"I want you to come up here right now and be saved in the name of Jesus," the Rev. Edward Lord tells his flocks. People who smoke or do drugs, sick people, unrepentant sinners -- the feisty revivalist preacher tells them all to step up front and let the Holy Spirit go to work on them. When they arrive he presses his palm to their foreheads and -- lo and behold -- they are healed! They're saved!
Lord, age 27, has always preferred getting out from behind the pulpit. When he first started preaching, at the age of four, he had no choice, because he couldn't see over it. He was known then as "Little Eddy Lord," a charismatic kid preacher with healing hands. He took his show on the road, preaching in storefront spaces and revival tents across the United States, a practice he continues today despite the fact that his family's Love Cathedral United Christian Church is based in Cleveland.
Tonight Lord will oversee the grand opening of his newest nondenominational satellite ministry, located in Hollywood. It's one of nineteen, where he preaches, heals, and performs as part of the Lord Family Singers, who used to sing on the Southern gospel circuit.
If this all sounds a little hokey, perhaps even questionable, Lord is well aware of how revivalist ministers are portrayed in movies like Elmer Gantry, Leap of Faith, and The Apostle. And he has to contend with the fallout caused by real-life televangelist hucksters like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart.
"What we're supposed to do is get people's attention and then point them to God," Lord says. "When [ministers] don't do that, and everybody puts too much faith in them instead of God and they fall, too many get hurt. Faith healing has gotten sort of a bad name. So I don't mind being called someone who prays for people and helps them reach God through my faith."
Surprisingly Lord says that filmmakers have done a pretty good job of portraying his kind over the years. "You can't stop movies from coming out about it, because these things have happened," he says. "And Leap of Faith showed what faith in God can do, like in the scene where Steve Martin actually sees [healing] happen" and has a change of heart.
Lord saw what he needed to do very early on. "I first felt the calling to be a minister at age four," he claims, with a slight Southern twang. "I was in Fort Walton Beach, actually."
He was in Florida spreading the gospel with his father, the Rev. Michael Lord, Sr.; his mother, the Rev. Peggy Lord; and his brother, the Rev. Michael Lord, Jr. (Three years Ed's elder, he started preaching at age five.) By the time Little Eddy was preaching, the family had gone from gospel singing into revival ministry. The Lords lived in Georgia but traveled thousands of miles by motor home each year with a dog named Luke, who wasn't ordained. The dog wasn't even named after the Biblical figure, notes Peggy. And, yes, Lord is their real family name.
Edward Lord admits folks were skeptical of such a young preacher. "It was not how old I was," he recalls, "but who I knew. And I knew God at that age, and it was just God speaking through me."
Lord's very first sermon, delivered before a congregation on Easter Sunday in 1974, was about Jonah and the whale. He must have made an impression, because soon the fire-and-brimstone-spewing youngster was being booked on popular TV shows like The Mike Douglas Show, Good Morning America, and The Phil Donahue Show. The South Florida faithful may remember Little Eddy, because the family swung through Miami and Fort Lauderdale back then.
"When they preached as children, people said it would never last," Peggy recalls. "They've continued, and they are happy in it."
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Edward Lord says it's lasted because his preaching was never about money or being on TV; it was always about faith. "I pray for people, God does the healing. I'm a servant of God, and I have a lot of faith in Him. Others believe but don't have that amount of faith. That's where I come in."
Lord is able to step far enough from the pulpit to see that people are skeptical. "If I wasn't there, I would have a hard time believing it, too," he says of the healing he facilitates. And he invites skeptics to check out his work. "I will be ministering and bringing a message, though I don't know what it will be yet," he says. "That's up to God."
-- John Ferri
The Rev. Edward Lord of Love Cathedral United Christian Church will preach, and the Love Family Gospel Singers will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, at the Church's local office, located at 6132 Washington St., Hollywood. The event is free. Call 954-893-7215.