Vacation Bible School is always an incredible week in the life of a church for both children and adults. Last year we saw God save one of the adults who had been helping. At the time he was actively investigating the gospel and wanted to be around Christians. So we set him up with a group to help the teachers and assistants who were leading the children in VBS and before the week had ended Chris Cain had given his life to Jesus Christ. It was incredible to see how God spoke through the lessons intended for children and brought Chris to the end of himself. It was a marvelous week!
This last week has been great too and it all began during our Sunday kick-off services on July 10th! We had the church decorated like New York City for our theme The Big Apple Adventure so that children and parents would be excited and energized about participating in VBS. Our stage area had buildings made of cardboard stretched from floor to ceiling. I dressed like a NYC drug enforcement officer and our worship leader dressed like a sheriff’s deputy. The pulpit was moved out and in its place we created a miniature Central Park, made up of several trees and flowers alongside a portable hotdog stand like those found on the streets of New York.
Needless to say, there were plenty of things that were different about our Sunday services and lots of things that could have distracted those who were there. The morning service went great and all the children seemed to be really excited about the coming week. For Sunday night we were back in our series in Acts (Action Figures) and we were looking at the story of the conversion of Paul, showing the amazing power of God to save sinners. I closed that sermon by calling people to pray for God to save individuals during VBS. I even reminded everyone about how God had saved Chris (who was sitting in the back of the church smiling as he helped run the sound and powerpoint). I reminded everyone that we serve a God who is in the business of saving people and changing lives and because of that we needed to be praying for God to do that this week. I closed with the story of Charles Haddon Spurgeon who once had someone ask him why he thought his preaching was so successful. He answered the question by saying, “every time I preach there are over five hundred people in the boiler room below our sanctuary – praying for God to save people.” The secret to powerful preaching is the power of God working through the lives and prayers of his people.
With that said, God’s power was put on display for all of us to see. What happened was one of the most incredible things God has allowed me to witness – the undeniable work of God’s grace in the life of my friend Glenn Kelly. Normally during our Sunday evening service we don’t have a formal time of invitation and response. We do in the morning service, but in the evenings we usually let people know that if they would like to talk to a pastor then we will be available following the service. That’s what I was planning but God had something else in mind. I was about to pray and dismiss our service when God gloriously interrupted.
Let me give you a little background on Glenn before I finish the story. Glenn is a big, tough guy who along with his family has been coming to our church for about a year, usually being present for every service. He had been investigating the gospel for all of this last year, often spending time in my office asking questions. In one of those meetings he was telling me that he was talking to his wife about all the things that he does that God wouldn’t approve of, and that he knew if he became a believer those things would have to change. He was counting the cost to be one of Jesus’ disciples. He understood that Jesus wants everything. Throughout the last year Glenn and his family kept coming, and those of us who are his friends kept praying for him. In many ways it seemed like a long year and I must honestly say that I was confused about what God was doing in Glenn’s life.
Then came Sunday night. I asked the church to pray as we dismissed and as I did Glenn stood up with a hand raised and quickly sat back down, lowering his hand. Before Glenn had settled back in the pew I asked, “what do you need, man?” Before my words had time to reach his ears, he was out in the center aisle and walking toward me.
Now remember, Glenn is a tough guy. He can be a little intimidating, and here he was marching down the aisle toward me with a serious look on his face. I’m ashamed to say it, but my first thought was, “I hope he’s not mad at me!” That thought quickly disappeared as he began to cry, tears rolling down his cheeks and with each step he was crying harder and harder. About half way down the aisle he said, loud enough for everyone in the church to hear him, “I’m sorry but this can’t wait any longer.” I was standing there waiting for what seemed like forever, but when he got to me he bent over and hugged me, weeping like a baby. He looked into my eyes, and I asked, “Glenn what is it that can’t wait?” He replied, “I’m ready to give my life to Christ! I’m sorry for interrupting but I can’t put it off any longer.” The congregation heard every word through my microphone and they burst into applause and tears.
This is the powerful, amazing, matchless grace of our great God and Redeemer. No obstacle is greater than the great barrier-removing power of the Spirit of God! The apostle Paul was marching toward the city of Damascus seeking the lives of Christians when he was brought to his knees before a holy God. Glenn was sitting in the back of a sanctuary decorated like New York and listening to a preacher dressed like a cop, who was challenging Christians to pray for God to save people and expecting Him to do it, and all the while we were still surprised when Glenn walked the aisle! It’s so awesome to know that the success of the gospel doesn’t rest in us. It is not in my power or anyone else’s power to save, but only in the powerful message of Jesus Christ. If you have never encountered that grace, never been moved by that power, or believed that amazing message, then I hope that you will come running. At any time and at any place, even when we least expect it, you have an open invitation.