At the end of Summer OFF a number of years ago, I was helping to clean up. There was a line of kids waiting for a new Bible — we were giving away as many as we could at the end of the summer. Most of the kids were young, probably ten and under. I saw a van pull up and the Mom called for someone in the line. A teen boy, maybe 15 or 16 years old, ran half-way over to the car and hollered, "Mom, wait! I have to get my Bible!”It took me a minute to absorb the importance of the moment. Here was a teenage boy asking if his Mom would wait so he could get a Bible. You don’t see that very often! I wondered about a few things:
- Was this his first Bible? Had he ever read it before?
- Was the Holy Spirit giving him a desire for God’s Word? Was this the beginning of the process we see in 1 Corinthians 2:13-14?
- Was there anyone else who could help him understand it? Would he be allowed to read it at home?
- Did he have a church to show him the gospel being lived out and to help him grow up as a man of God?
God’s plan is that discipleship happens in the local church. These moments in the park are precious and unforgettable, as quick and fleeting as they may be. But they are not supposed to be isolated events.Moments like this are designed to be a link in a chain. They are to lead the children and adults in the city parks to a church where they will hear the life-giving message of the gospel. To hear that there is a holy and loving God. That mankind is made in his image, but guilty of sin and condemned before this holy God. That Christ is the only Savior, who loves them and gave himself for them. And that they are offered forgiveness, eternal life and the joy of loving and serving God here and now. And that this message of salvation is the true hope of the one suffering from the ravages of the inner city; that transformation begins with salvation; that righteousness and justice are inseparable.Summer OFF leads to church planting. This boy who so much wanted a Bible also needed a local church. Thankfully one was planted in his neighborhood soon after that summer.We at NEU Church Planting are doing all we can to bring the amazing good news of Christ to these neighborhoods. We start with Summer OFF and then we work to launch new churches in the same communities.