VBS saved my life. I don’t necessarily remember if the theme was “Submerged” or “Journey” or “Fun in the Jungle” or something else. I don’t remember what the decorations looked like. I vaguely remember snack time, game time, and trying hard to memorize verses mainly to impress girls. What I do remember clearly is that my parents took me every summer and that sometimes I went more than once per summer with my cousins. VBS was a summer ritual in South Alabama. I also remember that the very first verse I ever memorized was John 3:16, King James Version: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I may not have understood the definition of “begotten,” but, because of the labors of countless VBS workers, I grew up with gospel clarity. I grew up understanding that I was a sinner who deserved God’s judgment and that my only hope was believing in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. I wish I could say that I believed the gospel at that time in my life. I learned the verses and listened to the stories, but, unfortunately, I didn’t see my need for Christ at that time.
More than a decade later, a lot had changed in my life. I had grown into a 20-year-old adult, and I was miserable. My rebellion had made me a miserable person. I was alone, hopeless, and afraid—mainly of myself. But I was finally needy and broken. I remember driving my car around Ross Clark Circle in Dothan, Alabama, and crying out to God for help. And it was at that point—the lowest point in my life—that a promise came flooding into my mind—the promise of God’s love for sinners through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in John 3:16. For the first time in my life that verse, memorized at VBS so many years before and buried deep down in the recesses of my soul, became God’s promise to me. I was one of the one’s that God loved and had sent Jesus for. I believed the gospel, and my life dramatically changed.
I like to tell my VBS story because it serves as an important theological reminder: we don’t often get to see the fruit of our labors. As the apostle Paul reminds us, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6). Some of you are tempted to think that you’re wasting your time when you serve at things like VBS. “What good can this really be doing? These kids aren’t listening to a thing I say? That boy is as wild as a buck!” Well, that boy was me. I was the crazy kid that probably looked like I wasn’t getting a thing. But what I took away from the mundane investment of countless church workers ended up saving my life.
The Christian life is not a succession of mountain top experiences. In fact, most of what we do in Christian ministry seems rather mundane and unspectacular. We must fight to remember that God is always at work, and he’s always doing far more than our minds can comprehend. When you feel tired and tempted to despair, remember that the fruit from your labors may never be seen by you in this lifetime. Nevertheless, you can rest assured that nothing you do is in vain. God is the one who gives the growth. Lives are saved through mundane ministry—even through VBS.
Casey McCall, Pastor of Students and Discipleship at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church