LIMA — Dennis Swanberg, Christian author and speaker, will be coming to speak at the Men’s Prime Rib Dinner at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Lima Baptist Temple.
Swanberg was a pastor for 23 years before deciding to take to the road, using his unique brand of humor to speak to and encourage audiences. His penchant for using humor started a lot earlier, though.
“In high school I picked up the ability to impersonate people,” he said. “I’d do Barney Fife, John Wayne, Muhammad Ali. When the band took a break, I’d hop up on stage and entertain everyone.”
While he was a pastor, Swanberg also did a lot of speaking at various places. “It got to the point where I had to choose one or the other,” he said.
So, in 1995, with his wife’s support, he resigned as a pastor and started his speaking career. “I only had one event booked when I resigned,” said Swanberg. “I wondered if I was doing the right thing.”
The next day, James Dobson played a cassette of Swanberg on his Christian radio program, Focus on the Family. Soon after, Dobson heard Swanberg at a live event. Dobson and his wife Shirley Dobson approached Swanberg after the show.
“He came up and hugged me and asked me for everything I had,” said Swanberg. “I didn’t want to tell him that cassette was all I had at the time. He’s been good to me.”
Swanberg was out on the road for about year when he was approached with developing a television show. “We called it ‘Swan’s Place,’” he said. “It did pretty well.”
Swanberg speaks about 150 times a year throughout the United States and overseas where he encourages both military men and women and missionaries.
Over the years, he has earned the nickname America’s minister of encouragement, but that is not his only message. “My ultimate message is the Gospel of Jesus,” he said. “He came that we might have life.”
However, he uses humor to share that message and encourage people.
“I believe Proverbs 17:22 that says a merry heart is like medicine,” he said. “I think God’s people need a spoonful of humor and laughter. People think Christianity is all serious and no fun, but it’s joyful, too. We are supposed to be salt and light, and God loves us. If earthly daddies know how to give good things, how much more does our heavenly Father?”
Swanberg did admit that all the traveling can sometimes be a challenge; especially as he sometimes has to miss events like birthdays, weddings or funerals because he is on the road. However, he truly loves what he does.
“It is rewarding to me to use my gifts of speaking and encouragement,” he said. “I love it when people come up to me afterwards and tell me that they haven’t laughed since their son passed on or that they’ve been battling cancer and that laughing felt so good. Constructive criticism gets old fast. I enjoy seeing people blessed. It is good to see someone relax, let go and laugh.”
When Swanberg comes to Lima, he will be speaking about the topic of his latest book, “The Man Code,” which deals primarily with male friendships. “Men need buddies,” he said. “The book talks about the one-on-one relationship with Jesus, the three close friends every guy needs, the 12 buddies he needs to do stuff with, and then the 120 or his church because a man needs his church.”
The Rev. Al Elmore, senior pastor at Lima Baptist Temple, said that he is excited to have Swanberg at the men’s event. The church’s men’s ministry had been doing the “Man Code” Bible study, and he contacted Swanberg last fall to see if he could speak at the ending event.
“I invited Dennis Swanberg because last year when we started our Man2Man Ministries,” said Elmore, “I knew we were going to be doing his Bible study ‘Man Code’ in 2016, which is on keys to unlocking a balanced life. I contacted Dr. Swanberg last fall to see if he was available to speak around the time we were going to end the ‘Man Code’ study, which will be the same week as the Men’s Prime Rib Dinner event. He is a great author, speaker and Christian humorist.”
Elmore hopes the men that come will be inspired and encouraged.
“We all know men love to eat, especially prime rib,” he said, “so our intention is for men to have a time of fellowship and good food with other men, as well as, learning how to become godly men of character who influence their home, church, community and world.”
As for Swanberg, his purpose on Saturday is also to encourage the men.
“It is time for men to rise up, be godly men and reach others. If I can aspire men to come together and get closer, to know each other better and to serve each other and others, then that’s what I came for.”
Rosanne Bowman is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to The Lima News. Share your story ideas with her at email@example.com.