Evangelist Sandra Riley: I Know Who I Am: Called, Chosen, and Purposed!
Written by Rev. Nichelle Early
You've been called! Now what? Well, that's a question many people ask. Often times, people sense that they have been called, particularly by God, and may not know what to do next. In fact, sometimes they may not understand specifically what they are called to do. All they know is that they have been called by God and they just want to please Him. So seriously, what happens next? How do you resolve the perplexity of knowing specifically what you are called to do in the Kingdom of God? By what means necessary do you stay faithful to that call in order to fulfill your purpose and destiny? What if you are a minister or a mentor? How do you help others determine the proper course of action? Well, today we are helping you answer these questions for yourself, or so that you can be armed with practical guidance to help someone else!
With a smile that commands the room and an uncanny anointing that shifts and radiates the atmosphere with God's propelling power, Evangelist Sandra Riley is one of the most down-to-earth women of God you could ever meet. Standing as one of the nation's most beloved, prominent and highly sought-after preaching women, it can be fairly declared that Evg. Riley is one of the premier generals of Christian evangelism.
Having been touched by the hand of God, Evg. Riley possesses a supernatural ability excavate the treasures of God's word with keen insight and revelation. God has graced her with an anointing to translate the biblical text into spiritual currency that every hearer can invest, save or spend towards their spiritual enrichment.
Ordained by the late Bishop William C. Abney, of the Bethel Pentecostal Church Abundant Life Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Evg. Riley presently serves as an associate minister at the Lighthouse Full Life Center Church, under the Pastorate of her cousin, Dr. Marvin L. Sapp. Coupled with her own evangelistic and outreach ministries housed under the banner of her non-profit organization, Just for U Ministries, Evg. Riley also serves as the International Evangelist for the Lighthouse Fellowship of Churches.
Clearly, Evg. Riley is a woman that knows who she is, what she is called to do, and the purpose of why she's doing it. Therefore, PreachingWoman.com's founder, Evg. Nichelle Early (NE) of speaking with Evg. Riley (SR) is pleased to share their exciting interview with you!
NE: Evg. Riley, thank you so much for accepting our invitation to be featured on PreachingWoman.com! I'm just so excited to be speaking with you!
SR: You are very welcome! I'm excited to have the opportunity to be featured!
NE: Well Evangelist, I know you schedule is rigorous, so let's get started!
Evg. Riley, please share with us regarding your assignment to the Body of Christ!
SR: Well, at this time, I know I'm called to the work of the evangelist and that assignment is worldwide. Not only do I minister here in the United States, God has afforded me the opportunity to do ministry abroad in places such as Lagos, Nigeria, Ghana, West Africa, Capetown, South Africa, throughout Canada and the Bahamas. In fact, my next trip is scheduled in November and it is purely a missions trip. I will be going there to fulfill a ministry commitment to take school and medical supplies...I'll also be taking lap tops this time.
In addition to missions work, I also do outreach ministry within my local community. For example, with one of my outreach projects, I partner with one of our local Chicago schools and participate in a program called "Principal for a Day." This is a one day program in which I work with the principals to foster relationships between them, the students, and community leaders...I've also done Christmas giveaways, coat drives, and back-to-school outings, where I've given away 600 back packs with school supplies. Through my ministry, I'm constantly doing things that reach out to the community.
In 2009, I held a Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day at a local Chicago school supported by one of the local chapters of the AKA Sorority and other school organizations in which they helped me serve many of the students and their family members who are less fortunate...all of this is in addition to what people know of me in teaching, preaching, encouraging and empowering the people of God and ministering to those who are lost, down and out, or up and out!
NE: Evg. Riley that is absolutely awesome and much needed in our local communities!
Now, "Just for U Ministries" is your non-profit organization in which all of your outreach initiative are performed, correct?
SR: Yes! "Just for U Ministries" is my 501(C)3 organization under which all of my outreach and international missions ministries are covered. Through it, I am able to be a blessing to the community and the world alike. Technically, I work for 'Just for U Ministries."
NE: Excellent! Now, one thing that I must say, being called as an Evangelist myself, is that I appreciate the fact that you are an Evangelist and have stayed true to that calling. Honestly, sometimes it seems to be hard to find people who maintain the office of the Evangelist without shifting to the office of pastor, prophet(tess), apostle. Please share with us the importance of the office of the Evangelist in this hour.
SR: Well, with any office, you must know that it is the office that you have been called to fulfill. The reality is this: when it comes to the office of the evangelist, typically in African American Pentecostal Churches, women were given the title of Evangelist because they didn't know what to call us...however, when you navigate through your relationship with God, you will understand what it is that you are called to do...and, when you are called to an office, you are graced for that office...For me, I know that I am called to the office of an evangelist, and I'm graced for the office of the evangelist. It's not a problem for me to stay in hotels, go through airports, and travel; It's second nature for me...People often ask me do I get tired of traveling so much, and I tell them no, I love it! I love what God has called me to do. So, I think it's very important that you know what office you are called to, and you know your purpose.
SR: You see Nichelle, one thing I tell people all the time is this: when what was once easy becomes hard, then maybe you need to reevaluate if the grace for what you are doing has lifted; not when it becomes challenging, because with anything there's going to be challenges. But, when it becomes hard, wherein you feel like, as an evangelist per se, you just can't do it anymore. For instance, if you feel like you just can't stay in another hotel, or go through one more airport, then you really need to evaluate if the grace has been lifted and God is requiring you to shift to another office...However, the Body of Christ must understand that in this hour there is a call for the Evangelist. There is a call for the evangelist who has the anointing to come into the church and stir up revival; there's a call for the evangelist that comes with a powerful word that has the ability to pull you out of the rut and cause you to be placed in a higher place. As it pertains to me, I'm the pastor's helper that can come in and pull the ministry up, encourage the ministry and help them shift to a higher place. Now, don't get me wrong, I also call for souls, and yes souls are saved during my meetings, but I'm called to the reviving of the saints of God. If you bring me in, you want to stir something up in the congregation in order to encourage, revive and shift. So, it all depends on the area in evangelism you are called to and the type of evangelist God needs and has called you to be.
NE: Evg. Riley, what encouragement can you offer to other women who hold the office of the Evangelist, but feel that they are considered "less than" because they do not hold one of the other more "seemingly high profile" offices, i.e. Prophet, Pastor, or Apostle?
SR: Well, again, I believe that you must know what you've been called to and be very clear about what your focus is. The Body of Christ needs every part, and every part is important. Also, how you view yourself and what God has called you to do is also important. Therefore, my encouragement would be to:
- Know Your Purpose
- Pursue that Purpose
- Be the best at your purpose.
Also, we should know that we are not limited to one ministry office area. For example, you can be an evangelist and still flow prophetically. That doesn't make you are Prophet. It's just means that you are an evangelist with a prophetic anointing. God has called me to be an evangelist, but when necessary, He will allow the prophetic anointing to come upon me and I can prophesy as well.
NE: Amen! So Evg. Riley, as a woman in ministry, what are three principles you feel every woman should abide by in order to be effective in ministry?
SR: Well, I would say:
- Know what you have been called to do - in other words, know your specific assignment and the purpose of that assignment.
- Know the word of God - Make sure to apply yourself to the Word of God, whether it is through personal study, Bible College, online training, or even seminary; make sure you know the Word.
- Know who you are as a woman in ministry- Do not lose your femininity. We are fearfully and wonderfully made...we are beautiful, intuitive, and emotional. God knew you would cry off commercials, or be sensitive to certain things. Whether you shed tears or not, you are still anointed.
NE: That is excellent advice!
Now, Evg. Riley, you are a renowned evangelist whom God has blessed to grace the pulpits of some of the greatest ministries in the world. What are some strategies that you execute in order to deliver a timely, fresh, and relevant world to various cultures and audiences?
SR: One of the things I didn't do at the beginning of my ministry that I now do is take the time to research the city or church in which I am going to preach. It's very important to make yourself knowledgeable of your audience. When I'm invited to preach, I try to go to the website, read about the church and it's leadership...sometimes God has directed me to do specific research on the city...I try to be as informed as I possibly can about where I'm going...When I've done my homework, I've found that I'm more sensitive as I seek God for a Word for that congregation...Sometimes, [for example,] the Word I give may be the same subject I used in New York, but with a different presentation and application when I go to California...either or, I always seek God for direction. And, of course, it is necessary to have a prayer life and personal consecration. You should never get too busy for that...
NE: Absolutely! All of those things are very important, and I also make a practice of doing them in my personal ministry!
Now Evg. Riley, a lot of people may not realize that not only are you an amazing evangelist, but you are an accomplished businesswoman. You are President and CEO of your own private real estate investment company, Rabah Group, LLC, Inc., which specializes in rentals to low-income families. How do you juggle it all?
SR: Well, Nichelle, that's one of the things people ask me all the time, "Ms. Riley how do you do all of things you do?" Well first of all, I believe you have to prioritize. Often times, that means you need to get some help so that you don't give too much energy to one thing and not enough to the other...there's a movie out called, "I Don't' Know How She Does It!" Well, if the truth be told, women have always done it all, however, we've made it look easy because we learned early how to prioritize and manage...
Also when you are in ministry and you add other outside things, it's very important that you walk in integrity, because the same woman they meet in a business meeting could end up being the same woman standing before them preaching the Word of God, so that woman should be one in the same! As women in business and ministry, we must be committed to a life of integrity because the world is much smaller than we think. While in Hong Kong, I have met people who were from the US and l learned that they lived two miles up the street from me in Chicago and I had never met them before.
Often times, I've been places just being "Ms. Riley" and people I don't know will walk up to me and say, "Hi Evangelist Riley!" Therefore, you have to always walk in integrity, because even in a business environment, the Spirit of God in you ought to betray and cause people to say, "There's something about her;" "She can be trusted;" "Let me help her, because they are trying to get over on her..."etc. At the end of the day, one of the things I really strive for is to follow the Word of God...The Bible is our road map for everything, it is our constitution.
NE: Evangelist that is so true...Also, with the internet and TV, it is easy for people to now recognize us. So, it is very important that we take our calls and maintenance of our character seriously!
Now, you serve in ministry alongside your cousin and Pastor, Dr. Marvin Sapp. Please share with us what it means to be able to serve with family in ministry?
Oh, Nichelle, it's a wonderful experience and I take so much joy in doing it. Pastor Marvin and I are first cousins, our mothers are sisters. Out of 13 grandchildren in our family, there are only two girls, and I'm the oldest grandchild. So, I'm the closest they all have to a big sister. So, you know I have that big sister attitude!...Now, I have been in ministry longer than Pastor Marvin...I remember when he was first called to ministry...I took him to the Christian Bookstore and helped him get his first ministry resources...I also remember when he interviewed for Commissioned, because I drove him to Detroit...I also was there when our Pastor, the late Bishop William Abey allowed him to do his trial sermon...we are very close...You see, for the longest, I didn't have family serving with me in my church organization....my family was with another organization. So when I left my family's organization, it was a big deal, but it was something I felt that God required me to do....so several years later, for Marvin and his brother's to become a part of the same church I was apart, it was just so wonderful...
So when he we was called to the pastorate, I was there for the opening service and that's when I told Pastor Sapp and Lady Malinda that I was officially becoming a member of His church. So he is my Pastor, although I live in Chicago...Therefore, I have assigned Sundays that I preach there, which I schedule my own evangelistic ministry around. I also try to be there for special events, in fact, I will be there quite a bit over the next few months...
You know Nichelle, it's just a real joy when I look at what God has done for him...I know that he is genuinely a good Man...not just a man of God, but good man...I take a lot of joy in working with him...I do a lot more now, than I was doing previously in order to be a support to him...I now try to be with him more during his transition...To be honest, I almost feel like I kind of owe him, because during the earlier stages of my evangelistic ministry I could be preaching anywhere in the country and look up and he would be right there. Many times, he would not just sit there, he would get up and sing for me and that truly was a blessing. So, now I'm just doing the same for him by being there for him...
NE: Awe, that is so sweet! You are a great cousin!!
So Evangelist, what do you believe God is saying to the Body of Christ in this hour?
SR: Well, I believe that this is a very interesting hour for the church, for the people of God. We hear so much negativity on a daily basis, and a lot of what we hear or view via the news or casual conversation gets in the spirits of God's people. And so we now have to re-sensor ourselves to what God says about us. When we look at the economic down turn, people often say everything except for what God has said...but, I know and believe that there is still a blessing in what has happened with our economy. Yes, some have lost houses or jobs, but there are a lot of people who have also bought houses and created businesses in the Kingdom during this season...So, I believe God is saying, "Trust me now!"
We have taken in so much of God's Word, we've believed, declared and decreed, and now we have to walk it out...This is not a season for the faint of heart...we have to be determined to see the manifestation of God's word...I've seen God do the miraculous in the lives of others and in my life...The U.S. may be in recession, but I didn't get the email about Heaven being in a recession! We must get in the Word of God and see what we are entitled to and what is required of us to reap what we want to reap in this season.
Nichelle, you are talking to a woman who, pretty much, all of my adult life has been a faith walk. I graduated from college, worked two years, and then I went into full time ministry. Everything I've acquired has been by faith. So, when I tell people to trust God and seek him, it's not cliché, it's what I know...all I know is that God will provide. I don't have a company that backs me up and I don't have a salary. However, what I do know is that God has provided, and if He does it for me, He will do it for His people...Many people are starting their own businesses because of doors that have been shut in their face....in fact, you may be working a job you don't like and God is calling you to look at the area or talent in your life that you would do if no one paid you. Although the country is in a recession, people are still doing what they want to do; people are still paying people to do for them what they don't want to do for themselves...so, during this recession, if you have lost your job or are working one that you don't like, this may be a transition season for you, and you may need to consider having your own business or company. Whatever, the case, I believe God is requiring us to trust him in and with everything!
NE: Amen...So Evangelist Riley, if you could share anything with the world about Evangelist Sandra Riley, what would you want them to know?
SR: Well, I want people to know that I truly love God and I want the best for His people. I want to see them walking in their destiny and walking in that place where they experience God and are the happiest people walking the face of this earth. No one in the world should beat our faith, optimism, or hope. Therefore, my ultimate desire is to see God's people walk in the fullness of all that God has for them. I'm not talking just materialistically; I'm talking about that fullness of joy that resides in our inner person. When we tap into that, we then must help or encourage somebody else to do the same...we must help them get on the right path towards their purpose and destiny, because this is how they will fulfill it. I believe people are often times are unfulfilled because they do not know who they are. We must know who we are in order to fulfill our assignment from God. When you walk into a room, even if it's a room full of atheists, they should know that there's something about special about you!...I know who I am, and I want God's people to know who they are and be the best at who they are!