Local speaker; world-renowned advocate

By Justin Sillner
April 11, 2011

Engaging young people to carry out God’s mission in helping those less fortunate is the goal of Dr. Tony Campolo.

“In my early 30s I realized what I should do with my public speaking is to recruit young men and young women who would be willing to give themselves in service to Christ and the Kingdom among the poor in third world countries as well as urban America,” Campolo said.

Speaker, pastor, author, social activist and sociologist are only some ways to describe Campolo. But his goal is to be known mostly as a devoted follower of Jesus.

A published author of 38 books, Campolo is a well-known religious speaker and a professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University. A graduate from Eastern College, Campolo completed graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and received his doctorate from Temple University.

“I’ve always been a Philly guy,” Campolo said. “I was raised in West Philadelphia and continued my schooling around the area.”

Although Campolo was certain of his roots, he was not always sure where his future would take him.

At a young age, Campolo struggled with what his future endeavors would be. He attended Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in West Philadelphia since the age of 18. While there, he began thinking about going into pastoral ministry.

“While I was in grad school, I actually pastored churches. The last church I pastored was Upper Merion Baptist Church in King of Prussia,” Campolo said.

Campolo says it was through his pastoral opportunities that he realized his talent in commanding a room. He began to develop an interest in public speaking.

“I would like to say it was a divine calling or God spoke to me but it was nothing like that.  I really just liked being in front of a crowd,” Campolo said.  “I appreciate the opportunity to speak to people and have them respond to think and to redefine their lives.”

As a religious man, Campolo began to think of a way that could connect his talent of captivating an audience with the work of God’s kingdom.

“As a Christian, when you recognize an interest in a talent that you have, you want to know, ‘can this be used for the work of God’s kingdom?’” Campolo said.

Campolo answered his own queries and took on the challenge of spreading the word of God, through his very own word of mouth. Today Campolo speaks about 350 times a year around the world to all kinds of audiences.

Campolo himself has guested on many television programs such as The Colbert Report, Larry King Live, CNN News & MSNBC News as a commentator on religious and political matters. He currently hosts Across The Pond, a weekly program on the Premier Christian Radio Network in England. Campolo records the show in production studio in Cabrini’s Hamilton Family Foundation Wing located in Founder’s Hall.

Campolo is the founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE), which , for more than 30 years, has inspired young men and women around the world to live out God’s love for the poor and underprivileged people of inner city America and around the world.

One of his most challenging and newsmaking opportunities was to counsel former President Bill Clinton. Campolo met with Clinton every week to advise him during the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998. Campolo befriended Clinton and worked with him on a path to repentance and change.

One of Campolo’s goals of reaching out to audiences is to seize every opportunity to speak with people about the importance of God and justice.

“Take every opportunity that comes along. From church banquets to Boy Scout jamborees, you do everything,” Campolo said. “Word gets around and you begin to develop a style of speaking. You come up with good stories or good lines that later becomes a great talk. “

His message is clear through his presentations that reach audiences across the country: peace and justice for the world’s poor.

“My main message is that there is no way to relate to Jesus without being intensely related to the poor,” Campolo said. “To use Catholic terminology, I am absolutely convinced that the poor are sacramental. That the spiritual essence of Jesus cannot be confronted in the sky somewhere, but has to be confronted in those who are in need.”

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Justin Sillner

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