Stan Cole's Story of Touching Others' Lives Through REACH
Knowing that you've led someone to Christ is an unforgettable feeling. But, how easy is it to have the courage to have that conversation with someone in the first place? These days, many Christians are too nervous or they simply just do not know how to talk about Jesus with someone. Stan Cole has left an impact on many people through his involvement with REACH, Cottonwood Creek's door-to-door visitation ministry. Through REACH, Stan hopes he can encourage many other Christians to reach out to the lost and tell them about Jesus.
Stan has been a part of Cottonwood Creek Church for the past eleven years. "I've been a big event guy all my life," Stan said. Aside from REACH, he has served in many different parts of the church, including Vacation Bible School, Fun With The Son, and as a deacon. Overall, Stan says he is "currently involved in sharing positive conversations about Jesus and encouraging others to do the same."
Stan first came to know Christ when he was nine years old. As a child, he used to put his security in his good works. "If it worked for my mom and dad, surely it would work for God," Stan said. "I was a church going kid checking all the blocks but I didn't have a personal relationship with God. One Sunday morning, I heard a sermon about hell and how we all need to be rescued. I prayed for the next month fervently because the Holy Spirit convicted me that I was a sinner and needed to be rescued."
Stan's passion for reaching the lost first began after he was saved. He realized that many other Christians did not have the same passion or drive to reach others and share about Jesus. However, over time, Stan's passion waned.
"The world gets in the way," Stan said. "Deep down, I always had a passion for it, but I was too afraid to say anything. That is the dilemma with a vast majority of Christians."
His passion was reawakened when his nephew went to Campus Crusade for Christ to play basketball. The kids there would share their faith at half time, but the thing that really caught Stan's attention was their evangelistic sports camps in the summer. When he heard that hundreds of kids came to Christ, a fire was lit. Even though Stan had never been to a camp in his life, he decided he needed to start a basketball camp.
"It started with 82 kids and several salvations," Stan said. "It later became Upward Sports, which is now reaching almost 500,000 kids in 48 states."
From there, Stan helped develop REACH, Cottonwood's visitation ministry. "REACH is having pleasant conversations about Jesus in every-day lives," Stan said. "Sharing Jesus is caught, not taught."
Stan thinks it is necessary to go with someone who has been trained. He believes this is the second biggest reason Christians don't share Jesus. The first reason is because they are afraid, but the second reason is because they haven't found someone experienced to go with and watch. Stan describes REACH as simply mentoring people to be comfortable having these pleasant conversations about Jesus in every-day lives. Going from door-to-door can reach people that other people cannot reach.
"Jesus' conversations about the Kingdom of Heaven occurred outside the synagogue, yet today we beg people to come to our house of worship to hear the story," Stan said. "Where are they? They are not coming."
Stan and his team go from door-to-door within apartment complexes. They have learned over time that by visiting apartment complexes, they have had more luck reaching more people. As eager as Stan is to approach people and share Jesus with them, he still gets nervous time and time again. At one point, Stan says he even asked a minister of evangelism from another church if he ever got nervous. The minister's reply? Every single time.
"Nervousness is common," Stan said. "But you just trust the Holy Spirit to lead you and show you how far you should go. Most of us chicken out too soon. I've done that many times. Without His guidance, it's going to be hard."
Through REACH, Stan has encountered many different testimonies. One day, he met with a heroin addict who had visited the church before. He told Stan and his REACH teammate his story before Stan tried to do the conversational method, but ultimately it didn't work out. Right before they left, Stan asked if they could pray for the man. The three of them huddled up in prayer, this being Stan's last chance to share the gospel. Stan prayed evangelistically, sharing the gospel with him. Stan looked at the man afterwards and the man's eyes were filled with tears.
On another occasion, Stan met a man who had grown up in a Christian home but was still lost, never having had made his faith his own. Stan prayed with him on the doorstep of his apartment to receive Jesus Christ. Furthermore, on two separate encounters, Stan and his team met with people who later told them they had prayed that God would send them someone like the REACH ministry.
One day, Stan took the invitation to go to a community service event at a park. At his booth, he handed out bead bracelets that explained the Gospel. Later that day, he had an encounter with an older gentleman with his granddaughter. The man did not speak English, but Stan gave him a bracelet and had the granddaughter translate to her grandfather. God then prompted him to let the girl know this was for her, too. Stan prayed for them both and they both received Jesus.
"I have never had a bad experience with REACH," Stan said. "Some may say they are not interested. But, we still drop a seed even if we are rejected. We aren't going out to start something. We are just going out to nudge them towards Jesus. So many people want Him but they don't know how to start that relationship."
Stan would love for the Cottonwood Creek family to become more involved in REACH. "The church is declining because we are not engaging," Stan said. "Only 2% of Christians will ever invite an unchurched person to church. We are the reason for the unchurched." Stan is glad that Cottonwood Creek reaches the unchurched through big events, such as VBS, Fun with the Son, etc. However, today's culture is not being engaged on a regular basis. "I thought my once or twice a year participation in a big event was enough," Stan said. "It's not. The forces of evil are at work every day, while we spend almost all our time pursuing comfort and pleasure. We should be more intentional in engaging."
Stan believes it isn't the media, politicians, or Hollywood movie stars that will ultimately reach others; it is the church body. "Since the first century, the church has had a lot of opposition," Stan said. "The first century engaged the culture. The twenty first century doesn't."
Stan's dream is to grow the family of God, not just by numbers, but by being more intentional. "REACH does training four times a year," Stan said. "It's a one day event and it's so easy. We visit every Saturday from 10:00a to 12:00p year round. Come give us a try. You will be pleasantly surprised. The more you go, the more confident you get."
Stan hopes that REACH will be a wonderful opportunity for more and more people to be a part of. He holds Matthew 28:19-20 very near to his heart.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
"Verse 20 gets separated from verse 19 way too frequently," Stan said. "The context says 'if you do this...' Every conversation we have He with us. I want people to realize that. We do not force these conversations. There is nothing like the joy of seeing someone receive the story of Jesus and make it their own. God is calling, 'Believe in Me. Will we say, 'Yes'?"