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Divine Encounters

By Jason Elwell
In eLetter
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Do you remember when you decided to follow Jesus? For some of us, that was 70 years ago. For others, it might have been just a few months ago. For me, it was Spring Break of 1987. I was a junior in high school, and me and a few friends had plans to go camping. Our parents had other ideas and thought it would be better for us to attend a revival at our church rather than camp next to the Ouachita River in Arkansas.

You’re probably thinking, “What kind of church schedules a revival during spring break? And what kind of parents make their kids attend?” Needless to say, my heart was not in a good place to surrender my life to God that night. Of course, the apostle Paul wasn’t exactly looking for a life change when he encountered the Holy Spirit on the road to Damascus, but God works in mysterious ways. And when we encounter his love, it’s hard to resist.

Back to the revival. I remember sitting in the back of the church with a scowl on my face and my arms tightly crossed. Ten minutes into the altar call, most of the church was up at the front praying while I was still in the back with a stone cold look on my face. Then, a woman gestured for me to come up to the front. I was too much of a people pleaser to cause a scene, but if I shared what my thoughts were at that moment this post would need a parental advisory.

Reluctantly, I made my way up to the front of the church where this woman had the audacity to ask me if I wanted to surrender my life over to God. My head was moving up and down in compliance but inside I was screaming NO WAY! She began to pray for me…and continued to pray for me, and continued to pray for me, and as she did God began to soften my heart. That night I decided that I wanted to stop living for myself and start living for God. It was miraculous! I fell in love with Jesus that night, and my eyes were opened to see life in a brand new way.

Divine encounter is what the Christian faith is all about. From Paul on the road to Damascus, to the Samaritan woman at the well, all the way to a 17-year-old prideful know-it-all from Carrollton, TX. We are pursuing a God who is pursuing us, and there are people all around us who just need someone to point them in the right direction. This is what the Alpha ministry is all about.

Alpha is designed for people who wouldn’t call themselves Christians, people who don’t know if they are, or people who are exploring faith. Over 11 weeks, participants meet weekly to enjoy a meal together, watch a message, and break into discussion groups. These groups are a safe place for people to figure out what they believe. No question is off the table, which can be extremely transformative for people who have been turned off or shunned by the church. Today, millions of people in more than 120 countries around the world have participated in Alpha in more than 100 different languages. Sessions are held in almost every denomination and venue including schools, prisons, coffee shops, and homes.

Church, here’s where you come in. We who follow Jesus have a call upon our lives to help fulfill the great commission by going out into the world to make disciples. That process starts with an invitation. You probably know someone (or someone who knows someone) who might love a safe place to ask questions and pursue faith. Tell them about Alpha. The next session starts on February 1, right here at IBC. Go to irvingbible.org/alpha for more information or email me at [email protected]with any questions.

Let’s show people that amazing things happen when we give God space to do what only he can do.

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