Billy Graham Center

Interview with Wayne LeRoy Gordon - Collection 398

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Wayne LeRoy Gordon

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

Brief Description.

Two oral history interviews with Gordon, pastor of Lawndale Community Church, a nondenominational church in Chicago's predominantly black community, Lawndale. Topics covered include Gordon's youth, the influence of his family on his spiritual growth, his call to work in the black community, his education at Wheaton College, ministry through Lawndale Community Church in Chicago (its structure, various ministries, including health care, education, and recreation), and the black community in Chicago. The events described in the interviews cover the years from 1953 to 1988.

Collection 398 [May 31, 2000]
Gordon, Wayne LeRoy; 1953-
Interviews; 1988

Audio tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Wayne LeRoy Gordon was born August 25, 1953, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. He was converted in the summer of 1969 during a Fellowship of Christian Athletes conference, and shortly afterward felt called to work in the inner city African American community and was ready to leave everything to begin this new life. Although his family and pastor supported him in this, there were no immediate opportunities for him to be involved in a ministry. One opening later developed and Gordon spent a summer working in Chicago's inner city.

After graduating from high school, Gordon planned to attend Baylor University but changed his mind and went to Wheaton College. While at Wheaton, Gordon played football and lettered for four years. He studied Social Science and minored in Physical Education. Wheaton's proximity to Chicago allowed Gordon to work in the inner city and he ministered to men from Skid Row, including helping to feed them. He graduated in 1975.

Gordon began his ministry in Chicago's black community by substitute teaching and being a volunteer coach at Farragut High School. He later became a history teacher, assistant football coach and head wrestling coach. During this time he started a Bible study and moved into the Lawndale community, a predominately African American community on Chicago's west side. In 1978, Gordon, with his wife, some high school students and their parents, established the Lawndale Community Church, of which he was the founding pastor. He resigned from teaching in 1981 and began classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in New Testament. He later transferred to Northern Baptist Seminary, from which he graduated in 1984 with an M.A. in Theological Studies.

The ministries of Lawndale Community Church grew to include recreation programs, Bible studies, leadership development, job finding programs, a medical clinic, a learning center and a housing ministry. "Coach," as he was called by many, served as president of Lawndale Christian Health Center, Lawndale Christian Development Corporation and Christian Community Development Association, an association of over two hundred inner city ministries across the United States. In 1994, he was co-pastor of the church along with Carey Casey.

Gordon was married to LuAnne Starkey and had three children, Angela (born 1980), Andrew (born 1983) and Austin (born 1988).

Scope and Content

Wayne L. Gordon was interviewed by Paul A. Ericksen on July 26, 1988, at Lawndale Community Church, Chicago, Illinois, and on September 22, 1988, at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. The dates of the events covered by the interview were 1953 to 1988. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. The index is keyed to the cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original.

Tape T1 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:30 Introduction to interview on July 26, 1988
01:00 Birth; religious environment of home; conversion at an Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp; family; impact of conversion; reaction of family and friends
07:15 Critical decisions; Bible studies with friends; God's call to work with African American people; parents' and pastor's reactions
11:45 Inability to find job openings; summer work in Chicago; Ray Bakke; special experience while in Chicago; learning dependence on God when organization runs out of money and food
15:45 High School and graduation; past experiences with minorities, including the Black Panthers
17:30 Choosing a college; decision to go to Baylor; recruiting by and process of coming to Wheaton College; casting lots to choose; change of thinking between high school and college; assurance of a lifetime call
23:00 Affirmation of his call from the African American community; comparing openness of blacks to whites' lack of openness; inviting black people to worship at home church in Iowa; reactions to Gordon's interaction with African Americans, including dating African American women at Wheaton
25:30 Lack of culture shock in coming to Chicago from Iowa; new experiences in Chicago; locked in a room with a homosexual; fear and confidence in God; his escape; six years between high school and start of ministry
29:30 Representing Iowa at the White House Conference on Youth; "celebrity" status in home town; comments on the conference and militancy of the separation of blacks and whites and the non-interaction between the two
32:45 Wheaton College: impact on his spiritual life; activities; Billy Graham, grades and priorities; Don "Bubba" Church; struggle to stay in college; football
37:15 Racism at Wheaton; African American roommate; push for Black Studies program; scarcity of African American students at Wheaton; need for diversification; persuading Dr. Hudson Armerding to have Tom Skinner preach in chapel
41:30 Dr. Armerding as president during the turbulence of 1960s; relationship with Armerding; story as told by Armerding; encouragement from Armerding
44:15 Wheaton's spiritual environment
45:00 End of side 1

Tape T1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape and overlap from side 1
01:45 Wheaton College: end of turbulent 60's, renewed conservatism; weak faith common; spiritual vitality among the guys he lived with; tendency to challenge the norm; Skid Row men: bringing them on campus, trying to find ways to help; development of involvement in Chicago; describing himself as a radical who loved God; how he handled experiences in the city; support from roommates; Wheaton's helping a family (Freeman's) who had been in an accident
12:15 Developing his radical identity; trying to be black; discovery that color isn't important; describing himself as multi-cultural; dating non-whites
14:30 Working for Armerding after graduation; learning carpentry skills; mentor relationship with Don "Bubba" Church; excellent faculty at Wheaton
15:45 Teaching: finding a African American school to teach in; desire to be teacher and a coach; job opportunities; decision to be substitute teacher and volunteer coach; living in Lawndale community; starting a Bible study for football players
18:45 End of tape

Tape T2 - side 1
00:00 Start of tape
00:45 Introduction
01:00 Life in Lawndale: difficulty finding an apartment; thought of as a drug dealer; rent and landlords; first apartment; Mrs. Washington; reception from neighbors; personal experience of vandalism; help from neighbors and police; neighborhood watch organized; evidence of acceptance; statement of purpose for living in Lawndale; impact of and on family; ghetto as a good place to raise children; marriage, meeting his wife and dating; in-laws visit to burgled apartment; break-ins and losses; bringing his wife to Lawndale; her decision to stay
11:00 Development of Lawndale Ministry: Bible studies with kids; evangelism; buying a building; attraction of gym facilities.
13:00 Lawndale Community Church: need for new Christians to go to church; developing a philosophy of ministry; structuring a church with unchurched people in mind; first service; focus on community needs; God's greatest commandment to love God and neighbors; current ministry and staff
20:15 End of tape 2

Tape T3 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:45 Introduction to interview on September 22, 1988
01:30 Becoming a pastor: loss of teaching position, taking classes;
03:30 Lawndale Community Church: geographical make-up; welcoming outsiders but dealing with tension between community and outside;
06:30 Distinctive characteristics of Lawndale community; reaching out to the community
09:00 Organization of church; pastor as authority figure in the church; corporations involved in church ministry; medical clinic; housing ministry; empowering people; future changes
13:30 Interracial meetings; de-emphasizing black/white issues; recognizing cultural differences; tendency to be program oriented; reawakening of desire to be the church that God wants them to be; developing small-group Bible studies; role of church's advisory board;
24:00 Impressions of John Perkins and Tom Skinner, their roles in Gordon's family, ministry, and developing leadership
30:00 Help from people who pray; help from people in community
32:00 Congregation's demographics: ethnic characteristics, marital status, and "singleness" in inner-city culture, church background, unchurched majority, differences in worship style; typical service; tendency to be late; event-orientation of blacks compared to time orientation of whites; use of the Bible in service; music; prayer; children's ministries; length of services; use of dialogue; other approaches to preaching; conclusion of service; church weekly calendar; children's ministries
46:30 End of side 1

Tape T3 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape and overlap from side 1
01:00 Role of evangelism; importance of "relationship" evangelism; empowering members to evangelize; evaluation of church members as evangelists
06:00 Obstacles to African Americans becoming Christian - economic and welfare problems;
11:00 Sin's strongholds; sex, drugs and alcohol; materialism; racism; inconsistencies among Christians; teaching in African American community that Christianity is a "tool of Satan"; false pictures of Jesus; cross-culturalism of Jesus; gang activity; drug problem; availability of drugs
18:30 Church's impact on community; hope; improved health care; bridge between suburban and city communities; vision for the future
23:30 Becoming a member; commitment to Christian growth and ministry; ever-changing church
27:15 End of tape


The materials in this collection were received by the Center in July and September, 1988, from Wayne L. Gordon.

Accession 88-83, 88-109
June 17, 1994
Mimi L. Larson
J. Archer

Accession 88-83, 88-109
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The items listed below are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 65 minutes. One side only. Interview with Wayne LeRoy Gordon by Paul A. Ericksen on July 26, 1988. Discussion of Gordon's youth, influence of his family, spiritual growth, call to work in the black community, education at Wheaton College and the beginnings of his ministry in the Lawndale community of Chicago.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 25 minutes. One side only. Continuation of interview with Gordon by Ericksen on July 26, 1988.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 75 minutes. One side only. Interview with Wayne LeRoy Gordon by Paul A. Ericksen on September 22, 1988. Discussion of life and ministry of Lawndale Community Church, church structure, various ministries including health care, education and recreation, and the African American community in Chicago.

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Last Revised: 9/10/02
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