The area around his church is home to hundreds of people living in poverty, including many teen moms and high school dropouts. That makes it the perfect place to introduce something radically transforming—the cross of Christ—the very thing God used to liberate His people from bondage and give them hope for a new life.
Wavey Williams is pastor of Bethlehem Church West Campus in Gastonia, N.C.
“Easter’s all about the cross. It’s all about redemption,” he said.
That’s why he chose to combine last weekend’s community Easter event with a showing of “The Cross,” a short film featuring Billy Graham and two young music artists about the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.
“The Cross” is part of BGEA’s My Hope outreach, a nationwide effort to tell people about Christ through friendship evangelism.
Williams’ church is intentional about building those friendships—and provides transportation to do so. Saturday, a Bethlehem Church bus picked up about 40 people in nearby neighborhoods and brought them to Williams’ church for the Easter event. Altogether, about 130 people gathered there, despite pouring rain. The kids had an Easter activity while the parents watched “The Cross.”
In the film, rapper Lecrae and singer Lacey Sturm give raw, “powerful” testimonies, Williams said, and people can easily relate to them.
At the end of the film, two people at the event came forward—one young woman to commit her life to Christ and one middle-aged man to rededicate his life to Him.
Bethlehem Church West Campus is only a year old, but Williams has already seen God work in big ways. Several months ago, he showed “The Cross” on Halloween, during an event called Hope for Halloween. About 200 people attended, and eight people decided afterwards to either start a new life with Christ or renew their commitment to Him.
One woman who claimed Christ as her Savior that night has since started attending Williams’ church and is making positive changes in her life, he said. Church members are walking with her in her new faith.
And that’s exactly what Williams wants to see. The motto for his church is “where change happens,” and he’s witnessing that change as people in his community embrace Christ and find focus in their lives. Having free BGEA resources helps.
“I feel like the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has made it easy for the church to evangelize,” he said, with films like “The Cross” and a similar one called “Defining Moments” to get a simple, effective Gospel message across to broken people.
His church is also using the My Hope Matthew manuals, booklets about how to grow in your faith and share that faith with others, to help new believers stay on track.
This summer, the church plans to show the My Hope films in backyards, parking lots and in neighborhood streets to share with even more people the hope that they have in knowing Christ.
Other My Hope events
Sidman, Pa.: In the weeks leading up to Easter, Evan Sherle, a quiet 17-year-old football player, coordinated his own My Hope event in Sidman, Pa.
Sherle is a student at Forest Hills High School. A week after a close friend committed suicide, Sherle’s pastor, Tom Moore of Mount Olive United Methodist Church, showed the My Hope video “Defining Moments.”
In that film, singer Lacey Sturm talks about her suicidal thoughts as a teen.
“Something told me that I needed to help people who have so much trouble in their life that they need someone, that person that would help them through those tough times,” Sherle wrote.
He decided to show “Defining Moments” to his classmates, and on the night of March 26, in the school auditorium, about 120 students watched the film, followed by another Christian film. About 80 came forward at the end to ask Christ to guide their lives or reaffirm their commitment to Him.
Pastor Moore supported Sherle throughout the event, which was, at times, a challenge. “There is a harvest if we remain faithful,” Moore wrote. “There is a popular Christian song that says, ‘It’s time for us to do something.’ Evan has.”
Parker, Colo.: Across the country, Lori Pace, a teacher at Chaparral High School in Parker, Colo., helped organize a showing of “The Cross” at the school on Friday, April 11. The event was open to the community.
After watching “The Cross,” 20 people ages 4 to 40 accepted Christ, and later, after the Christian rock band “Nine Lashes” offered another chance to make that commitment, 15 teens responded.
“The Holy Spirit was moving Friday night, and Christ won in our gymnasium the hearts of many,” Pace said.
Parker is in Douglas County, Colo., a wealthy, fast-growing area with lots of churches but many non-churchgoers. Pace said the community “hungers for connection to our Father.”
Many in the community came together to make the April 11 event happen. To help promote it, LifeWay Christian bookstore donated hundreds of Bibles, and a few radio stations helped collect prom dresses to be donated to girls in need.
You can host a My Hope event in your community, too. Get started here.