‘Jam for Jesus’ draws enthusiastic crowd

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 6, 2005

Youth from across the area gathered in Greenville’s Call to Life Church last Thursday night to sing, pray and celebrate together as the year drew to a close.

Congregations from Crenshaw, Butler, and Lowndes Counties were all represented among some 250 children, teens and adults who filled the Call to Life sanctuary that evening.

The &uot; Holiday Jam for Jesus&uot;, organized by Call to Life members Doyle and Shirley Sasser, proved to be a rocking event geared to honor the Rock of Ages. Songs and speakers for the evening also encouraged young people to look to &uot;higher ground&uot; in their daily lives.

The &uot;Jam for Jesus&uot; Praise Band, an 11-member group of young musicians and singers from several area churches, led things off with praise choruses including &uot;From Our Hearts&uot;, &uot;What a Mighty God We Serve&uot; and &uot;Open the Eyes of My Heart&uot;, quickly getting the audience on their feet and involved in the evening.

Praise Band vocalist and guitarist Ben Nelson, who serves as youth minister at Antioch East Baptist Church, reminded the audience, &uot;We’re here for unity and growth…this is not just one church, one denomination, one color, one group here tonight. If you want to lift your arms and praise God, that’s great – and if you want to sit quietly and worship in your own way, that’s fine, too.&uot;

Evangelist Carolyn Griffin served as the enthusiastic emcee for the evening’s events, encouraging those present to &uot;jam together and let that sweet, sweet spirit fill up this place&uot; as the band performed a pumped-up version of the classic hymn, &uot;Amazing Grace&uot;.

Among the other groups who performed at the Jam for Jesus were the Inspirational Choir from New Bethel Christian Church; The Pilgrim Rest Praise Dancers; the Saint Paul Praise Ministry; Harrison Street Christian Church Youth Ministry Praise Dancers; Antioch East Baptist Drama Team; Christian rock band &uot;Axis&uot;, and the Wings of Faith Gospel Choir. Students from both public and private schools in the area also participated in the performances that night.

&uot;You know, the praise band only had two nights to practice together before tonight – they are all from different churches, schools, and counties…this is really a community-wide effort,&uot; noted Lori Cummings, whose son, Cory, played in the praise band and also led his own Christian hard rock band, Axis, during the Jam.

‘Something to hold on to’

That night, minister Chad McGriff recalled the gigantic earthquake and tsunami that had taken place only days before in Asia. &uot;In the twinkling of an eye, we saw such a rumbling of this world we live in. By far, it was the greatest natural disaster we have any record of.

&uot;Thousands of miles away and days away, people were still feeling the effects of what had happened there. Imagine those 60-foot waves crashing ten miles inland, engulfing people as they struggled to find something, anything to hold on to…if they couldn’t find that higher ground, they was nothing they could do to resist the pull of the sea,&uot; McGriff told his attentive audience.

&uot;The sea of sin is a lot like those terrible waves, it will always take you further than you intended to go and drag you deeper than you meant to sink…I am challenging you to seek your higher ground,&uot; he said.

Take a stand

McGriff admonished the youth present to be willing &uot;to stand up for Jesus Christ in the schoolhouse as well as the church house.&uot;

&uot;It’s time for you to move on up – little boys and little girls need to sit down, and young ladies and young men need to stand up for Jesus and not just go through the motions.&uot;

McGriff further challenged the young people to get to know Jesus &uot;personally and passionately&uot;.

&uot;And don’t just love the neighbor you like…love the ones you don’t like. God wants to move somebody here tonight to higher ground,&uot; McGriff said to a chorus of hearty &uot;amens&uot; and &uot;hallelujahs&uot;.

‘God doesn’t mind’

Children and youth from various churches performed a variety of emotion-filled praise dances for the receptive audience members, performing to such spiritual songs as &uot;Free&uot;, &uot;Order My Steps&uot; and &uot;Never Put More on Me Than I Can Bear&uot;. Members of Antioch East Baptist Church also entertained the crowd with an amusing skit that brought home a wise lesson: Lying doesn’t pay.

When Cory Cummings of Bethel Baptist in Fort Deposit and his fellow Axis band mates, William Bates and Ben Coker, took the stage, Cummings told those listening, &uot;Our music may be kind of loud and ‘rock-y’ and fast for some of you, but the lyrics all praise God – and I am sure He doesn’t mind.&uot;

Virtually all styles of music were performed that evening, from praise choruses and hymns to hard rock and soulful gospel tunes. As the night continued, young people bowed their heads in prayer, clapped their hands and gleefully sang along to the songs as their adult counterparts nodded, smiled and raised arms in praise.

Those present under the age of 20 were entered in a drawing for door prizes awarded throughout the evening, including a DVD player, karaoke machine, a color television, DVDs and other items donated by local merchants, who also provided refreshments for the evening.

Tom’s K and D Snacks, Super Foods of Greenville, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Fred’s Discount, Colonial Bread Store, Robinson’s Beauty Supply, Snap-On Tools of Montgomery, Winn-Dixie, Proverbs International Christian Bookstore, Real Pit Bar-B-Que, Supporters of Area Youth, Divine Touch Hair Salon, Movie Gallery and Camellia Printing were among those heartily thanked by event organizers, who seemed pleased with the evening’s outcome.

&uot;We really hope to make these jams a regular event throughout the year. We had a great crowd here – I thought it was a great, great night,&uot; said Cummings.