I remember back in the 80's seeing a shift in our world and it seemed like we as Christians were starting to take little naps in the area of the Great Commission. I would have some wonderful times with God during those days where I believe He gave me some insight into the future if we didn't keep reaching the lost with the gospel. We were living in Northern California at that time and I thought, "Lord if you put me in a place where I can do something to renew our attitude about this whole thing I will pour all my energy into fighting the "apathy" we were facing. A few years later I got contacted by Nettleton Baptist Church to come and be their Worship and Youth Pastor and God put us in the middle of some very talented students who were just waiting for some direction. God burned a desire in me to enable and spark a movement in them to reach their schools for Christ and they did it. I saw so much potential in many of those students and set into motion a time of learning and growing for all of us from God 's Word and God was faithful and called out some of those students to take bold stands for Christ and a few even totally gave their lives for the call of the gospel.
One of those students was Craig Miller. Craig was a major cutup and I loved his humor and felt committed to let him grow that humor into creative ways to live for Christ. Craig is still reaching students and adults as a teacher and a Media director at a school in Jonesboro, Arkansas and his effect on his students will be seen now and in the years to come. I am so proud of Craig and his desire to be "on point" for the gospel. Another student from our youth ministry, Doug Pierce, began leading worship for our youth on Wednesday nights and the rest is history. Doug has gone on to be a very talented worship leader in very large applications, including being the worship leader for a huge church in Orlando, Florida. Doug has taken many mission trips to Germany to reach out with hope to soldiers. Doug formed a band that has been a major blessing to all who hear them play and share the message of Christ. This was only two of the amazing students God called out of that great youth ministry.
The way God used this group of students set the stage for the next place God was calling us to. After serving four years in Arkansas I got a call from the pastor of First Baptist Church, West Plains, Mo. Pastor Gil McKee wanted to know about the possibility of us coming back to my home church in West Plains, Mo. We accepted that call and saw God do incredible things through a group of students who just wanted to serve Him. Once again, a creative, passionate group of students and adults began to come alive in a movement that is unparalleled in youth ministry, or maybe any ministry. I could see that I needed to let this movement go to a new level, and so I did. I formed a youth conference called Student Renewal. Renewal was the key word that was put in my heart and mind when I was in California. I could see this group of students and adults believed in God doing a huge thing and I believed too.
Our first year we opened it up to area churches and we had over 250 show up and we had a few accept Christ at that conference, but I knew God wanted us to do more, and so we did. I organized our adults and students into work groups and they sacrificed much time and effort to get the word out and we did mailouts that reached a large area that was over 200 miles away. Some Godly people with recources (money), stepped up and believed in what we were doing and underwrote the movement and God supplied in a huge way. The second year over 40 churches responded and brought their students to the conference and that year we had well over 800 in attendance. Our speakers were Josh McDowell and Kim Bearden and we moved the conference to the Convention Center in West Plains. Our volunteer staff of adults and students had grown to over 50 people and it took all of us to take care of all the details of this large venture. The next year we had over 85 churches come to the conference and our numbers grew to over 1300 in attendance and Dawson McAllister was our speaker. I was overwhelmed when Dawson gave the invitation in the last session and over 300 came to make a decision for Christ, whether accepting Jesus or recommitting their life to share His gospel. I thought "This is a completion of a vision God gave me years earlier, that was taken to a new level while ministering with those gifted students in Arkansas and taken up by a passionate group of students in Missouri. I am truly humbled to have been able to be a part of such a movement and look for God to do something like that again.
Sometimes people back away from reaching out to people to accept Christ and we begin to think "I wonder if all those decisions were real?" Only God knows if they are and that is His call, so yes, I believe we share the gospel to all who will listen and thus keep the call of Jesus moving forward. In other words, keep sowing seed, keep sowing seed!!!
Matthew 13:24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field.25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. 27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. 29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”
There have been some weeds planted in with the scattering of the good seed and those weeds have grown just like the good seed. Solution: Keep planting good seed and God will work it all out in the end. Scritpure says in Matthew 13:37-39 Jesus is one who plants and in our case we are presenting Jesus, so that is planting good seed. The field is the world and the good seed represents the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the ones who belong to the evil one. The one who planted the weeds is the devil.
Keep planting the good seed and continue to believe in "the movement" of God and the 'Renewal" of the fire in believers so more seed can be planted. You may feel like you are the only one planting but don't give up and this vision that God leaves with us all will become a reality. I have seen it happen once and I believe it can happen again. Even one of the "religious" leaders named Gamaliel had to admit something very important about God moving. Acts 5:38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown.39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”
Remember God is with us as we sow this seed. Romans 8:31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
The Pilgrimage continues.....