By Aaron Keller
At our first service in January at the church I pastor, Sunshine Open Bible Church in Des Moines, Iowa, twenty people dedicated their lives to the Lord! Even though our church attendance has taken a hit due to COVID, twenty guests joined us for service January 3. Nearly half of them, as well as ten others, responded to the message choosing to follow Jesus and walk in repentance.
Our church had been going through a difficult time with many COVID cases, which caused many members to watch from home. Nonetheless, others who had been disconnected from the church for some time started coming back. Many of them happen to be people trying to escape addiction. Whether it is our church location or who we best identify with, Sunshine draws many who struggle with addiction. Then even though we become connected, we sometimes do not see them for months or even a year at a time. Now suddenly, they were back.
Little did I know back in June, when I was preparing my sermon series for January, what the Holy Spirit had planned for that Sunday. Many of those responding want to break the cycles of sin and addiction. As much as we hope and pray for a supernatural work to break their addiction, we, the body of Christ, will be walking with them through a transformational process that will take time.
Many of them find themselves in cycles of reaching low points, recognizing the need for Christ, committing to Him, and relapsing again. Prior to my becoming pastor here, the church had hosted Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered, twelve-step recovery program for anyone struggling with addiction. When I took the position of pastor here in July of 2020, all of our programs were shut down at the time. I wasn’t sure what the right approach was at first, but at the time of my planning I was specifically praying for what direction to go with the messages.
For the first 40 days of the year I always prepare the church for a community fast, so in my planning I had decided to do a series called Detox. The idea behind the series was to identify things that are fleshly that we need to purge from our lives. The first Sunday was on fasting, and on January 3, the sermon focused on repentance. I have been taught there are always three parts to a service: the worship, the Word, and the work. For the work part, I asked people who wanted to break free from sin and the grip it holds on them to respond. The response was overwhelming.
Now the transformational work begins.
About the Author
Aaron Keller is the director of MOVE Ministries, a ministry for men who want to participate in short-term Open Bible missions building projects around the world. He is the lead pastor at Sunshine Open Bible Church in Des Moines, Iowa, the church he attended while growing up. Aaron and his wife, Wendy, have four children: Josiah, Isaac, Gabriel and Evangeline.