ROCKDALE—Through intentional prayer and evangelism, a group of teenagers from Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Rockdale, Texas, used brought the gospel to one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Baton Rouge, La., this summer. One of several activities for the group’s mission trip to the area, July 20-26, evangelism efforts saw students boldly approach gang members and prostitutes and pray for them as they had need, preaching the good news of Christ in the process.
What makes this even more significant is the fact that the majority of these students are “newborn Christians,” having become believers within the last 10 months. Previously characterized as alcoholics and drug abusers who were distant from the faith, these students, under the leadership of Meadowbrook student minister Cody Landers, have discovered that Christ is better than these worldly practices, and they are now confident and excited about sharing Christ with others.
Summing up the last 10 months, Landers says, “Our youth group is nothing short of a testament to the power of the gospel.”
When Landers arrived at Meadowbrook in September 2014, the youth group comprised only four students. He set about to revitalize the ministry in three ways: build strong relationships with students; preach Scripture verse-by-verse during their Wednesday night services, particularly emphasizing the centrality of Christ; and assemble a worship team that performs theologically rich songs.
“I have found that students want to hear what actual truth is,” Landers says, “and when the Word of God is sung, prayed and proclaimed, they gravitate toward it.”
In the 10 months since Landers’ arrival, Wednesday night attendance has grown to more than 90 students. Furthermore, 37 students have prayed to receive Christ, and 27 have been baptized.
Landers says the church’s prayers, the help of his adult volunteers and clearly communicating the gospel have all been central to this numerical and spiritual growth. He also stresses the need to understand that students are sinners and that transformation does not happen overnight.
“There have been multiple times [that] I have picked up kids from parties and lectured them but let them stay the night to sober up and go to church with us on Sunday,” he says. “This allows them to see the grace of God at work. They began to realize that Christ is better than the parties, the drugs and anything else that is a god in their lives.”
Many students come from families who are opposed to their attending church, but they continue to attend and have grown in their knowledge of biblical truth and understanding of Baptist doctrines. Many students, previously regarded as “the worst of the worst,” are now leaders in their schools, much to the surprise of their teachers and principals. Also, Meadowbrook has implemented “youth Sundays,” which allow students to serve in various roles in the church.
Discerning that they were spiritually mature enough to go on a mission trip, Landers brought a group of 23 students to Baton Rouge, La., this summer. Even though the 5 a.m. – 8 p.m. schedule would be exhausting, he believed that communicating the gospel and seeing it go forth would strengthen their faith.
During the one-week trip, the group evangelized in two “rough” neighborhoods, fed and preached to the homeless, completed service projects at local churches, and hosted sports camps in two neighborhood parks. In addition, some female students visited a domestic shelter and presented the gospel to women and children through their testimonies.
“One of the girls gave a passionate plea to accept Christ,” Landers recalls. “My adult volunteers interacted with the older women while my students shared with the kids. There was not a dry eye in the room. The younger girls asked for Bibles and were receptive toward Christ.”
In total, the group saw four people come to faith in Christ, one student sense a call to ministry and four others get baptized upon returning home.
Reflecting on the experience, Landers says he could not be prouder of his students. “These students’ lives have been transformed over the past 10 months in such a radical way that everywhere they went, from feeding the homeless to ministering at the domestic women’s shelter, they were able to communicate the gospel in an effective way.
“I could not have ever imagined the growth, the amount of salvations, or the baptisms that have happened in the past 10 months. … The greatest [reward of ministry] is watching God work on students’ hearts and realizing that I have no control in what he is doing in their lives.”