Like an all-star coach whipping his team into a victorious frenzy, the Rev. Jerry Cannon roused more than 500 Presbyterians gathered here for the Evangelism and Church Growth Conferences (ECG 2012) to shouts, cheers, stomping, hand-clapping and repeated standing ovations.
It was entirely appropriate given Cannon’s Aug. 2 sermon title: “Winner Takes All.” It wrapped up ECG 2012 ― a July 30-Aug. 2 event comprising five conferences on evangelism, new church development, youth ministry, collegiate ministries and church transformation
Preaching from 1 Corinthians 9:22 where Paul talks about doing whatever it takes to win souls to Jesus Christ, Cannon ― pastor of C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church in Charlotte ― called Paul, and by extension all Christians, “cheerleaders for Christ.”
“A cheerleader doesn’t watch the scoreboard, a cheerleader just keeps cheering,” he said.
“It’s not the cheerleader’s job to watch the scoreboard but to cheer folk on no matter what.”
Christians can’t do that by themselves, Cannon said. “Because I keep messing up, I’m particularly thankful for God’s grace that blesses me anyhow and gives me mercy.”
With the 2012 Olympics in full gear, Cannon recalled the story of U.S. gymnast Kerry Strug in the 1996 Olympics. “Kerry Strug mistepped and twisted her ankle, twisted it so bad it had to be heavily bandaged,” Cannon said. “But she had one more chance, one more vault and her coach encouraged her by telling her to focus on her goal, not her problem.”
Strug helped her team to a gold medal. “That’s what God has called us to do,” Cannon said, “to keep our eyes on God, not on the obstacles, to keep our eye on the goal, which is bringing people to Christ.”
Cannon reflected on the sorry plight of Charlotte’s sports teams. “One thing about only winning one game was last year the Panthers (National Football League) got the number one draft choice, Cam Newton,” he said.
“I was traveling so listened to a game on the radio and heard the announcer say that Cam was ‘taking a knee,’” Cannon said. “I knew that meant we were winning and the defense couldn’t do anything to stop us from winning. Time was on our side.”
So it is for Christians, Cannon said. “If we take a knee every now and then, God works things out and we win. We have to learn how to take a knee, to bow before God because it’s the power of the almighty God that lets us know we’re on the winning team.”