Five years ago in September of 2011, Abi and I were asked to come speak at Grace Baptist Church to introduce them to Baptist College of Ministry. We came and met Pastor Tim Stratton for the first time. Since then, we’ve gotten to know the family and Charlie, his son, who is a student at BCM. This last February, Pastor Stratton asked our team to venture into Minnesota to do the Cola Clash, and we gladly agreed.
When we arrived, we realized things were going to be different this week. For one thing, it was a small town of about 3,000; for another, it was the Fourth of July! Of course, we had planned the week hoping to capitalize on holiday gatherings and events for recruiting. However, things didn’t quite work as we had anticipated in that way. The local events didn’t coordinate with our recruiting days as we had hoped and it was a challenge to find teens. Yet the Lord brought us to them and we were able to recruit over 200 to come.
On Wednesday, we definitely felt the battle. Sickness strangely overcame several of our team members, nerves were on end all around, and there was just a sense of oppression before the first rally. We stood our ground and resisted the enemy, expecting victory!
A very good number of young people attended that first night and the spirit was great throughout the entire competition and the preaching, but when the moment of the invitation came, we experienced instant lockdown. Nobody went back in the invitation at all! I was honestly shocked, because almost 2/3rd of the room raised their hands expressing their need, but no one went back. Finally, after several minutes, a small number responded and several more were reached afterwards in conversation. All in all, five trusted Christ that night.
I definitely felt a great sense of dissatisfaction heading into the second night. We prayed fervently as a team for God to break through and crank up the conviction. The second night, several more responded and were saved.
One young man, Dillon, had talked to Joseph at Walmart. He was actually a worker there and overheard him telling someone else about the Cola Clash. When Joseph noticed that he overheard, he told him, “I’ll bet you wish you were a teen!” He replied, “Actually, that sounds really cool!” Joseph signed him up and he came on the second night. At the invitation, there was a significant conflict in his heart. Later he recollected that though God was clearly working in his heart, “there was something tugging me away from going back.” Thankfully, after some encouragement from a team member, he went back to the counseling room and trusted Christ! He was excited about his newfound relationship with God!
Another young man came back in that same invitation with an impatient resolve to trust Christ. The counselor began to review with him before he led him in the decision, but, as the counselor put it later, “He wanted me to get out of his was so he could trust Christ!” I talked to him later, and his confidence was rock-solid. On his way out the door, he leaned back in and said to me, “See you in heaven!”
Another young man with some mild learning disabilities came back on the second night. When I talked to him, he insisted that he was not a sinner, that he had never lied, had never stolen, had never lusted, had never dishonored his parents or taken God’s name in vain. I took him to 1 John 1:10, which says, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him (God) a liar.” I told him, “Either God is a liar or you are. Which is it?” He did not know how to respond. I handed him over to an experience church member, who patiently tried to explain to him the gospel. But his still left lost and self-righteous.
On the final night, he raised his hand in the invitation expressing his need, but did not come back in the invitation. Out in the parking lot, one of our team members talked with him about Christ. This team member had experience working in a Special Needs ministry and was able to help him clearly understand his sinful condition, Christ’s payment, and the decision of faith alone in Christ alone. The young man with a smile told God that Jesus was the only one who could save him, so he would trust in Christ alone!
All in all, we had 58 teens attend the Cola Clash, with a high night of 45, and 15 trusted Christ! The church folks and Pastor Stratton were very encouraged by the attendance and what God did in hearts! Pray that the church will mobilize and disciple these new baby believers to reach their generation!
Though there were many victories, there are a few unresolved situations that I would ask for you to pray about.
A group of young men who attended on the first night were under deep conviction but left lost. Later, they apparently got upset about what was preached and decided not to return. Pray that the Lord would work in their hearts.
Also, there was a young lady who admitted that God was working strongly in her heart on the final night, but would not discuss it with anyone. Please pray that she will trust Christ soon, before it is too late!