Bob Coy couldn’t believe the life he was living–and all because he had an ear for good music.
Growing up in a lower-middle class family in 1960s Detroit, Bob didn’t want a career in the “Big Three” auto industry. His parents worked hard to provide, but they barely earned enough to keep six children clothed, fed and in school. Bob wanted more, so when he finished high school in 1973, he took three jobs.
At his department store job, an uncanny ability surfaced: Bob could predict which popular music bands would sell–and he knew how to promote them in the store.
Record labels began to pick up on his talent and after stints with several of them, the 21-year-old landed a job with Capitol Records in Detroit. It was his dream job. Capitol was paying him to have the time of his life.
“If your daily duties meant picking up a rock-n-roll star from the airport, taking them to the event for the weekend, having a backstage party and deciding who got a chance to hang out with that rock star, it was really a lot of very worldly fun,” he says.
Bob was so good at his job that his manager joked that they wanted to clone him. He was enjoying his new experiences, and before he even had time to settle into the job, he was invited to “spoon cocaine.” His co-workers assured him that it wasn’t addictive, so he thought he could manage.
But after a couple of years, Bob found himself fighting hangovers, migraines and stomachaches. He started slipping up at work. His boss warned him to turn himself around, and his friends started telling him that he was embarrassing himself. After several traffic tickets, including driving under the influence, he lost his driver’s license.
Still, Bob thought he was in control–until he offered drugs to a member of a band whose manager knew the damage drugs could cause. Furious, the band manager reported the incident to Capitol.
Suddenly Bob was without a job or a driver’s license. His life in Detroit grew quiet. Most of his friends disappeared. When a former roommate promised to get him a job in Las Vegas, he took the opportunity to get a fresh start, and to hopefully make his way into the city’s booming entertainment business.
After working in property management for a while, he took an entry-level job at the change counter of a casino and started working his way up. Finally, he convinced a local casino to take him on as entertainment director. At first the casino promoted an urban cowboy theme, complete with a mechanical bull. But the fad passed, and the owner wanted an “all-girl review.” Coy, a single 20-something guy, didn’t object. Life was going to be fun again.
No one in Coy’s family knew the kind of business he was running, and he wasn’t about to announce it. But when his youngest brother, Jim, accepted his offer to move to Las Vegas, Bob knew it was just a matter of time before his brother found out about his job.
Growing up, the two boys were close, but unlike Bob, who wanted to get along with everyone, Jim took offense easily and would just as soon start a fight as ignore an insult. But then the little brother “got religion” and married a Christian woman. Now he was living in California, struggling to make ends meet in construction. Bob could help Jim find work in Las Vegas, but he was afraid Jim would judge his lifestyle.
By now, even Bob could see that the life he led wasn’t much fun.
“Several times I had specifically prayed, ‘God, I need some help,’” he says. “I was feeling the power of addictive behavior taking more and more control. I felt stuck and drunk and cocaine-ridden, and yet I believed there was more to life.”
When Jim moved his wife, Teresa, and their children to Las Vegas, he did discover the kind of life his older brother was living. But the reaction wasn’t what Bob expected.
“I didn’t see judgment, but sympathy,” Bob says. “I saw Jim and Teresa’s compassion and love, not condemnation. I wasn’t being judged by people who knew better. I was being loved by people who understood my darkness. That’s when I knew, ‘My brother’s got something. This is a radically different man.’”
Christmas Eve 1980 came, and it was Bob’s job as the casino’s entertainment director to ensure that everyone had a good time. He had been invited to spend Christmas Eve with Jim and his family and to open presents with them in the morning, but the casino won out. He partied until early morning, then crashed at his apartment. When he woke up, it was already noon, Christmas Day.
Despite a hangover and a throbbing nose from snorting cocaine, he drove to Jim’s house and knocked on the door. Teresa answered.
A tear started to roll down her face. She said, “Bobby, I’m so glad you’re here, but I just know God has something more for you.”
Walking through the door, Bob found their house “warm with the smells of the holiday–everything that I wanted deep down inside, but that seemed so far away.” When evening fell, he agreed to spend the night. Jim tossed him a blanket, a pillow and … a Bible.
“He said it was good reading material. I threw it right back at him and said, ‘Aw, Jim, shut up. I don’t want that.’”
The Bible hit the floor, Bob’s head landed on the pillow, and Jim and Teresa went to bed.
But Bob couldn’t sleep. He kept thinking about the many times Christians had told him that God had a better plan for him. Although he’d been to church with Jim a few times, the messages hadn’t spoken to him. But on this night, a flood of emotions roared through his mind. He picked the Bible up and began to read the Gospel of John, hoping for some rest in the middle of the night. When he got to John 3:16, he began to cry.
“It was as if God’s Spirit was in that room putting the press on my heart,” he says. “I realized that God loved me, that Jesus died for me, and if I believed, I could have this eternal life.”
About that time, Jim and Teresa walked into the living room.
Jim spoke first. “Bobby, God just woke me up and told me He wants me to pray for you. Do you want to pray to receive Jesus?”
Bob looked up at Jim.
“Yes,” he said.
“You know what this means?” Teresa asked. “A total turn- around, a total change.”
“I want to be totally changed,” Bob answered. “I’m ready for Jesus. I want to be different. I don’t want to be the guy I’ve been.”
Jim prayed with Bob to receive Christ, and for the first time in years, Bob slept soundly and woke up the next day feeling refreshed and new. As he drove back to the casino, everything seemed different.
“I knew that something had happened,” he says, “that it wasn’t just me pulling myself up from my bootstraps. … I had so much junk that when God came in, it wasn’t just reformation. It was transformation. It’s why Jesus called it being ‘born again.’”
Bob’s desire for drugs was gone, instantly.
“Sometimes,” he says, “certain struggles are allowed to linger longer because God knows that spiritual struggle produces much-needed spiritual muscle and change. But in other cases, He knows there are struggles that we can’t handle, and in His grace He removes them from our lives.”
People at the casino noticed the difference in Bob. He wasn’t cussing, drinking or using drugs. He pulled one of the dancers aside. “You wouldn’t believe what happened last night,” he told her. “I actually gave my life to Jesus.”
Word of the new Bob Coy reached the casino manager, and he called Bob into his office to ask him how he thought things would work.
“I don’t know that things will work,” Bob replied. “I think it’s time for me to find another job because I don’t feel comfortable here.”
Bob began volunteering at Calvary Chapel Las Vegas, jumping in wherever there was a need.
“I had so many friends who were not finding an easy path to the grace of God. I thought, ‘Man, if I have a love for God and a burden for people just like me, would God use me to do something?’”
In 1985, Bob married Diane Sander, whom he met at Calvary Chapel Las Vegas, and the newlyweds moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to plant Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. With a focus on children and youth, the church has grown to several thousand, and it still reaches out to many who, like Bob, need to hear that God has something better for their lives.
“I hope to continue doing this in a more and more effective way,” Bob says. “Now I know why I am here. I know who I am in Jesus.”