The CE Interview: Gary Galbraith

Gary Galbraith, Senior Pastor Revival Christian Fellowship, Meniffee, CA

By Ronald E. Keener

Not many pastors choose a missions point where they can also pursue their favorite sport. “I grew up on the beach in California and surfed all my life, and Indonesia has some of the best surfing in the world,” says Gary Galbraith, 43, senior pastor at Revival Christian Fellowship. But there was more to it than the love of surfing. “I fell in love with the people and saw the need,” he says.

That was 15 years ago and he has been back some 30 times as his congregation has made the remote village of Pei Pei, in the state of Sumatra, its primary missions target. The church also does missionary work in China and Mexico.

Pei Pei is a village of some 600 people, in the Mentawai islands in the Indian Ocean, and the Revival congregation is purchasing property where it can set up a conference center that will help it minister in the village and to surrounding ones as well.

Galbraith’s heart has been in missions since his studies at Hope International University, where being involved in missionary work was a strong component of the program. “I believe that every church should be involved in missions. It’s our obligation to the Kingdom to help the poor and spread the Gospel in areas where it’s weak,” he says.

You take teams of people along with you, I guess?

We take teams along regularly throughout the year. We have a couple dental teams go every year and we’ll take teams over to do Bible teaching. We have started a nonprofit organization called Revive Indonesia and now we’ve got several fulltime missionaries who live there half the time and live here half the time to raise support. Now we have Indonesian staff members who are working for Revive Indonesia. So we’ve developed a whole different ministry that has its own 501(3) that is over there fulltime.

It’s a Muslim country. Do you have any resistance to your work there?

You have to be careful because it is illegal to proselytize in Indonesia. In other words, you can’t hold outdoor meetings and you can’t pass out literature. You are allowed to hold meetings inside the church or inside someone’s home, but you can’t go public with your faith unless you get special permission from the government. And so they keep the Christians under wraps pretty much and the Indonesians don’t break tradition very often. If their families are Muslim and they are born Muslim, they are pretty much going to stay Muslim.

Some of the Muslim people are just ordinary folks like you and me. They have their faith, they are very peaceable and they live an ordinary life. Then, of course, you’ve got radical Muslims. There’s al-Qaeda in Indonesia and the real radical side of Islam, and so if you try to proselytize or get out of the little box they’ll keep you in, you’re going to be persecuted. You’re probably going to be extradited as an American and then you won’t be able to get back in the country; on your passport it will show you’re not in good standing with the government. And they won’t let you in.

And then the Christians, in whatever town you’ve caused a ruckus, are going to pay the price once you’re gone, and so it’s a real serious situation. You have to be very careful about how you go about doing ministry there, so it’s slow going, especially in Sumatra where it’s very Muslim. So the churches mostly are very weak, they need revival, there’re afraid. They are just living with this, what I call the dragon, day in and day out; there’s this fierce, strong entity in the Islamic faith, and Christians are so outnumbered that there’s not a whole lot they can do. But the Christians, because of those conditions have a very strong faith and are committed to the Lord, and so it’s an interesting place to try to do ministry.

Are there actual churches or house churches?

Yes, there are churches throughout the country, of course, and even in the Muslim areas there’re churches, but some of them began in the days when it was run by the Dutch. Since it’s become its own republic, the government is really cracking down on Christianity. For example, sometimes the Muslims will burn down a church and the Christians will go to rebuild the church and the government won’t give them permission to rebuild it. So there’s red tape to keep the churches in a persecuted state. We’ve had to deal with a lot of those issues.

But in 15 years you’ve developed a lot of trust, I take it, and you know your way around and how far you can go?

Yes, we know the hot spots, we know where to stay away from, we know what we can do and can’t do. There are places in Indonesia where you can be more evangelistic. We have held some crusades there; we’ve had 10,000 to 15,000 people come out. But we’ve received special permission from the government. In that particular part of the country, it was mostly Christian and they let us do it, so it just depends on what part of the country you’re in, and what you can get away with. You have to know the spiritual and political climate of each geographical location within the country.

Your congregation was begun out of the Calvary Chapel movement?

There were a couple families that wanted a Calvary Chapel-style church and there wasn’t one in Menifee, so they started their own Bible study. It grew to about 30 people and they thought maybe they can turn this into a church.

So they got a Calvary Chapel pastor from San Diego to come and get Sunday morning services started. That took about six months and the church was about 60 people. He moved on and they looked for a permanent pastor, and that’s when they found me. That was 16 years ago.

What kind of community was it then and is it today?

Menifee was a very small town back then, maybe about 6,000 people. Then, with the housing boom, this whole area — southwest Riverside County — became the fastest growing area in the United States for awhile, with homes going up everywhere. The church has grown with the community.

But back in the early days, it was slim pickings; we didn’t even have a worship team. We’d put a CD in and hit play. We met in the band room at the middle school, and we’d sing along to the CD. It was pretty bad. [Laughter]

And the community today?

It’s pretty much a typical middle class suburb. We have commuters going into Riverside to the north, to San Diego in the south, and to Orange County in the west. We’re strategically located here in southern California because the housing is reasonable and we can pretty much get anywhere in about an hour.

I noticed you once had a series about end times, and the statement of faith speaks to pre-tribulation?

In the Calvary Chapel movement there is a lot of teaching about end times, and of course they teach through the Bible, and you know a third of the Bible is prophetic in nature to begin with. So in the Calvary Chapel movement there is a lot of teaching on prophesy and the end times.

And one of the distinctives of Calvary Chapel that we hold to is a belief in a pre-tribulation rapture. I probably don’t put as much emphasis on end times as some of the Calvary Chapel guys do, but I put my emphasis on personal growth and how to change your life and how to be all that God has created you to be.

How did you choose the name Revival for the church?

Well, the word revival means to come alive and that’s my passion, to see people who are spiritually dead come alive. We’ve got a lot of people who’ve got physical lives but they’ve don’t have spiritual lives, and it’s my love and my heart to see people come into a relationship with God, to come alive spiritually and to enjoy the life that Jesus came to bring as he talked about in John 10:10.

The number one gifting that God’s given me is the gift of exhortation, to really encourage and challenge people at the same time. So that gifting along with revival goes hand in hand. I believe God intends to use me to really light a fire under the believers and challenge them to step up their walk and to get off the fence, and yet there’s also an evangelistic element to the ministry as well.

How do you manage? Are you a hands-on person, or do you hate the minutia of administration?

Loath would probably be a better word. [Laughter] I don’t love administration in the least. I hate paperwork, I hate meetings and all that stuff. That’s just not my strong suit, so I’m not a micro-manager by any stretch of the imagination.

I lead by example. I tend to lead by Jesus’ model: He had the 12 but he also had the three, the inner circle of Peter, James and John. He spent more time with those three than he did with the other nine guys. So I spend the majority of my time with my executive staff, my four executive pastors, and they oversee all the ministries in the church.

One of the problems that I have seen in the church is that elder boards and governing boards want pastors to run the church, but they don’t give them the authority to make the decisions to run the church. So I try to give people freedom to fail, I try to set them up to succeed but I don’t come down on people if they gave 100 percent and they didn’t do it exactly like I would do it or they didn’t get it right the first time. []


In the village of Pei Pei, located on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, one of the greatest needs is to help the people in their fight against malaria. There are no medical or dentistry facilities readily available and provisions for nutrition such as clean water and sanitary sewage treatment are practically nonexistent. By providing mosquito netting as well as medication and other services, Revive Ministries has been able to meet that need.

Through our visits we have discovered the acute condition the people of Pei Pei endure. Young and old are susceptible to illness because of the open sewage trench, which runs down the center of the village. Education only includes up to the fifth grade, and 90 percent of the residents do not attend any church.

Our efforts in planting the seeds for trust with the Indonesian people, our church leadership, and our own congregation have already shown success. A recent campaign brought the families dental care and soccer equipment for the well-being of the village.

On one visit, we provided a Bible and songbook in every home. We cultivated a relationship with a church leader, and invested monetarily in a building project.

After a recent huge earthquake in Padang, devastating the mainland nearest to our adopted village, our media department shot footage showing the horrifying damage to this part of Indonesia. We were able to share with the congregation as well as our online partners the latest information in real time. Our Web site,, as well as the social networks

Twitter and Facebook, has provided instant access to the spreading awareness of the cause of reviving Indonesia.

Revival’s home and online congregations responded amazingly to the information, giving generously and willingly. It is because of this willingness we were able to revive spirits with humanitarian aid, travel there and help to restore some of the devastation done to the churches on the mainland of Padang.

Almost two decades ago, in the early days of Revival Christian Fellowship, Pastor Gary Galbraith shared with his tiny congregation (since grown to 6,000 on a weekend) his passion for missions work. He challenged his congregation to committing support to Indonesia and other missions fields, both through prayer and financial offerings. Throughout the years, the people of Revival have steadfastly accepted this challenge and have been making an incredible impact.

Today, Gary Galbraith says: “We are not hurting anywhere close to the way these people hurt everyday and the recession will never be over for them. The vision is to first get out of our comfort zone and do something that really costs. This is the heart of Jesus Christ, and that’s what church is all about.”

Our newest project is Package of Hope, Bringing the Presence of Christ to Pei Pei. The Web site,, offered an opportunity for people to  sponsor a child in Pei Pei this past Christmas. Even in this time of recession, we have found people are passionate about serving and contributing to a common cause. There is abundance felt when we are about changing the hearts and lives of our own congregation and improving the conditions for the people of Pei Pei, one soul at a time.

—Scott Baysinger, Executive Pastor/Mission, Revival Christian Fellowship


Revive Ministries will soon be entering religious television programming under the name “Revive TV with Gary Galbraith.”

“We’re pretty much ready,” Galbraith says. “We’ve been accepted by Day Star and several of the other television networks and now it is just a matter of saying we’re going to step out and invest the money for the air time. We’ve got the pilot put together for the program. It is a matter of how much air time we are going to purchase.”

In doing its planning, the church says there is a home audience worldwide of about 432,000,000 viewers. Domestically, the home audience is about 62,000,000 viewers, including cable and satellite homes.

“Our program will run about 28 minutes once per week on three key networks. Members of the church are excited about supporting a worldwide outreach on TV. We feel our type of program will generate a high level of interest based on personal life transformation,” Galbraith believes.

He says it will be a culturally-relevant, biblically accurate, program designed to meet viewers where they are at and empower them to come alive in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“We’ll make God’s truth outlined in the Bible applicable to daily life,” Galbraith says. “Like a workout for your soul, the dynamic and passionate teaching will increase one’s spiritual endurance today and result in positive lasting effects on one’s life and spiritual health.”


3 Responses to “The CE Interview: Gary Galbraith”

  1. Deni Gerber

    I lived in Menifee for 10 yrs and learned and grew so much from you, Pastor Gary. You changed my life and I miss your word since I have moved back to South Bay. I want to see and hear you again. Please inform me of live broadcasts, radio, pods. Please. Nothing, no one, touches and inspires me like you have. All 4 of my children (2 are indonesian), my husband was born there. Kids went to West High same yrs. as you. I hope I can hear your word soon. God Bless your mission .
    Deni Gerber

  2. A much better reivew. You might mention whether or not he offer’s an Android version. And whether you use a Garmin GPS ever and can compare. Obviously having the trails on the map make this version very nice as knowing where one is, is as important as knowing where one wants to go and the trail system between.

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