I have never seen God move like He has the last four to five weeks in our church. I know pastors can say things like that at times in an attempt to lift themselves up or their church. I promise you that is not my intention, and hopefully the rest of this article will prove that. Our story in Northwest Arkansas began in Hendersonville, Tennessee. I know that sounds weird, so let me explain.
I asked Robby Gallaty, the pastor at Long Hollow Baptist in Tennessee, to come and speak at our church on Sunday morning and then speak to our men at a conference that night. He initially told me no, only to reach back out to me a few weeks later asking if I had filled the speaking engagement. He told me that he really believed God wanted him to come. (As you may have heard, Long Hollow is experiencing a genuine move of God in their church. Since December, they have seen over 1,000 people baptized.)
We prayed and we told our people we were going to experience a move of God on May 2. What unfolded on that day will be seared into my mind and heart till the day that I die. Robby stood and gave a simple Gospel message, and then gave people an opportunity to come forward to be saved and be baptized immediately. He also gave a call for people to get their baptism in order Biblically if they had not been baptized after their salvation. That morning, we saw exactly 150 people come forward and be baptized. That night, Robby did a similar thing, and 61 men and teenage boys were baptized that night. In total, 211 people were baptized in one day.
I had heard about moves of God like that. I have even experienced some powerful moves of the Spirit of God, but I had never seen one happen in that kind of way. Let me just be clear, Cross Church isn’t that good. I’ve told different people, “This is not a Cross Church story. This is a Holy Spirit story.”
What has been the most moving part of the entire experience is that it was not relegated to one Sunday experience at our church. Since May 2, we have seen a few hundred more people be baptized. I know what it’s like to hear these kinds of stories. There’s the cynical view that surely people are being manipulated. There’s the view of the critic that believes that the message must be shallow. Can I be honest with you about what has really been happening? We have seen the compelling work of the Holy Spirit.
I heard Robby use that phrase – “the compelling work of the Holy Spirit” – to describe what was happening at Long Hollow. After seeing what I’ve seen over the last four to five weeks, I can tell you the Holy Spirit compels, and when He compels, things happen.
I received a call from a church attender who was watching the church service online while traveling in California. He told me, “Nick, if someone would have been waiting to baptize me at the Pacific Ocean, I would’ve run to the ocean.” No man can do that kind of work in another man’s heart. We recently baptized a 79-year-old man who has led in our church but was convicted about his baptism being out of order. No man can do that kind of work in another man’s heart.
We have heard hundreds of other similar stories where the Holy Spirit has just made it clear – it’s time to get right with God. Many have been saved. Many have gotten their baptism in order. Some have seen the beginning of restored relationships. We have one small group at our Fayetteville campus that had five estranged relationships with adult children that represented 26 ½ years of separation. All five of these relationships have begun a process of restoration while we’ve been in this season as a church.
My biggest takeaway from this entire season has been about prayer. I will never pray the same. The biggest change is that I am simply asking for the Holy Spirit to do His compelling work. I’ve done ministry outside of the compelling work of the Holy Spirit, and I have spent the last month living inside the compelling work of the Holy Spirit. Can I be honest with you? I don’t want to go back. When the Holy Spirit is compelling people to take steps of obedience, ministry is a lot easier.
In conclusion, I’ve been convinced of one more thing during this season. The Spirit is already doing the work. The question is will we give our people both the encouragement and the opportunity to respond to God in obedience? We have heard testimonies of people who have said something to the effect of, “God has been working on me for two years about my baptism.” One man recounted that he would have died never being obedient to God in baptism if we didn’t just give the opportunity to get it right immediately. The Spirit is working. Are we giving people the opportunity to respond to His compelling work in their hearts…and to do it immediately?