I don’t have any children, but I do watch as parents frantically rush their children from one activity to the next. Their calendar is way beyond full, their schedule can be hectic, the expenses can be great, and this is possibly why I don’t have kids. Regardless, I enjoy seeing parents involve their children in activities that enrich their life.
My church is heavily involved in Upward Sports, and we’ve just finished the 2016 football and cheerleading season. Last night, we held the awards ceremony.
Honestly, I’m not sure that the expectation of evangelism through football and cheerleading is held in a high enough regard? It’s a busy season, it takes up a lot of Saturday mornings, and, let’s be honest, Saturday is college football day…right? This is flag football for kids. How important could it be?
Sure, there’s a devotion given, the kids are prayed with, etc…but isn’t it really just about another activity…an opportunity to play a game…or, is it more than that? Well, frankly, it’s much more than that. It was definitively proven last night.
I’ll make this quick. During our awards ceremony last night, we had a pastor speak and minister through the use of chalk art. He has an incredible testimony. Frankly, it’s only by the grace of God that he’s even alive. I won’t go into his personal testimony, but his ability to speak and relay the Gospel is something extraordinary in itself, and, as he said many times last night, “God had a plan.”
We gave an invitation last night. We don’t always do that at our Upward Awards Celebration, but we should. The response was incredible. God took the words of our guest speaker, his talent, and his testimony, and the Holy Spirit did the rest. The altar of our church filled up, as many responded to the content of the message. Children met Jesus last night. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that some adults met Him as well. We experienced a brush with the wonderful grace of God last night.
Most of the people in the room attended this event with the sole expectation of their children receiving a football and being recognized for their participation in the season. The kids did receive a football, but last night, there was more recognition than simply that of a public display of their participation in the football and cheerleading season. Last night, some of those kids were recognized in Heaven. I’m quite sure the angels’ rejoicing was loud and rowdy as young children focused, not on athletics, but on the life transforming power God. All of Heaven shook as they followed their convictions and sought to explore the knowledge of the individual love that Christ has for them. It was a display of an unexpected brush with grace. It shouldn’t have been unexpected, but I think, to many, it was. We should never dismiss the power of God working through children, and we should pay attention to the fact that this was all facilitated by a little organized athletics with the sole purpose of evangelism. Never underestimate Gods ability to use anything, anywhere, and anytime for His purposes.
Last night, a wonderful friend of mine watched as her child solidified his walk with Jesus. She posted a message on Facebook that I’ve probably reread ten times…because it makes me smile. Because it’s often much easier to ask forgiveness than permission, I’ve posted her wonderful message below without her permission, although I have redacted names for the sake of a little grace that will hopefully be extended from her to me…
The message is below…
“Two years ago, [my children] began asking questions about heaven. After some progressive conversations, I prayed the sinners prayer with them--wondering how much they could know at such young ages. I've let them lead since then, trusting that in time they would desire to take the next step. I've seen evidence of fruit and small changes in both of them over time, but have been cautious in not spoon feeding them well intentioned yet false salvation. Tonight at upward awards, they responded to the invitation. I hesitated, concerned that repeating a prayer wouldn't authenticate this next step. We prayed at the alter together, but for [one of my children] that wasn't enough. So I let him take the next step. He made it public tonight before several witnesses what I'm certain he decided was so two years ago. I'm humbled to see God work in & through Him. Despite all I do wrong, grace wins!!”
Remember…when we’re focused on Christ, grace always wins! Christ absorbed the cross to make this a marvelous fact! That crucifixion was followed by a promised resurrection. The tomb of Christ is still empty, and He is still transforming lives. This fact is evidenced by the children that met Him last night. What a great evening spent in the presence of God! If you missed it...you missed a lot!
I want to thank Drew Hogsed, our Upward Commissioner, for doing such an incredible job organizing this season. It is no small amount of work and responsibility. To every coach, scorekeeper, referee, concession stand worker, cook, parent, etc…thank you for being actively involved in ministering to kids. And, thank you to the Holy Spirit of God who showed up last night to remind us that this is about much more than football or cheerleading.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!