They have the motorcycle, the music, the drama – and the Gospel
By Allen Palmeri
September 23, 2003
|Brad Bennett kicked off the 2003 Real Ministry/Missouri Baptist Convention evangelism tour Sept. 17, in West Plains, speaking to 1,800 people at the West Plains Civic Center. The tour’s next stop in Springfield.|
Youth evangelistic meeting sees 209 receive Jesus as their Lord
WEST PLAINS – A concentrated stream of freestyle motocross, drama, rock music, multi-media video presentations and preaching over a three-day period resulted in 209 first-time decisions for Christ at the West Plains Civic Center Sept. 17.
Evangelist Brad Bennett spoke to a crowd of 1,800 in the first of a series of five planned meetings that are being co-sponsored by the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and Bennett’s organization, Springfield-based Real Ministry.
"This is something that’s going to carry on," said Adam Madden, youth minister, First Baptist Church, West Plains "We’re thrilled to death and excited about doing some things in the future."
The key to the event’s success, Bennett said, was local youth pastors taking ownership. When Madden took charge, the other youth pastors followed his lead, Bennett said. The night of motorcycle jumping, music and drama was preceded by three days of visits to area schools by Bennett that consisted of eight assemblies where he addressed thousands of youth.
Though prohibited from speaking directly about Christ to the students, he advocated a life of purity and challenged the students to make a positive impact on the world. Flyers were distributed among the students, inviting them to the motorcycle/music event where the Gospel was presented. Future events are scheduled for Springfield (Oct. 5-8), Moberly (Oct. 12-15), St. Joseph (Oct. 24-29) and Poplar Bluff (Nov. 2-5).
"My initial contact is with someone like Adam, usually a Southern Baptist youth pastor," said Bennett, a member of Second Baptist Church, Springfield. "Then Adam gets these guys together and says ‘Brad Bennett is going to come in and cast the vision for you of what a Real Encounter Week looks like.’
"If they (the youth pastors) do their job right, we will see a great harvest. If they don’t have a heavy emphasis on prayer, they won’t see the numbers."
Next year the Real Ministry-MBC partnership will expand from five cities to seven, Bennett said. Either Bennett at (866) 823-7325 or Bob Caldwell, state director of evangelism for the MBC, at (573) 635-7931, ext. 650, is available to explain how a church, association or community can participate.
Bennett represents the new MBC under Executive Director David Clippard. Both Bennett and Clippard are evangelizing with a purpose that is breaking new ground. In a state where Southern Baptists find themselves in a 20-year decline, this is the right kind of medicine, Clippard said.
Bennett produces numbers. In the little town of Ava on Sept. 10, the program resulted in 230 people making decisions. Counselors determined that 53 students and two adults were converted. If the Holy Spirit moves as He did in Ava and West Plains, this is what folks in Springfield, Moberly, St. Joseph and Poplar Bluff ought to expect.
"How do we define success?" Bennett wondered. "Is it five people coming to know Christ or is it 505?"
For Ryan Williams, a 17-year-old who helps lead the First Baptist Church, West Plains youth group, the answer to Bennett’s rhetorical question is two.
Ryan took on Bennett’s Sept. 14 challenge to fast from all forms of media (CDs, radio, Internet, TV, etc.) and pray for five lost friends. Ryan chose to pray for five of his fellow students at West Plains High School who do not attend church—boys named Cody, Randy, Mario, Brandon and Scott. He prayed most of all that they would attend the Wednesday night event at the civic center where he knew the Gospel would be shared.
Randy and Mario came to the arena. As Bennett worked the new converts through a two-step process of them first raising a hand and then walking up front to proclaim their faith, Randy and Mario each raised a hand. Ryan, who was sitting right next to them, was thrilled.
Bennett stopped the process and explained how important it would be for them to get up out of their seats. Would Randy and Mario choose to follow through with the second step and go be with Bennett near the stage?
"I was just praying, ‘Please God, get them to stand up,’" Ryan said, describing what it felt like to be sitting next to his two friends with eternity hanging in the balance. "I was just praying that over and over, and they stood up! I was so excited. Tears got in my eyes."
Bennett set up his Gospel presentation by jumping his Husqvarna CR 250 motorcycle up a ramp, over the stage and on to a dirt mound. In West Plains he was joined by fellow motocross rider Tim Wilson for a series of crowd-pleasing jumps — some 25 feet into the air over a 55-foot span.
Paul May, director of Clear Vision Drama Co., works with Production Manager Ryan Davis to give the audience multimedia entertainment on big screens, loud rock music by New Anthem and compelling drama that is dripping with excellence. One such skit Sept. 17 posed the question, "What’s being pounded into the soul of our young people?" Another portrayed a cast member using a Bible to slice a demon figure in two.
"We have a little bit of everything," May explained. "We have the music, we have the video, we have the lighting, we have the comedy, we have the serious. It’s just a great balance of everything."
Gary Beets, state director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, has taken a special interest in the preaching of Bennett, whom he goes to church with at Second Springfield. He was thrilled by what he saw at West Plains.
"An evangelist has to have a clear presentation of the Gospel with no manipulation, and Brad does an excellent job of exposing works for what works are and exposing grace for what grace is," Beets said.
Bennett’s work as an evangelist is to bring everyone to the same point he reached on Oct. 16, 1986, when he was transformed. He respects the message of Psalm 3:8, which reminds us that salvation belongs to the Lord, and he prays that Real Encounter’s focus would be on God, not on the various performers. Above all else, he does the work of an evangelist.
"Father, we do not take the credit for anything tonight," Bennett prayed from the stage of the civic center after the 209 decisions had been made. He went on to thank God for His love, grace and forgiveness.
Those who get caught up in the clamor of this type of evangelism miss the point. Think about the prevailing spirit, Bennett said.
"We can’t change lives," he said. "It’s the power of the Holy Spirit that changes lives. My prayer is to always make sure that we pray for God’s power, for God to anoint everything that He has led us to do."
Indeed, the prayer of Davis, the production manager who closed a group of 14 Real Encounter participants in prayer just minutes before the event began, is well on its way to being answered.
"We pray that after this night, West Plains would completely change," Davis said.