfillment in Christ and serving him,” said the gray-haired Youssef, who wore business attire and eyeglasses during a talk in September. He seemed to smile continuously as he spoke. “He keeps multiplying the opportunities.”
As founding rector of the Buckhead-based Church of The Apostles — housed in that impressive church building on Northside Parkway you can spot from I-75 — Youssef prepares weekly sermons and counsels congregation members.
As an international televangelist with the television, radio and Internet ministry that he founded – called Leading The Way – Youssef can be seen and heard in more than 20 languages in around 200 countries. His broadcasts reach across the world, from North America to Asia.
Youssef writes a book a year and has more than 20 in his collection. He also blogs weekly and often travels across the world for appearances.
“I just knew God was going to use us to keep impacting the world,” Youssef said. “I knew it was going to be through mass media.”
Youssef was born in Egypt and lived in Lebanon and Australia before coming to the United States in 1977.
After obtaining a doctorate from Emory University, Youssef began working for the Haggai Institute in Norcross, an international ministry.
“I volunteered to teach and preach where we were,” Youssef said.
He said he traveled around the world four times a year with the Haggai Institute. “I’ve always had a global perspective.”
Youssef founded the Church of The Apostles in 1987. The church is classified as an evangelical Anglican church, an offshoot of the Episcopal Church.
“The 18-year-old likes it and so does the 65-year-old,” church spokesman Kevin Knox said. “It’s an equation a lot of churches are searching for.”
The congregation, which at the time of its inception consisted of 25 adults and 16 children, first met at the Waverly Hotel.
Youssef said he told the congregation’s founding members that “this is not just going to be another church.” The church, Youssef told the people, is going “to touch the world.”
“Some scratched their heads,” he said.
The congregation later moved to The Lovett School, where the membership grew from 50 people to almost 1,000, Youssef said.
The congregation purchased the Allstate building on Northside Parkway in 1993 and held its first service in 1994. The church built a new sanctuary on the “beautiful green grassy knoll” and held its first service in the new space on Christmas 2000.
“I never dreamed it would be as nice as this,” Youssef said. “This church really has been the launching pad. The members are really sold on touching lives 10,000 miles away.”
The sanctuary of the church seats 2,800 and features more than 90 stained glass windows. Two large projection televisions frame the altar and provide the words to the hymns sung during service. Camera equipment hangs underneath the balcony to capture the service for millions of others across the globe. Smaller televisions are placed along the walls for congregation members to view.
Leading the Way, the television and radio ministry, began in 1988.
In the conference room of Leading the Way, there is a giant map, taller than a person, that spans one of the walls. Tiny flags and pins mark locations where Youssef’s message is broadcast.
“This is fun for us because we are really everywhere,” Leading the Way spokesman Mike Tilley said. “Our international ministry is actually larger than what we do in the United States.”
Youssef’s two sons, Joshua and Jonathan, run Leading the Way, which is headquartered on Peachtree Road in Buckhead.
The facility is a maze of video editing stations and radio broadcast rooms. A section of the building is dedicated to Kingdom Sat, a 24/7 satellite television channel that reaches more than 140 million homes in 66 countries. The staff at Leading the Way takes Youssef’s weekly sermons and dubs the footage with different languages.
Another part of the facility is a television studio with wood walls, couches and bookshelves. That area is where Youssef records television segments to accompany his sermons.
Yet another room is dedicated to producing 30-minute television segments, which air on 500 networks and stations across the world, nearly 700 times a week.
“Our content really has a mass distribution,” said television executive producer Daryl Allen in a room that stores 4,407 tapes from 10 years of programming.
There’s also a room where radio broadcasts are produced. Youssef’s sermons are broadcast throughout America 2,300 times a week on more than 300 networks and stations such as XM Radio. His dual-language programs are translated into about 20 languages and heard around the world nearly 1,000 times a week on 220 stations.
So what is it about Youssef’s message that has made it a worldwide sensation?
“He wants people to have the truth, and he doesn’t waiver on that,” Knox said. “He doesn’t water down the Gospel.”
His son Joshua said, “He delivers it in a way that is exciting and fresh, and he’s passionate. There is no doubt that he is passionate.”
For more information about Youssef and the Church of the Apostles, visit www.apostles.org. For more information about Leading the Way, visit www.leadingtheway.org.