Encounters With Jesus: Part Two
Adapted from Pastor Brian Harrell’s Sermon at Riverside Church in Fredericksburg, VA, on October 22, 2023
In part one of this series I explained the heart of Riverside’s mission; we are here to create life-changing encounters with Jesus Christ. Our desire is for people to meet the real Jesus, in a real way which results in a changed life. When I think back in my life, I realize that others created environments for me to encounter Jesus.
Encountering Jesus as a Teenager
When I was 14 years old I attended a church service unlike any other one I had ever attended. A man stood up front on the platform and gave a testimony about how Jesus saved him from drugs and alcohol. And then he did something unusual; he asked if anybody would like to know Jesus, and if they did, to come up front. This was never done in this church. Half of the church responded, including me. Somebody created that moment. Somebody was praying for that moment. The people who were praying didn’t even have any idea what would happen or that I would even be there. They were simply hoping people like me would have a life-changing encounter with Jesus.
When I was a teenager, I attended the youth group at Banfield Memorial church and little did I know that the people leading the ministry were trying to create moments where young people like me could encounter Jesus. People were praying over that youth group, people were praying for me even though I didn’t even know it. Their prayers were answered – I and many others encountered Jesus dynamically. It was there that I was baptized. It was there that I was discipled. I am certainly a product of the many people who had faith to believe that God could do something great among teenagers.
Encountering Jesus at the Altar
I remember another encounter in my life that happened at the People’s Church in Willowdale, Ontario. They had an event where they were hoping people would encounter Jesus. Once again there was a man up front speaking, and when he was finished, he invited people to come to know Jesus. Suddenly, something came upon me; it was the Holy Spirit, and I was compelled to pray up front. My knuckles were white from holding on to the chair in front of me; I didn’t want to go. Finally, my fingers peeled off the chair, and I moved to make my way up front. Once again, there were people praying for that event, not even knowing that I would ever be there; they were simply praying for someone to encounter Jesus.
It’s Our Turn to Create Encounters With Jesus
And I can recount many, many other times when I encountered Jesus. These encounters with Jesus did not happen because of the manipulative ways of men. They happened because the Holy Spirit moved. That is what we most desire, that people have life- changing encounters with Jesus and not because of sparkling lights, or moving music, or a finely tuned sermon, but because they have a face-to-face encounter with Jesus. Now it’s our turn. We get to create an environment where people can come and encounter Jesus. Every Sunday I walk the sanctuary and pray over every single seat. I pray over the worship team. I pray over the children’s ministry. I pray over the greeters. I pray over the youth ministry. I pray over the small group ministry. And why? Because I want people to encounter Jesus Christ. Others did this for me and now I want to do this for others.
We are not here to create an encounter with religion. Or with legalism. Or was conservatism. Or liberalism. Or denominationalism. We are here to create an encounter with Jesus because meeting Jesus is the most important, life-defining moment of anyone’s existence.