“This evangelistic series really never should have happened,” said Marco Topete, Van Nuys church pastor. “It was planned to be at a totally different place, at a different time. It was planned even before I knew that I was going to be a pastor. But God wanted it to be there.”
While the timing was a bit unexpected, Topete felt God’s leading to hold an evangelistic series at the church just a month after his installation. Resulting in 11 decisions for baptisms and six weekly Bible studies, the series gave the opportunity for Topete and the church to hit the ground running.
The series ran for eight days and presented topics including: “Is the Bible trustworthy?” “How can we trust God in the midst of evil?” “How can we be certain Jesus was the Messiah?” and “Is Jesus really coming?”
One church member invited their neighbor, John, to the series. He attended consistently, sat in the front row, and was engaged in the messages. Due to a throat surgery, John can’t speak, so he carries a tablet he uses to communicate by writing.
“During the series, I made several baptismal calls, and he never came up,” Topete recalled. “On the very last night of the series, I made another baptismal call, and after the series, I went and checked on John because he didn’t come up. I sat next to him, and we were talking, and he motions to me to hold on, and I saw him start scribbling away. Then he turned the tablet toward me, and it said, ‘I want to get baptized.’”
John’s story is just one of the many testimonies that resulted from this event, from community and church members alike. “It really brought our church together,” Topete said of the series. “Having something for us to do together with the same purpose, same heart, and same mind really brought us together.”
While putting an evangelistic series together as a new pastor in a short time period is no easy task, the support of SOULS West and the Pacific Union Conference made it possible. The students assisted with marketing and door knocking before the series began, plus they helped implement the series itself. “It’s wonderful to see these young people getting a taste of what local church ministry looks like very practically,” Topete said. “At the same time, it got the church excited to see this group of young people who, week after week, had amazing testimonies.”
As for what’s next for Van Nuys church, it’s unknown for now. “I don’t want to be too quick to say what’s next,” Topete noted. “I haven’t heard from God yet. I don’t want to just make myself busy. We’ll take a season where leadership prays, ‘God, what would you like us to do?’”