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FIRST-PERSON: The day my world changed

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Want to wake up Monday morning and be glad the alarm is going off? I know –- that would take a miracle.

Well, that’s what evangelism is. A miracle you can get in on every day and have a great time doing. Would you look forward to getting up in the morning if you knew there was a real chance to make a difference in the world? To make an impact on someone’s life that would matter in a thousand years?

Thirty years ago, Ian Walker, Aubrey Edwards and Dottie Cruikshank did just that. They woke up one day and changed my world.

The Jesus Movement was going on, and young people were coming to Christ. Dottie was one of them. She turned around in study hall and invited me to come to First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C., and hear her youth choir sing. I heard the good news that night and watched for the first time in my life as an evangelistic invitation was given. I went to the front because I knew I needed something, but it was Ian and Aubrey who shared with me clearly what it was -– they told me the best news I had ever heard. I could know Jesus, not just a religion. They prayed with me and my world changed.

Soon, I saw my best friend saved, my brother and sister saved. The best people I have known in this world were baptized and are now leaders in a new Southern Baptist church plant. Later I met a great woman who became my wife. I have three children who love Jesus and follow Him on mission. I have thousands of incredible brothers and sisters from five pastorates and have preached the Good News all over the world.

I have been able to preach to thousands on the high school football field where I once played and to look in the window of the study hall classroom where Dottie invited me to church, and see hundreds of young people making the same decision I made. And now I am blessed with this incredible privilege of serving all Southern Baptists to help us join our lives together in a national movement of evangelism and revival.

All of that, literally every good gift in my life, I owe to Ian, Aubrey and Dottie. I don’t know what that day was like for them in 1975. Maybe it seemed to be a good day or a bad day. But for me it was a miracle day. What would happen in your life if you began to expect this every day? If you woke up in the morning and really believed that God was prepared to use you that way? Well, think about it. If God desperately loves all those you come in contact with today, don’t you think there is at least one that he has planned for you to love too? And that makes every day a significant day, a miracle day, a good news day! Wake up tomorrow, jump out of bed and get in on it.

Thanks Aubrey, for being my friend through all these years, for your faithful ministry. I am praying for you as you face health struggles. My spiritual health is because of you. Thanks Ian, for all the counsel and encouragement, for letting me preach for the first time. You are my father in ministry. Thanks Dottie, wherever you are, and remember what I told you at our high school reunion: every good thing in my life is because of you.

Well, I have a plane to catch. I wonder who may sit beside me. I have a friend to call. Maybe this will be the day he meets Christ. I have relationships to make, relationships to cultivate. I have a life that matters. And so do you. Let’s go live it, really live it, and make evangelism good news again.
John Avant is the vice-president for evangelization at the North American Mission Board.

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  • John Avant