Senior Vice President of Development, Matthew Bryant, and RTS Orlando’s Leigh Swanson recently had a chance to “sit down” with Craig and Becky Rohde via Zoom. The Rohdes recently became involved with RTS when their son-in-law, Bryan Fowler, enrolled as an MDiv student at RTS Orlando. Craig serves as President of AGI, which is among the nation’s leading providers of signage, lighting, and maintenance for many large retailers. Craig and Becky attend Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Norfolk, Virginia, where Craig serves as a ruling elder.
AGI’s corporate purpose is “to honor God by excelling in what we do, how we do it, and by treating our employees, customers, vendors, and community as we would treat ourselves.” They discussed how their faith informs their work, their giving, and the unique calling Bryan has as a full-time corporate chaplain and student at RTS.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Matthew Bryant (MB): You all have clearly given great thought to generosity in your marriage. What inspired your thinking in that way?
Craig Rohde (CR): For most of our adulthood, we were struggling — like everybody else — about how to get through
life. We’ve always been generous with our time, but financially, we didn’t have the resources to be strategic in any significant way.
Thirteen years ago, God led me to take over the leadership of a small company, AGI, that has since been blessed with much success. One of our key business objectives to be more generous in giving to faith-based and mercy-and-justice ministries. In doing this, I discovered that the needs far outweigh the resources. There are hundreds of
wonderful, great needs out there, but we can’t support everything. We realized that it’s important to be prayerful and thoughtful in what we do.
Becky Rohde (BR): As we were maturing in our own faith, we’ve always felt that everything we have is not our own. Everything we have is a gift from God: our children, our home, our church, whatever it is. I feel like we’ve always tried — to the best of our ability — to be stewards for the Lord, because we knew that it was his and not ours.
Leigh Swanson (LS): In your journey, was there ever something you read or maybe a role-model who mentored or inspired you in your philosophy of giving?
BR: When we lived in Knoxville, I can think of specific families who were about four or five years ahead of us. I would see them freely give, never wanting any recognition. They had the right hearts about it—they lived it. I pray that Craig and I would live it. I pray that we wouldn’t be the type of people who would just write a check. I want to be the type of person who really supports RTS, who is excited when we hear that there are RTS graduates coming to our area, going into RUF, or who want to do an internship at AGI. I think for me it mostly comes from mentors and being in those stages in life where I saw it lived out, not just taught.
LS: What you’ve aspired to do, you’re doing! You haven’t just been donors, but partners and friends.
MB: Craig, AGI has always had a lot of philanthropic thinking behind it. Can you share about that philosophy?
CR: Early in his career, the founder of our company, Dave Ramsey (not the Dave Ramsey!), dedicated the business to the Lord. One of our key practices in running the Lord’s business is that we tithe our earnings. Each year, as we look at our pre-tax earnings, we give ten percent or more to faith-based and/or mercy-and-justice ministries. On top of that, we also give to local efforts within the community.
MB: You also have a chaplain at AGI. What makes that position unique?
CR: What’s unique is we have a full-time chaplain and a formal ministry. We take seriously the opportunity we have to love our neighbors, and we have about 800 employees in our business along with their families. It’s been an extremely powerful ministry for the employees of AGI, and we feel strongly that this is what God wants us to do. Part of the vision that Bryan, our chaplain (and my son-in-law), and I talk about is sharing with others what we’ve learned. Our hope is that one day other Christian businesses who have the resources would also formalize workplace ministries. We’re trying to figure out if there is a role for AGI for promoting faith-and-work ministries outside of the 800 employees we have.
MB: How would you convince someone that RTS is a worthy organization to be involved with?
CR: I’d focus on the future evangelists and pastors that are going to lead and shepherd God’s kingdom. I think the world is only going to become more difficult in terms of reaching those who are not Christians and leading those who are Christians. It is critical that those future leaders — pastors, chaplains, counselors, and even laypeople — are grounded in the Word of God and receive strong instruction. I think that’s God laying the foundation because he knows what’s ahead. RTS is graduating people who are part of that foundation.
BR: Years ago, I did a Bible study based on Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God, and what stuck with me is that God is always at work, and he wants us to come alongside him and join him in that work. I know at times I have been disobedient to God and walked away from opportunities that he has provided for me. I think to myself, “Lord, I just want to join you, because I don’t want to miss this blessing!” And that’s how we feel about RTS. We just want to join you because we don’t want to miss all this great kingdom building!