WESTMINSTER — A non-denominational ministry group active in Carroll is helping Christian professionals and business people in their efforts to ministerto their workplace peers.
Search Ministries was founded in Baltimore in 1977 and now serves 18 U.S. metropolitan areas.
"I am somewhat of a chaplain to the business community," said Davis Kuykendall, a Gamber resident and Northern Maryland area director of the group.
"I am now working with men and women in the Baltimore (region) and Carroll County who represent more than 40 different companies and at least 30 churches," he said. "Through friendly conversation, we present logical, philosophical, and scriptural arguments sothat friends can discuss these critical issues on common ground. We deal with people who are curious about the truth, but who are not necessarily ready to make a decision that would embrace Christianity because of questions that have been left unanswered."
Many such questions are becoming more widespread among adults today, Kuykendall said, as evidenced by articles in national publications such as Time, which recently published a cover story questioning the existence of evil.
Search uses seminars, conferences, and individual training to show Christian adults ways to help their non-religious peers consider such topics in out-of-church settings like the home and workplace.
Kuykendall was a marketing representative of IBM in Little Rock, Ark., when he became involved in a evangelical church's group for Christian business people that grew to 2,500 adult members in 10 years.
"With our involvement in such a dynamic church, I found I enjoyed building relationships with people more than just pushing the products I sold," he said. "IBM is a great organization, but my passion for Christ was greater than my passion for computers."
In 1987, Kuykendall, a 36-year-old graduate of the Dallas Theological Seminary, was recruited by Carroll residents to establish the non-denominational Carroll Community Church in Eldersburg. For three years he co-pastored the group, which now meets at Liberty High School. But being a pastor came with certain limitations.
"As a pastor, I often wondered if I wasn't better suited for those who are on the outside looking in instead of being a shepherd to those who are already in," said Kuykendall, who lives with his wife, Valerie, and three children. "Search challenged me to be in the business and ministry worlds simultaneously. I operate as a consultant, working with the local church to help it reachbeyond the stained glass."
Kuykendall often is invited to a church to teach about evangelism. Churches band together to sponsor seminars in which he teaches practical principles of explaining and sharingChristian viewpoints.
Five North Carroll churches sponsored a seminar this spring at Manchester Baptist, in which 12 area churches -- representing Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and non-denominational affiliations -- participated.
Kuykendall's favorite arena is a discussion group format that can be conducted in a variety ofcasual settings. Friends and co-workers gather in a home once a weekfor four consecutive weeks and discuss current events that relate tolife and religion.
The discussions, called Open Forums, also are conducted during the day for people who work in the business arenas around Baltimore, including locations in Baltimore and Carroll counties.
"A typical group may see 20 to 40 men and women gather for a brown-bag lunch in a local conference room or boardroom," he said. "We will have a diverse group of Christian, Jewish, 'New Age' and atheistic thinkers who are open and eager to talk about spiritual issues andhow they affect life in the trenches.
"We then openly discuss allsides of an issue. People who disagree are not slam-dunked with opinions, but given an opportunity to discuss their views honestly and intellectually. We believe people need to discover truth without being assaulted by it."
Groups may be broad-based, or tailored to specific executive audience.
Kuykendall also meets people through his involvement with the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Program. He also coaches and plays soccer with the Deer Park RecreationCouncil.
Exploratory Bible studies with business groups also present an opportunity for men and women to consider religious issues. Several local businesses and regional corporations are represented.
"Our goal is to stimulate ministry in the marketplace, not to own it," he said.
Kuykendall is sought as a consultant to the business community, providing insight on issues of ethics, relational skills, and organizational behavior.
"We take the light out of the lighthouse and reach into areas that the church isn't able to reach," he said.