Last week Sunday (and Saturday) I was at the lakefront. I was not alone. Thousands of others were there as well, for a special event, called “Rock the Lakes”, sponsored by the Billy Graham organization.
When I was a child, our entire family would watch the Billy Graham crusades on TV. The crusades would preempt regularly scheduled shows. I watched in awe and wonder as hundreds of people would walk down the aisles after Billy Graham spoke.
About a year ago, we began hearing about the event coming to our city.
I wasn’t sure about it all, to be honest. Did I think it was a good idea, or not? On occasion, through the years, I wasn’t sure about how to process a few events where I felt as if it were a numbers game, during an invitation to walk up the aisle. Was anyone following up or discipling these new believers? And then, a few years ago, quite awhile back, I was influenced by one pastor who said a negative comment about evangelists, saying that they come into town and then quickly leave and there is no follow-up. I must admit, that comment did stick with me.
While I still don’t know all of the answers or have it all figured out, this I do know: that God’s word spoken is powerful and changes lives, no matter the venue. And if lives are changed, it’s worth it. So I’m at peace with it, and at this point in time, my brain is too busy thinking about other things and life is too short to argue whether or not this is or isn’t the best or most effective thing to do.
At any rate, something big was coming to my city… and was I going to be part of it?
Our pastor encouraged us to be involved, as many volunteers would be needed. Turns out, our church was one of the locations for the training sessions.
A big need was for counselors: training people on how to talk with those who would walk down the aisles. Free training sessions were provided over the past year for those who wanted to be counselors in this capacity.
We attended the training sessions. Even if a person was not planning to be a counselor, the training and materials were helpful. And I learned that follow-up is a major priority; they had a plan for staying in touch with those who step forward. This organization has been doing this for so long (and many times), they’ve got the format and procedures all worked out. It was amazing to me how well organized they were.
My daughter and two of her friends (and their families) also attended the training. Our 3 teen girls all became counselors. They attended each training session and completed their homework. When the big day weekend came, they were ready. Out of the six of us adults who trained, four were counselors (the other two of us, myself and another mom, did not counsel, although we were trained to do so. I have two younger kids who were not quite old enough to participate in this manner and I needed to sit with them during the event, which is why I decided not to officially volunteer as a counselor).
On the weekend of the event, the Saturday morning skies promised rain… and it did shower briefly. But the clouds gave way to a beautiful day and beautiful weekend. The Saturday morning session was a kids’ session. After a few hours’ break in the afternoon, we returned Saturday evening for the teen/young adult session. The next day, Sunday night, was family night, with Michael W. Smith, the Charlie Daniels Band, and a few others. Franklin Graham spoke at each session. And many people walked down the aisles. My daughter had the opportunity to counsel another teenager who walked down to make a decision, and she followed up with an e-mail the very next day. The entire event was a new experience.
The highlight for me, though, was Sunday night and worshiping with thousands of others as sunset approached, with Michael W. Smith singing songs I was familiar with. Incredible. I wanted it the music to continue on late into the night, until the sky was covered with stars, with the crowd still singing and the band still playing. I’m not sure I’d ever sung worship songs outdoors with thousands of others, hands raised in the air… like I did that night. I tasted a glimpse of heaven. Can you imagine it? It was over too soon.
My daughter said to me today that she wished “Rock the Lakes” was every weekend. It’s only been one week, the memory is still fresh and warm and we both miss different parts of it. It made me smile. I wouldn’t mind a weekly Sunday night worship time under stars, either. Maybe I just need to suggest this idea to our pastor and see what he thinks of an outdoor worship night for next summer….
Sharing in three lovely places:
Laura at The Wellspring:
Jen, at Finding Heaven: