HOUSTON (BP) – In the darkness, a light appeared. Then another, and another. Quickly they grew in tandem with the applause throughout the auditorium of Champion Forest Baptist Church.
Soon, the light overwhelmed the darkness.
Senior pastor Jarrett Stephens saw it every night Dec. 8-Dec. 12. At the conclusion of the church’s Christmas Spectacular concert, he asked those to signal their salvation prayer by holding up the flashlight on their phone.
Through Sunday night, an official count of 1,114 people had done just that over a five-day span. Every time, Stephens said, the crowd couldn’t contain its reaction.
“Our church would go crazy on seeing it,” he said.
Stephens brought the practice from Prestonwood Baptist Church, where he served on staff for 20 years – most recently as teaching pastor – until called to become the pastor at Champion Forest a year ago. Due to concerns over COVID-19, Champion Forest didn’t have its annual Christmas Spectacular concert in 2020.
Stephens felt its absence factored in the crowd sizes of last week’s performances.
“God is moving and to Him be the glory. It is all about Him,” he said. “I’m amazed and our team is blown away by the response.”
Single performances of the Christmas Spectacular took place Wednesday through Friday, with two performances on Saturday and Sunday, each.
Those weekend shows consisted of one in English and the other in Spanish. Because of that, choir members had to learn all of the songs in both languages.
Picking up another language in any form isn’t easy, and even more so for people in their 70s. But Gary and Nancy Pollard joined those answering the challenge, and starting in October learned all 106 pages of music encompassing the four medleys containing four to five songs each.
In total, they and others learned about 20 songs in a foreign language.
“When you get to our age and have spoken only one language in your life, it’s a challenge,” Nancy said. “But, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
While choir members remained constant for all seven performances, Spanish-speaking actors were utilized for the Spanish concerts.
Stephens pointed to the multiple “languages” Champion Forest speaks to its community in the number of ministries it offers. One of those helps girls and young women emerge from the human trafficking industry. Four of those young women attended one of the concerts, a ministry volunteer wrote Stephens, and held up their light to show their faith in Christ.
“This was the best outcome we could have asked for,” the volunteer said. “Please express to [Worship] Pastor Brent [Dyer] and all those who spent hours working to deliver a life-changing show how lives are being changed for eternity.”
The volunteer also vowed to follow up with the new believers. Stephens also stressed the importance of follow-up, saying all of those who made a decision will receive contact from CFBC members within 48 hours. Every person who prayed also received a free Bible.
“Our team has been knocking it out of the ballpark and stayed late to make those phone calls. They let people know they rejoiced in their decision and wanted to answer any questions. We’ve had a lot of great conversations out of that,” he said.
More than 100 staff and other volunteers did the follow-up. Total cast and crew for the Christmas Spectacular topped 600 people.
To provide an eighth performance with a different level of privacy, the church hosted members of ministries such as those related to human trafficking and families with special needs at a dress rehearsal.
“God is honoring the prayers of His people,” Stephens said. “I think He’s honoring our people bringing their lost friends, neighbors and coworkers.
The 30,000 cumulative attendance included those making a decision for Christ and the ones serving as witnesses. Together, they saw the light pierce the darkness both literally and spiritually.
“You’re receiving the light of the world into your life,” he told them, “and now we want you to show that light.”