Are There Any Churches in Las Vegas?

It is Saturday morning. It is 2:40 a.m. and I am wide awake. At 6:00 I need to be at the office to gather month-end financial information to mail to our clients. I am asking the Lord what my blog should be about for Monday. I am somewhat disappointed. Last Monday’s blog – “Haiti crises – If you break a law will God punish you?” I spent more time researching than most any blog. It was the only time I asked my small group to critique it and give me some ideas. It was posted on 1/25 and had the fewest hits of any of the 85 blogs I have posted. So I was lying in bed quietly asking God to give me Monday’s blog before I got up.

I thought about the number of times over the past 35 years when we spent vacation time with family and friends we have known over the years. The typical question they use to ask was: “Are there any churches in Las Vegas”? In 1981 I remember reading what John Wesley wrote: “Give me 100 men who will surrender to Christ and we will change the world”. I thought: “How many would it take to change Las Vegas”?

We have written previously that in 1981 we came to Central Christian Church and found it to be an extremely traditional church. This was the twelfth church we had belonged to and it was different from all of the others. Every Sunday was the same from the beginning to the end. If you changed any part of the service you could have had a revolt. After about three months I was ready to look for another church. After reading an article about the last great spiritual revival in America and much prayer, an inner voice, the Holy Spirit, indicated that God was going to cause a spiritual revival and it was going to start in Las Vegas. I felt led to stay at Central. Over the years I have shared this story with many Christians and they seemed quite skeptical. They said Las Vegas would be the last place God would start a spiritual revival.

Today, Las Vegas is one of the fastest growing Christian communities in America. But it is not without its problems. I recently read the economic report from UNLV comparing the Las Vegas economy with the national economy. The national economy is improving and Las Vegas is not getting much better. There are a lot of financially hurting people.

I have spent a number of years receiving a weekly prayer list. This past year I have never seen this many people asking for prayer. In the Old Testament it seemed when things were at their worst and the Israelites dropped to their knees and humbly asked God to meet their need, God intervened. From what I can see many are going to be forced to drop to their knees because some are becoming desperate. This past Christmas our attendance was 28,614 that is an increase of 7,008 over last year. An indication that many are becoming aware that they need to become part of a church.

In my lifetime I have never seen a recession as bad as what we have been going through. I have never seen our nation in such debt. It seems the farther we get away from Christian principles the worse things have become. How bad will things have to get before Christians realize that prayer is needed to change things.

I have been blessed to have been on the church board since 1983. We have seen so many supernatural events that we just finally started saying: “It’s a God thing!” For example, it took our church approximately 30 some years to have a church attendance of 4,000 on a weekend. Last year we had over 5,400 conversions. Over 2,300 Christians were baptized. A person would have to be blind not to realize that Christ has used Central Christian to spread the Gospel. I sit in “awe” at board meetings when we are told of all the opportunities that are becoming available to spread the Gospel throughout the world.

Early on we were serious about Matthew 28:18 – 20 – “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We have an opportunity through the internet to spread the gospel to Mexico and South America. We will have on staff a fairly well-known Hispanic individual heading a Spanish speaking ministry. In addition, our vision is to have as many as 300 satellite campuses, worldwide, in the next few years. You probably have heard of our success in our prison ministry. We now have approximately 100 volunteers helping this outreach. Christmas approximately 150 prisoners accepted Christ as their Savior. We also have an opportunity to reach our military services.

We used to struggle when we saw so many long-time Christians leaving and going to other churches in town because the music was too loud or we were accused of being too liberal and not traditional enough. There were times when we had considered that maybe we were becoming too contemporary, too evangelistic. We would spend hours trying to determine how we could keep our vision to reach the unconnected and still keep many from going out the back door. It seemed God kept inspiring us to stick with the vision because we were reaching so many unchurched people. We realized that God was strengthening other churches in Las Vegas with those who were leaving. Many became leaders in their churches. Churches that used to criticize Central are now starting to be more supportive and realize we may have been given a different vision from what others have been given. We are starting to see many becoming more co-operative as we all should be working together to witness for Christ.

Our family has been in Las Vegas since 1974. We know a number of Christians from other churches. We and others are seeing more evidence that Las Vegas could start a national revival. If so, it will be in God’s timing and dependent on His providing resources. But when you are praying just ask God to help us reach those people who are unchurched, depressed and devastated. Prayers are how revivals are started. It may take less than 100 surrendered and totally committed Christians, as John Wesley stated, to make it happen. God is gracious and merciful!

The News – The Good And The Bad – Your Prayers Are Needed

Years ago it became evident that God had a plan for Las Vegas. We don’t know where His plan started but Central Christian Church was in on it from the very beginning. Many in Las Vegas have been watching the Christian community mushroom in growth. Now a number are becoming aware of what is happening here throughout the U.S. The Holy Spirit has shared with them that God is using Las Vegas to wake American up spiritually. We have always heard many Christians say they didn’t believe anything good could ever come out of Las Vegas. However, it is very apparent that Christians everywhere are now amazed at what they are hearing.

We have mentioned before how our church attendance was 400 on a Sunday when we began attending Central in 1981. Last Sunday, September 13, 2009, we had approximately 17,000. It took us over 30 years from the beginning of Central, which started in 1962, to have an attendance of 3000. So far this year we have had more than 3800 conversions. Our board has a vision of reaching 200,000 in attendance on any given weekend. This would also include those on line and satellite churches across the world. Are we surprised that this is happening. Not really! The Holy Spirit shared with us two things a number of years ago. A revival in America would come out of Las Vegas and Central would be one of the largest churches in America. Since our president said: “America is no longer a Christian nation” it is our belief that God is going to prove him wrong.

It is not just happening at Central. We now have a number of large churches in our valley on fire for God. But our Christian community is being attacked and this is the bad news.

Three large churches in town are in serious trouble. They are not in any way connected with Central but they are our Christian brothers and sisters and they are suffering. Ministers from out of town have come in to minister, council and help them survive. We do not know all of the facts and that isn’t necessary. But Las Vegas is suffering more economically than practically any city in America. We have been going through some very tough times locally. Our city’s unemployment of 13.4% is one of the highest in the nation.

Ephesians 6:12 – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” With the spiritual growth we have been witnessing in our midst, do you think Satan is going to stand by and let this happen without trying to stamp it out? What we need is for a number of Christians to commit to praying for these churches that they become well and continue their ministry. While we are praying ask God to put a revival spirit into the hearts of every Christian American. Let us witness to the world that America is on fire for Christ!

Does Jesus talk to you?

Last year Doug Lee shared with our Men’s Bible study group about a young missionary lady he had met on a flight returning from Germany. We were enthralled with the miracles she had told him. Doug and his wife Becky recently had the group at their home as they were passing through Las Vegas. They have kept in touch ever since. This past week Doug sent me a video of the group and some of their personal journals.

The video showed these very attractive young people in their 20s or 30s at “The Open” golf tournament in Turnberry, UK on July 18th. They travel all over the world wherever Christ sends them. God provides their financing and they never know from where it will come or where they are to go until He tells them.

Along with the video, they e-mailed their daily journals. What is so amazing is that in every Journal they would write: Jesus told me to talk to this person; I was told to emphasis this; I wasn’t to talk or I was to just listen. Following are excerpts from a typical journal from three different young ladies that will give you an idea of their ministry.

“(This one guy was just listening to us talk to another man about faith. Then he came and sat down next to me and said, “I have a really hard time believing this. Because I was born in Ireland, I’ve lived in London, I’ve lived in Luxembourg, and I’ve lived in Switzerland. You live in those countries and you just walk away with no faith. What makes you believe?”

I was telling him some of the miracle stories and I explained about hearing from Jesus. I told him Scott’s chocolate milkshake story and he asked, “So, if I just sat and asked God, He would give me a chocolate milkshake or something to that extent?” I said, “Well, what’s something you really need or really want right now?”

He said, “Honestly? Just peace! I just really need peace right now.” I said, “That’s the best thing you could ask for, because only Jesus can give that to you. You can’t work it up yourself.” I prayed with him and asked Jesus to give him peace.)”

Here is another journal: “(Jesus said, “Just go to the club and sit down.” I sat down and a man came and sat down next to us with a beautiful little two-year-old girl. Jesus said, “You need to start witnessing to him.” So we were just talking a bit and I was helping to take care of the little girl. She was eating ice cream and getting it all over her face. As I was taking care of her he started asking questions, “What do you do? What makes it so easy for you to reach out and talk to people? You don’t even know who I am. I’m a complete stranger and you’re here with my daughter. How do you do it?” I said, “Well, I’m a missionary, but more important than that, I spend time with Jesus every day and He gives me that connection. And as I get filled up with love, then I’m able to pour it out to others.” He said, “Well, I understand that. I have love for my kids, but how do you love a complete stranger?”)”

Another – “(I’d asked Jesus who I was meant to talk to and Jesus pointed him out. I went and sat next to him. At first he was cussing at me, and then I just sat there and asked him about his life. He said, “Why do you care? Why are you even sitting next to me?” I said, “Because I know that Jesus loves you so much.” He started crying and said that his mom had passed away a month before and that he had nothing left to live for and that he was going to commit suicide. He said, “Before I ended my note to my relatives I said, ‘Look, God, if you’re real, send me someone to tell me that You love me’.” I said, “I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what will touch someone’s heart and what will give someone the hope and strength to go on, but I know that Jesus does and I know that His love can turn around and touch any heart.”)”

It is not uncommon for men and women who have been Christians for some years to find themselves frozen in place. They have made a solid beginning…and stopped! They are not running, walking or even crawling. They are the embodiment of the Christians Paul criticized in his letter to the Corinthians. I Corinthians 3:1 – “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ.”

Hopefully, we can see the difference between these missionaries who have given their lives to Christ and serve Him daily and those who have little contact with Jesus. Whose life do you think is receiving the greatest satisfaction? Every time I think I am doing fairly well spiritually, God always gives me an example of how much more is available. I know that God inspires me to write but He doesn’t talk to me. Looks like I have a long way to go and I have been a Christian for many years. If we only knew what God has available for each one of us and we were able to take advantage of it, what a world it would be!

Say it and Show it! Get involved!

I have finally made it to the Blog trail!! 

First,  I would like to say thank you to both  Don Boyd for his  vision and patience  and  Shannon Clark for your helpful guidance.

Mr. Boyd has been there for me in several ways over the last 10 years .  I am thankful that God did not take him home a few years ago after his last heart condition.  His work is not done!

Like many of you, life has kept me very busy (Family, work  etc..) 

I am so thankful today  that I have a wonderful wife that loves the LORD and my children…  Oh the kids!  I have to say that Psalm 127:3 says it all, “Children are a reward from HIM.”  For  any of you who have not had children or are not that involved in a child’s life, Get Involved!  I say that because I see children every day who just want God’s love in their life,  and I guarantee that you will benefit even more than the child!  I believe that God uses children in our lives in part to show us how simple things can be and how great HIS love is for us.  I  have heard  many parents over the years say, ” It is too late!”   That is a lie straight from Satan!  Whether your children are 2 or 32, they need your love! 

I have been in accountability with many  men over the years, and I frequently hear the statement,   “My parents never said, ‘ I love you'”.  Can you imagine what that feels like?  Maybe you can,  or this one, “We never hugged”.  Wow! The damage that comes from this is enormous, but we can stop it!  I believe that we have to be willing to “Say it and Show it!”.  For people out there who do not have children of their own, again I say,  “Get Involved!”  It really is not that difficult, and the rewards are unmeasurable.   I want to share with you what happened to me just the other day:

I always go to garage sales because it was something my Dad and I always shared growing up.  He would take the darnedest things and fix them up and either sell them or most times give them away.  He taught me the value of doing something for someone else at a young age.  What a gift!  Anyway, every time I see a young person with a lemonade stand, watch out!  My wife and friends laugh at me because I will save $20.00 on an item and then give away more money by the time I get home.  Well, just this past week, I discovered that I have finally made the rounds in Vegas.  People are starting to recognize me as having been to their last sale. HA!  I tell you, I feel close to my Dad on these early Saturday mornings because he took the time to share this with me.  He came to know Christ when he was 68 and passed at 69 (that is another awesome story),  but the love he showed us growing up lasts an eternity!  (I am now sharing this garage sale adventure with my children as well,  much to my wife’s amusement.)  So, as I approached a sale the other day, one of the ladies there called out and said, “Hey, he is here again!”  At first I had no idea what she was talking about, but then a little girl walked out with a huge smile on her face!  She said, “You remember me?, and by  the Grace of God I did!  She had been selling lemonade at the end of the driveway a couple of years ago. Her mother said that she has never forgot me because I gave her more money than she had made the whole day but most importantly.  I actually spoke with her!  Before you get any ideas that I handed this girl a $100.00, I did not.  It was probably only three or four dollars, but  she returned the greatest smile! I remember telling her so, and she beamed from ear to ear.  Now the tear jerk-er:  Her mother said,  “Her Dad is not around much and your words meant so much to her!”    I thought, What? you have to be kidding me.   I did not do much at all.  She thanked me again and I told the litttle girl to keep smiling.  As I got in my car,  I prayed for her.  God’s love started to overwhelm me, I did so little!  I started to tear up, how can this be?  I only spent 5 minutes with her and she remembered.  I felt God’s love pour over me and this verse came to me,  “Whoever welcomes a child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:5)

I again realize that while it is important to tell everyone about Jesus, it is also important to show them – God is Love!   Our words are important, but our actions are critical!   The next time you or I think that we do not have time to impact a child, remember , it only took me FIVE MINUTES! 

I am so glad that we serve a God that let’s us participate in HIS work.  What a privilege!


My Dream for Las Vegas

You may have heard it said that what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. Well the secret is gradually getting out. Las Vegas is one of the fastest growing Christian communities in America. When you hear about Las Vegas you may associate it with “Sin City”. Before long my dream is that it will be known for its rapidly increasing spirituality.

I learned recently that Nevada is next to last in church attendance in America. But that does not mean spirituality is dead in Nevada. I have been a member of a church since 1981 when we had a week-end attendance of 400. We grew and started other churches. This past Easter that 400 saw 42,800 attend services in our three churches and our two satellites here in Las Vegas.

We believe God has given us a vision that he wants Christians everywhere to know that where sin may be the greatest, His power and His Spirit are even greater. And if Christianity can blossom in Las Vegas it can be done anywhere.

I just attended my 19th church board retreat where we try to determine what God’s vision for the coming years may be for our church. We believe God is calling us to spread His message globally. It’s hard to believe the number of doors and opportunities that are opening up to us. As I write this I am in “awe” of all of the supernatural events and signs that I have seen over the years.

It’s not about numbers. It is about individuals. When you see some who have participated in the most immoral areas of Las Vegas accept Christ and become “free”, you have to believe that God continues to care. You then see these individuals bring their friends and you see them converted and baptized. There is no greater excitement. This can be done everywhere.

Every Christian church has been given the great commission to evangelize. But not every church has made it their vision. This is the only difference I see between my present church and the eleven others where I have been a member. We preach the same essentials. We place the most emphasis on those who do not know God rather than on those who have been Christians for years. But if God called you to evangelize you would fit in extremely well. If the only time you get spiritually fed is when you come to church, you may find a more traditional church to your choosing. Both are needed and this is why we have a number of different denominations. We are not all alike and we have not all been given the same calling!!!

Christians, keep your eyes and ears tuned to Las Vegas. We believe God wants Las Vegas to be known for something other than “Sin City”. How about “Grace City”?

Do You Feel Unprepared?

I Corinthians 2:1 – 5 – “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Some new Christians believe they must overwhelm their listeners with intellectual arguments. Instead Paul, the writer of Corinthians, brought a very simple message of Jesus Christ knowing that the Holy Spirit would bring power to his words. We must never think, when talking to a non-believer, that their salvation depends on how well we know the Scriptures or how capable we are of explaining Christianity. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts and saves. We are just the one that God uses to spread His gospel. Preparation is important, but relying on the Holy Spirit is crucial.

It isn’t how brilliant we are or how well we are versed in Scripture it is our willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us. It is His power that will help others to understand. Paul said that he came to the church in Corinthians in fear. Yet, he was one of the most knowledgeable and trained messengers God used to spread the gospel. It may not be how well-prepared we are but how brave are we.

I have recommended to those fearful of witnessing to others to tell their salvation story. Or, what has becoming a Christian meant to you? Can you describe a supernatural event that the Holy Spirit has done in your life to build your faith? Tell the story and then ask if they think it was supernatural or just a coincidence. Then let the Holy Spirit or the non-believer steer the direction of the conversation. More than likely they will not ask questions that only seminary students can answer. If they are at all interested they more than likely will be interested in what Christianity has done for you.