As thousands of families across North America gathered around their TVs to watch Billy Graham’s My Hope message, one community near Jacksonville, Fl., decided to do things a little differently.
Guided by a vision from First Baptist Church Jacksonville member Frank Bernatt, a group of believers in the Nocatee planned community held their My Hope event under the stars at a drive-in movie theater.
The small but growing neighborhood pulled together, as some offered up popcorn and drinks while others donated Bibles for Friday’s movie night.
“We’ve done everything in our power,” Bernatt said, as families settled in on lawn chairs and tailgates to watch the video, Defining Moments. “The rest is up to God. This is His night.”
About 50 cars lined up across the grassy field as the video lit up three big screens. While the stories of musician Lacey Sturm, illusionist Jim Munroe and pro football player David Tyree played, kids who had been chasing each other around the field stopped to watch with their parents.
At the end of the video when Billy Graham gave the invitation to accept Christ, a dozen volunteers were standing by, eager to spend time with people who might want to talk or pray.
Organizers began to encourage one another, reminding each other that God’s plans are perfect, but not always visible.
“Success is defined by faithfulness,” said Andrew Morrell, a young volunteer from First Baptist. “We were faithful in proclaiming the Gospel.”
As dozens of headlights lit up the field and cars drove away one by one, many families stuck around, talking underneath a tent and helping organizers clean up. Morrell had the chance to meet one couple that’s looking for a church home. He invited them to check out First Baptist on Sunday.
“There were unique opportunities to build relationships tonight,” Morrell said.
And the movie night kindled more than just new friendships.
“This event has sparked so much interest in our community and in our churches to reach others for Jesus,” Bernatt said.
At the end of the night, Bernatt and the volunteers who helped organize the event may not have left with heart-pounding stories of new salvations, but they did leave with something that may be more important: faith in their God and His perfect timing.
“That’s where our hope lies,” Morrell said. “It’s in His work, not ours.”
For local and national TV listings of My Hope’s “The Cross,” click here.