Prestonwood hosts community sunrise service

FRISCO, Texas – By all visible signs it was game night. The lights were shining bright, the parking lot was full of cars and popcorn buckets were being passed around. Of course the popcorn buckets were used to collect the offering and the crowds were there not to see their favorite baseball team, but to worship the Lord.

Over 8,000 people filled the Dr. Pepper/7-Up Baseball Park (home of the Frisco Roughriders, the new Double-A Texas Ranger affiliate) on Easter morning for a sunrise service sponsored by Prestonwood Baptist Church.

The worshippers braved 50- degree temperatures by huddling under blankets and donning jackets to celebrate Easter together. The crowd was also warmed by a mini concert by the Christian band Newsong and the resurrection account by Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Why did the church decide on a ballpark to hold this type of service? According to Julie Pierce, director of media and communications at Prestonwood, there were “three primary reasons: (1) unique, (2) casual, (3) outreach.

“Those three aspects combined to present the perfect opportunity for people to invite unchurched friends or neighbors who would never come to a service at a church, but who would go to a ballpark for a baseball game or event. The ballpark provided a setting where people were comfortable – it was a very non-threatening environment. It also presented a unique experience – to enjoy the beauty of God’s sunrise as the truth and beauty of his love for us was proclaimed,” she said. Frisco, located in Collin County about 30 miles north of downtown Dallas, is one of the fastest growing communities in Texas. Many people might wonder, ‘Why have an Easter service at a baseball stadium?’ David McKinley, teaching pastor at Prestonwood said, “Frisco is right in Prestonwood’s backyard…[W]e wanted to offer a unique Easter worship experience for those in Frisco and our surroundingcommunities. Taking our sunrise service to the new Roughriders stadium allows us to share worship, fellowship and the Prestonwood family with others in our community.”

Even though the atmosphere was relaxed, the service was very much like a contemporary worship service in a church building. After the congregation sang Easter celebration worship songs, Newsong took the stage. The group opened with “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down” that spoke of the grave not being able to hold Christ. As the group began singing the chorus to “Arise My Love,” the sun began to rise and peek over the scoreboard in right center field. A “coincidence” that wasn’t missed by many, including Graham.

“Thank you, Lord, for the sun at just the right time,” Graham said as he took the pulpit. Graham opened his message by talking about the “greatest comebacks in history,” as compiled by a men’s sports magazine.

Some of the comebacks cracking the top 10 were: Elvis’ comeback to television in 1968, Muhammad Ali’s comeback after a seven-year layoff from professional boxing, Truman’s eleventh-hour triumph over Dewey for president, and Michael Jordan’s return to basketball (the first time).

“The greatest comeback of all time was in A.D. 33 when Jesus Christ came back from the dead,” he said. “I’ve got some more good news: He’s coming back again.”

Graham used the letters of HOPE to illustrate his point to the crowd. The letter ‘h’ stands for the help that Jesus gives to cope with the reality of disappointment. Graham told the story of Jesus appearing to Mary at the tomb on the day of his resurrection. Mary was disappointed and in despair due to the Lord’s death. His appearance, on the other hand, brought her hope.

“Easter is the reality of a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Graham said. “He’s calling your name just as he called to Mary [at the tomb].”

He said the world looks to Christians to see how they cope with disappointments in the world. “The world wants to know how you’ll respond. The world wants to know if Jesus is real to you.”

The letter ‘o’ stands for open. Graham utilized the illustration of Peter, who denied the Lord three times on the night of Jesus’ crucifixion to demonstrate that Jesus restored the disciple. In the same way Jesus opens to us the opportunity for a comeback after defeat.

Graham once again reiterated his point with a baseball analogy. In baseball, Graham said a good hitter only gets a hit 30 percent of the time. Like a baseball all-star, we are going to fail. The good news is that in Jesus Christ “you can be forgiven and begin again,” Graham said.

“We are restored because of his grace and his great love.”

For the letter ‘p,’ Graham said Jesus provides for us an answer to our doubts.

Thomas might be known as one of the biggest doubters in the entire Bible. A week after the resurrection, Thomas was still in doubt about Jesus still being alive.

When Jesus allowed Thomas to touch His side, Thomas fell to the ground and made one of the greatest confessions of all time, Grahamsaid: “My Lord and my God.”

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