DEVILLE, La. (BP) – A first-time visitor to Philadelphia Baptist Church’s Wednesday evening services Sept. 14 would have been struck by the crowds, the energy and yes, possibly some colored powder if they got too close to the action.
It would also stand out that some 260 teenagers had gathered together to worship and hear a Gospel-centered message. About 125 were first-time guests. At least 23 prayed to receive Christ as Savior.
Adult leaders had been preparing months for Color Clash, an organized-mass-chaos kind of event where participants throw powders of various colors at each other.
But students took the reins to get friends invited.
“We ordered 2,000 invite cards and students handed them out,” said Andrew Barber, student pastor. “We heard those cards ended up all over the schools in computer rooms, lockers and other places.”
While marketing and promotion have their place, he pointed out the importance of a culture steeped in areas such as evangelism, prayer and missions.
It takes buy-in as well as time. PBC had a student pastor, Stuart Sasser, for 18 years who laid a lot of that groundwork before becoming the church’s pastor at its Horseshoe Drive campus in Alexandria. A two-year interim period followed, led mostly byBrandon Lewis, youth strategist for Louisiana Baptists.
“After two years without a youth pastor, in June, the Lord sent Andrew for the Deville campus of Philadelphia Baptist Church,” said Philip Robertson, lead pastor. “He came here with a passion to see teenagers come to Christ. We have been praying alongside of Andrew for God to do a supernatural work among the teenagers in our church and community.
“Wednesday night was certainly an answer to that prayer! By far, it is the largest Wednesday night attendance of youth we have ever had. Even more importantly, after Andrew shared a Gospel message, we saw more teenagers come to Christ last night than ever before in a single service! I believe this could be the spark for an even greater work of God among students in the weeks and months ahead.”
A native of the area, Barber said Robertson leads in driving a Gospel-centered culture.
“Brother Philip is a huge advocate for our FAITH evangelism outreach training on Sunday nights. So, we do the same thing with our students. They are active in sharing their faith and serving others.
“When I got here, the students were excited and ready to go. We just planned some events and the students took off with it.”
He also credits the church’s student ministry volunteers for the years of service, but also helping in large events like Wednesday’s.
“They stepped up and were ready for the challenge. When you have over 250 teenagers, it’s a different level of intensity,” Barber said.
His message Sept. 14 prior to Color Clash centered on the story of Noah.
Noah waited for 100 years for a flood, Barber said. He endured mockery for his claims about an oncoming flood. He had to hear day after day after day how foolish he was to be building a boat he would never need.
And then the rains came.
“I emphasized Genesis 7:16. There, it says the Lord shut the door. The floods came, and it was all over for those left outside.”
Through Noah, Barber said, mankind was given a second chance. Those in attendance get a second chance as well through Jesus Christ. One day, he pointed out, everyone will look at death.
“We didn’t sugarcoat anything,” he said.
After presenting the Gospel, students were invited to raise their hand if they wanted a Bible. A decision card would be inside, they were told, and if they wanted to return later to talk with a counselor they could.
Twenty-three made that choice and prayed to invite Christ into their lives.
PBC’s youth group is officially called Zoé Students. Zoé is Greek for “life” and points to the calling of living for Christ without limits.
“They have been praying for revival, for a night like that, for a long time,” Barber said. “Our prayer is that it doesn’t stop there. They want it to become a movement.”