How a friend of mine, John the Frog, responds to the gospel. About three months ago, God wakes John the Frog from his sleep telling him that He wants him back. This guy is a young believer who walked away from obeying God years ago. He has been living in Las Vegas for a long time and works as a security guard. A month after God woke him from his sleep, John the Frog was training a new employee, Scott. Scott knew about Grace City coming to Las Vegas in January 2012 and already committed to helping the church plant. He asked John the Frog to come to the church service once our team finally moved to Las Vegas. The first Sunday he went to church, God spoke to his heart in His small, still voice. When asked what God said to him, John the Frog simply replied, “God told me that He has a large banquet for me and I’m only eating Bologna.” Since then, he has his hands in the large banquet eating as much as he can. John the Frog and I usually spend some time with each other every week. Recently, he took me to his favorite pizza place called Verrezano, one of the best-kept secrets in Las Vegas. When we made our way back through the Strip, John the Frog said something profound (like he always does). After collecting his thoughts, he said with wide eyes, “I finally realized that God actually speaks to me while reading the Bible. Its not just words on a page, but God literally is speaking to me every time I read. I never saw that before. It’s like I can hear Him.” Although we talk spiritual things a lot, our talks always end in discussing superheroes. However, John the Frog’s excitement about realizing the small (yet usually large) truths are worth arguing over whether Batman should have died or not. When I was young, I never wrote down how excited I was when I learned God actually speaks to me through the Bible. Its cool to reminisce and finally jot down some thoughts.
Cathy and I fully moved into our house in Las Vegas five weeks ago. Our first night there, we met our next door neighbor Randy. Randy had moved in a few weeks earlier to get the house ready for his family. We found out he would be going back to San Francisco in one week to pick-up his wife Mickael, daughter Kyla. Kyla had one more week of school in California and then their family would move all of their belongings to Las Vegas. In the mean time, Cathy invited him to dinner for later in the week.
Over dinner, he asked why we had moved to Las Vegas. We told him we had come to start a church and, in fact, our little group had met in our house that Sunday. He told us that he had attended church as a child but had stopped when he became an adult.
The next week when Randy arrived back with Mickael and a truckload of furniture, they were disappointed because none of the people they knew in Las Vegas showed up to help them unload. But we met them with a crew of our guys who had moved with us and they unloaded the truck in less than an hour.
Randy and Mickael were blown away. Then Randy asked, “What time does ‘church’ in your house start on Sunday? We’ll be there.”
To be honest, I did not think they would show up.
I was wrong.
They came and brought donuts. They loved it.
One night a week over the next couple of weeks, we stopped over at their house with ice cream or brownies and got to know them better.
A week ago, after attending house church for four weeks, Randy trusted Jesus as his Savior and was born again! He said he had heard about Jesus as a kid attending church, but it never made sense before. No one had ever shown him how to be born again.
This week, after attending house church for five weeks, Mickael trusted Jesus as her Savior and was born again. She said she had heard about Jesus when she attended youth group as a teen, but no one had ever told her how to be saved. They both wept like children with joy. So did we.
Why did I quit a great job, sell a beautiful house with a stunning view, and move 2,300 miles across the country away from our friends and family? Because of Randy and Mickael.
As a professor who taught 500 students every semester about evangelism, I know one statistic that has held firm over the decades: more lost people come to Christ as a result of family and friends than any other means. Christians spend millions of dollars each year on television and radio outreach, crusades, campaigns, and special events. But just as it was in the first century, it is true in the twenty-first century – more people come to Jesus because of friends and family members than any other method. What that means is this: You are God’s best method of evangelism!
To realize what God is doing in Las Vegas, you must first grasp our importance of prayer. If you don’t understand this, then whatever else you read about Grace City will make no sense. The prayer culture we have developed as part of our church is like none that I have ever witnessed. It is always something I have heard of, especially in Acts, but I have never experienced such devoted, quantitative prayer in my life. What I am about to explain is not simply the expectation we have on ourselves, but what really happens. We are a 20 person team mostly made up of 20 and low 30 year olds.
Every morning from 8am to 12:30pm is dedicated with prayer in some fashion for there numerous things we pray for. Starting at 8:00am, we meet at Schofield Middle School, which is the place that God led us to meet as a church. The school has a great location (corner of Spencer St. and Wigwam St.), a 130 seat auditorium, a large cafeteria when we grow out of the auditorium, a storage place for our equipment, and a very nice custodian named Roxy who helps us out with opening doors. Our objective in the morning is to walk around it asking God:
– to invade with His manifested presence
– effective people of peace will come to the school
– protect the school from the evil one with a legion of angels
– the lost sheep will be attracted to the school like they were attracted to Jesus
– the school will hub/beacon for His kingdom where people will be freed from bondages of sin
– anything else that the Spirits asks of us to pray
After spending 30 minutes at the school, we travel to a nearby park where we will host a block party the following Saturday for the surrounding neighborhoods. In the park, our method is same as with the school… we pray as we walk asking God to attract the lost sheep to the block party. We claim the park grounds for God’s authority and power for Him to act in a mighty way. After spending about 20 minutes at the park, we pair up two by two in order to travel the nearby streets prayer walking. Each pair walks by 70 houses asking God to flood the streets with His presence like living water. We ask God to soften the hearts of those living on the streets that they would gladly attend a block party at a nearby park. Later on in the evening, we walk door-to-door in those same streets inviting people to the free block party.
After prayer walking in the morning, we meet together at 10am in a Southern Baptist building to spend time in worship-based prayer. Harry, the leader for Southern Nevada Baptist Association, has allowed us to meet in a big room to pray and worship together. Harry has also given us office space for only $500 a month with free office furniture. This was just one of the prayers answered by God that he would give us office space and place to worship. Our worship-based prayer starts with thanksgiving, then about 7-10 songs that are acoustic and Spirit-led, and then we pray for the city and our church. Since we pour ourselves out so much during the week, these worship-based prayer times are essential to be constantly filled up by God. God always shows up at these times to refuel us, give us direction, and give us a vision for the church.
After explaining our prayer culture, you now know that God has produced some awesome results. Our church is growing but only God can build His church!