#16 – An Evening with David Jeremiah– Cedar Park, TX (Turning Point, San Diego, CA)
Why this Evangelist?
A few weeks back, my sister Suzanne said she had two tickets to hear an evangelist who was coming into town to speak and asked me if I’d like to go with her. Well, any time I’m with Suzanne, I can count on loads of laughter, so I said yes.
I’d never heard of Dr. David Jeremiah before this, but that’s not surprising. I don’t watch television, except for the news (old habits die hard). What little serial programming I watch is had through the Internet, so I’m a moving target for marketing companies or any evangelical event promotion.
In fact, the Reverend Billy Graham was the last evangelist I saw back in the early 70s at the Astrodome in Houston. If I could have stepped into a time machine and dialed myself 40 years into the future of evangelical crusades, I wouldn’t have believed it. My how things have changed!
My Preconceived Ideas of Evangelists
I’m not one for large crowds or big-time evangelists. My perceptions around well-known evangelists, aren’t high. Prior to this evening, I assumed the following:
- Most evangelists are money and fame driven
- Big-time evangelists have an inherent ability to twist emotional response
- More show than substance
On this one, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Prior to arriving at the Cedar Park Center north of Austin, I told Suzanne about my visit to see a distant family member just hours before. This family member and I talked about the SteepleStretch blog and my journey to visit different churches. She asked if I’d ever done a Walk to Emmaus. Clueless….I told her no. She offered a small bit of information and said there were several walks held around San Antonio and if I’d like go on one, she would sponsor me. Since she mentioned some other dear family members who had gone on one of these walks, my curiosity was piqued, but that was the extent of it.
As sister Suzanne and I walked into the convention center, I asked her if she’d ever heard of a “Walk to Emmaus.” A blank stare shot back at me.
We took a seat high up in the arena, so we could watch from above.
Lights. Camera. Action.
In rock concert form, two guys walked onto the stage with their t-shirt guns to shoot t-shirts from the stage out into the crowd. I immediately had a thought: I want to sell t-shirt guns. How cool would that be? Demos would rock! Then the bazooka of all t-shirt bazookas launched speeding cotton wads high into the balcony seats and the crowds went wild.
After that surge of excitement, other musicians walked out onto the large stage, guiding a blind man (Gordon Mott) to the piano. Above, hung three large projection screens that highlighted Dr. David Jeremiah’s new book “What am I Afraid of?” As the band began to play, the thought immediately struck that this was probably the first time I’d seen band members dressed in suits, since seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show back in 1964. I kind of wish that custom would reemerge. The audience gets a much different feeling when musicians perform in their best attire versus ripped jeans. There’s a “specialness” to the music an audience is about to hear.
Then Dr. David Jeremiah came out on stage with his wife and opened the evening with pictures of their family. They both proudly talked about each child and grandchild. That intimate look at their family gave the audience a personal view of Dr. Jeremiah, and I think went a long way toward understanding what he is about.
As with Cornerstone Church and the contemporary service I attended at Crossbridge Church, we stood for a long time while the band played. Maybe I’m just old, but I don’t like all this standing. I saw some of the elderly sit down after a while. I must certainly be part of that crowd, but instead taking a seat, I stayed on my 53-year-old feet with the rest of the youngun’s. Eventually we all sat for the performance of the “Old Rugged Cross” – the most wonderful rendition I’d ever experienced.
Dr. Jeremiah shared that the pianist on stage was the man who plays on probably most every famous Country & Western album ever heard, and after hearing him play, I understood why.
Now here’s where my level of appreciation soared and my statistical curiosity surged. I suddenly learned that Suzanne had not paid for the tickets. Dr. Jeremiah does not charge for these events. Really? He got up and talked about that a bit. It seems that his organization made that decision a few years back and had studied the phenomenon that if you don’t charge for an event, you’ll get a higher number of no-shows. In fact, only 42-44% of those with tickets will attend each event. So the Turning Point organization started issuing twice as many tickets as each event center holds. Oddly enough, he stated that this night in Austin had one of the highest ticket redemptions ever – 56% of all ticket holders had shown up.
I immediately had great respect for the man and his organization. Free tickets? I know what renting a facility of this size costs, including A/V and camera equipment, along with a grand piano. It ain’t cheap. This man had faith….a tremendous faith in what he was doing and the message he was about to deliver. That made me sit up and take notice.
Instead of a message about “fear,” I quickly learned that the night’s message would be on “The Resurrection of Hope.”
Dr. Jeremiah delivered his message from the book of Luke – the only book of the Bible that shares the story of Jesus’ resurrection from the experience of two men (one named Cleopas) on their way to …..wait for it……wait for it…..Emmaus!!! Suzanne immediately jabbed me in the ribs, cupped her hand to my ear and whispered: “Did you hear that? He is talking about a ‘walk to Emmaus’!” Okay, so then he had my full attention. Serendipitous? Prophetic? Coincidental? You decide! (Oh and if you happen to read this passage in Luke 24: 13 and see the wording ‘threescore furlongs from Jerusalem,’ I’ll save you some trouble, the distance calculation is 7 miles.)
In his message, Dr. Jeremiah talked considerably about the questions that Jesus asked. He even said, “Someone should write a book about all the questions Jesus asked and record how many there were.” (Ohhhh…that definitely sounds like a project I’d like to tackle. I love questions). Dr. Jeremiah said, “Have you ever noticed that Jesus often answered a question with another question?” Then Dr. Jeremiah went on to say that as Christians, we spend way too much time witnessing and not nearly enough time asking questions of those we are witnessing to. There is real power in asking questions and then in listening to those answers.
I like this man already!
The three-point takeaway from the message included:
- Jesus comes to us in the midst of our situation.
- Jesus comes to us by revelation.
- Jesus comes to us by invitation.
Post Event Commentary
Dr. Jeremiah’s delivery impressed me the most. He preached from the bible and didn’t twist it beyond what it actually said, as many preachers do. I felt his delivery simulated that of a teacher more than a evangelist who often rants and raves, shouts and screams to appeal to the emotion of the crowd. That I appreciated! My post impressions are that this man is thoughtful, studied, caring and most of all…genuine. I call that “refreshing.”
Next weekend finds me in Houston, so I’m still trying to decided whether I’ll go to the largest church in America — Lakewood Church where Joel Osteen preaches, or whether I have the time to drive out to Spring, TX to hear my long-time friend Bobby Martin preach from his church – The Church at Creek’s End. I favor the latter, but time may be a factor that becomes the ultimate decision maker.