A Scottsdale church ministry is going prime time.
The National Religious Broadcasters network has signed Compass Fellowship pastors Doug Brendel and David Brown onto their DirecTV channel. Brendel and Brown’s new half-hour program “The Compass” debuts today on DirecTV’s channel 378 — at 7:30 p.m. EDT (4:30 p.m. Arizona time).
Brendel, 51, a freelance writer from north Scottsdale, said appearing on TV is something he never imagined.
“It’s like a bolt out of the blue,” said Brendel of the opportunity he describes as a combination of “God’s grace and a happy accident.”
That “happy accident” could potentially catapult the Compass Fellowship’s followers, which now number at about 40 at their weekly meetings, into the millions.
Not bad for a church group that got its start nearly four years ago in the living room of a Phoenix house, before relocating to Brendel’s north Scottsdale home.
Brendel, a teaching pastor, said he initiated the fellowship with founding pastor David Brown, 46, a bank vice president who now resides in Amarillo, Texas, as a way for people to connect with God. Their mission, like a compass, is to help their followers find their way.
“We became a (spiritual) refueling station in the middle of the week,” said Brendel, who gives sermons on Wednesday evenings for nondenominational Christians who are unable to attend church on Sundays and for those looking for an alternative to a traditional church setting. Brendel’s gatherings are casual. Congregants wear jeans and have spiritual discussions over food and cocktails.
Brendel said the interactiveness of their group’s cozy dynamic kept followers coming. They reached a point where they were growing too big for their setting.
Soon, the two began wondering how to replicate their teachings and discussions so Compass followers could host small-group meetings in their own homes.
Brown saw DVD versions of their Compass sermons as the answer.
“Our goal was to place those DVDs into more and more homes so people could do Bible study on their own time frame,” said Brown, who started producing the videos, which star Brendel, in January of last year. The two created a 10-part series, featuring four to 10 sessions per series. The sessions are divided into topics and accompanied by a CD of support materials and handouts. Aiming to be hip, Brendel taped his sermons in a variety of offbeat settings including from the front seat of a Chrysler PT Cruiser, in the middle of a cocktail party, and a cave at Papago Park.
This past February, one of the videos made its way into the hands of Allen Beckner, director of programming operations at the Tennessee-based National Religious Broadcasters Network.
Beckner liked what he saw.
“It’s a well-produced and entertaining program that is bibically based,” said Beckner, adding he was looking for a show families could watch together.
Beckner called the two pastors a month ago, offering to place their taped programming on the satellite network’s Monday-through-Friday evening line-up.
“I was shocked,” said Brown of the phone call, which launched them into a taping frenzy. The two pastors only had a few weeks to produce 50 introductions and closes to their 20-minute video segments.
Compass Fellowship member Allison Clark, 37, of Chandler said she plans to tune in.
“David and Doug are amazing. They act on their beliefs. They love God and love people. There’s action behind the talk,” said Clark, who already had a preview of what’s to come. She has the collection of the pastors’ DVDs that will be airing on DirecTV.
“The nice thing about the DVDs is that it gives me a chance to revisit a particular sermon that spoke to me,” said Clark, who still commutes to Scottsdale to attend Brendel’s “live” Wednesday night service. Brendel said the Compass Fellowship’s sermons may now reach up to 15 million viewers on DirecTV.
“I really hope lots of people will find a new kind of connection to God that they didn’t know was possible,” said Brendel.