For James Bridges, the pastor of Cross Point Baptist Church in Gainesville, sharing Christ from the pulpit wasn’t enough. He wanted to get down in the trenches—to pray with people who came forward to accept Jesus or recommit their lives to Him at the March 16-18 Red River Will Graham Celebration.
“I adore my Savior,” said Bridges at the conclusion of Sunday’s service at Gainesville High School. “I want to share Him whenever and wherever I can.”
James and his wife, Patty, both volunteered to serve as counselors at the weekend’s outreach, which James described as “one of the biggest things ever to hit Gainesville.”
The capstone of the exciting weekend? Leading 25-year-old Josie in a prayer to accept Jesus as her Savior.
Patty and Josie initially struck up a friendship via a wellness coaching partnership. Then Patty invited her young friend to visit Cross Point Church and began praying for her to attend the Red River Celebration.
After listening to Will Graham talk about the most important decision a person could make, Josie felt a tug at her heart. And Patty had the privilege of walking alongside Josie at the moment she made her decision.
“I was still a little afraid to go forward,” said Josie. “But when Will asked if we would want all our sins displayed on a video screen for the world to see … well, that kind of pushed me over the edge! I knew I needed the forgiveness of Jesus, that I had so much shame inside of me.”
Josie joined close to 200 other people who made commitments to Jesus over the three-day Celebration. Attendance totaled 5,000.
Considering that the population of this North Texas town is roughly 15,500, the numbers are nothing less than miraculous.
“Most Baptist churches in the U.S. have an average congregation of 60,” said Will Graham. “When you look at the number of people who came forward, they could fill almost three churches.”
But it isn’t about numbers, Graham added. “We thank God for what has happened in Gainesville, for each life that was saved. God heard the cries of His people and we pray this city will never be the same. Now it is time for churches to fill up and follow up.”
Celebration Director Josh Holland agreed: “We’ve had a great weekend, but this isn’t the end. The Red River Will Graham Celebration will have a presence in the community for several more months. Further, the trainings that have taken place, the decisions that were made this weekend, and the unity of the local churches that have worked together in this process will continue to make an impact for years to come.”
Rebecca Means knows her life will never be the same. The busy mother of a 3-year old and 2-year old, Means was reluctant to get involved as a counselor at first. “Although I wanted to help, I didn’t have any spare time.”
After some juggling and sacrifice by her husband, Means carved out the necessary spot in her schedule. “We both knew this is the most important thing a person can do,” she said Sunday. “I had the honor of praying with this sweet 7-year-old girl and her mom who accepted Jesus today. It is the most fulfilling thing I’ve done in my life.”
Pointing to the tearful, embracing family, Means asked, “Is there anything more beautiful than new lives washed by forgiveness?”
The Red River Will Graham Celebration was the first of two consecutive events in the Lone Star state. Next weekend the Trinity Valley Will Graham Celebration will take place in Terrell, Texas. Visit www.WillGrahamCelebrations.org for more information. You can also follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.