Green’s path in minstry began with profession of faith at Vacation Bible School
By David Dawson
GREENEVILLE — Tennessee Baptist Convention president David Green believes in the importance of Vacation Bible School, and he recognizes it as one of the denomination’s most effective evangelistic outlets.
But for Green, it’s actually a little more personal than that.
Understand that Green is not just a proponent of VBS. He’s a product of it.
Green gave his life to Christ during Vacation Bible School as a young boy, and the annual summer event maintains a special place in his heart.
“In the last 35 years of ministry, I have not missed a Vacation Bible School as a pastor,” said Green, who is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church, Greeneville, and was elected as president of the TBC last November. “I have made sure to plan my schedule around Vacation Bible School, and I have always supported our Vacation Bible School director.”
As a child, Green’s parents were very active at their church, Bethel Baptist Church in Columbus, Miss., and Green attended essentially every event that took place, including VBS.
“My parents were always extremely involved,” he said. “My mother taught in Vacation Bible School and was the WMU director. She also taught GAs, so I was at pretty much everything at our church.
“In fact, I thought I was a GA for several years because I went to all of the GA gatherings and events,” he added with a laugh.
Green recalls in vivid detail the day he accepted Christ when he was eight years old. It happened on the final day of VBS at Bethel Baptist.
“I was under conviction, and had been for some time,” said Green. “After a week of Vacation Bible School, and being around that environment every day and hearing the teaching of the Word, I felt under tremendous conviction.”
Green remembered that he had a conversation with God that day, and was searching for an excuse that would free him from having to walk down the aisle.
“The last day of Vacation Bible School, they had the evangelistic emphasis — and I still actually remember this clearly — and I was praying at the time of invitation,” said Green.
“At that point in my life, I didn’t understand that I wasn’t supposed to make deals with God. So, I said to Him, ‘Lord, if you will let someone else go down the aisle, then I will go.’ Well, I peeked up and saw that someone else was going forward. And I thought, that was too easy, Lord.’”
Still not ready to make a move, Green continued to bargain with God.
“I said, ‘okay if you let another person go down, then I will go,’ ” Green remembered with a laugh. “So, I kept saying that — and people kept going down.”
Eventually, Green decided to be more specific with the Lord.
“There was a girl in our church named Jackie, who was a friend of mine,” said Green. “And I said, ‘okay, Lord, if Jackie will go down, then I will answer your call and I will move. ’ ”
Within seconds, Green recalls, Jackie headed to the altar.
“As soon as I prayed that, Jackie was on her way down the aisle,” said Green. “And I went down right after her.”
Green later found out that he and his friend were actually the only two children who came forward to be saved. The other children were making other decisions.
“It was really neat that Jackie and I made the decision at the same time,” said Green. “To be able to pray for her by name on the same day that I trusted Christ was really special.”
Not long after that, Green and his friend Jackie were baptized on the same day at their church.
Now, more than four decades later, VBS remains a priority for Green. Each year, he clears his schedule to make certain he can be involved, and then he personally invests in the ministry.
For the past 20 years at FBC Greeneville, he has visited each classroom during VBS and has talked with the children about Jesus.
“Instead of waiting until the evangelism emphasis (on the final day), I go to every classroom on different days for about 15-20 minutes at a time,” he said. “And I sit in the room with the children and teach a Bible story and share the plan of salvation. … (By doing this), my goal is for them to really understand what they are doing.”
Green then makes himself available during the week to the children who want to follow up about how to become a Christian.
“After I share the plan of salvation with them, I will say ‘if anyone wants to talk to me about their relationship with Jesus, then come and see me later,’ ” said Green. “I always make sure the Vacation Bible School director knows where I will be stationed during the week, so she can send the students to me.
“So, by the point in the week when we have the evangelistic emphasis, I feel like the kids already have an understanding of what’s going on — and they feel comfortable with the decision they are making,” Green added.
Green believes the one-on-one approach helps ensure that the children are making the decision for themselves, and are not simply following along with the crowd. He said he encourages other churches to follow this method, too.
“I try to stay away from the ‘herd mentality’ that sometimes kids can get caught up in,” he said. “Quite frankly, I think it (the herd mentality) has given Vacation Bible School kind of a bad rap when it comes to evangelistic emphasis.
“Some people are critical (of the VBS method) in terms of saying ‘hey, these kids didn’t know what they were doing; they just made a decision because their friends were doing it,’ ” he said. “And, in some cases, there is some truth to that: There are some children who walk down the aisle just because their friends are doing it. So, I try to put extra effort into it and make sure that our kids understand what it means to become a Christian before we get to the point of evangelistic emphasis later in the week.”
Green said he is excited that VBS remains such a crucial part of the Baptist curriculum, and said he hopes to help churches all across the state understand the importance of the ministry. He recently served as a keynote speaker during a VBS training seminar in Columbia for the Maury Association.
“I want to encourage (them) with my own Vacation Bible School testimony,” said Green, “but mainly I want to help them understand how to be sensitive to the kids — and how not to miss this great opportunity.” B&R