06 Sep

Spared for a reason

When Bayless Conley got critically injured in a boating accident in 2014, no one knew if he would ever preach again at his home church at Cottonwood Church in Los Alamitos, California - or anywhere else for that matter.

But within months he defied all odds by returning to his pulpit, following the traumatic accident off Catalina Island.

Conley and some colleagues all were injured when the 22-foot Glacier Bay catamaran slammed head-on into sheer cliffs on the famous island’s north side near Isthmus Cove. The island is well known for its scenic cliffs high above the Pacific Ocean off Southern California.

Now, the relieved evangelist and the senior pastor of one of America’s most thriving churches says he’s “bursting to preach” this week at our big Alive Belfast event where both he and his son Harrison are the special guest speakers. Conley insists, however, that without the prayers of the saints throughout his shocking ordeal he wouldn’t be at Alive Belfast.  

You Catch the video version of the interview here.

“I want to thank all of the great people in Belfast who prayed for me following the accident.  But for the grace of God and those prayers I know for sure I wouldn’t be here, I really wouldn’t. Miraculously, however, I lived to tell my story,” said a grateful Conley this week.

Church members and friends were initially alarmed following reports he underwent surgery for soft tissue injuries sustained to his neck and throat area. Positive reports followed the surgery, however, in which his doctors said all his vital organs and spinal cord were fully intact and without injury. A second surgical procedure was done to address facial injuries, possible broken ribs, and a fractured sternum. So severe were his injuries he had to learn to speak and swallow all over again, something he admits has been a humbling experience.

“God has given all of us a certain currency and influence. To have that impaired so badly was life changing for me.  The only one who was honest with me was my four-year-old grandson who blurted out ‘Papa, why do you sound so weird? When are you going to start talking normally?’ He just said it as it was.” 

The man who hosts the well-known Answers with Bayless Conley programme was out of action for over six months and admits his road to recovery has taken time.

Hospitalised for over a month, people had to take care of him every day. “That was a humbling experience as folks couldn’t understand me. Like the Irish, I am a very independent person, and it wasn’t a good time for me, ” he added.

If there was any consolation in Bayless Conley’s near death experience, he believes it’s in the progress of his son and the young people of his church in California.  According to Conley, they have gone from strength to strength in ministry due to being catapulted into the limelight sooner than expected.

“Though God didn’t plan the accident He certainly used it,” says Conley, who adds “because the youth of our church had to step up to the plate, this accelerated people like my son Harrison who is also looking forward to being with you guys in Belfast shortly. I’m just so amazed at his and their development and how God has used them all.”

Known for applying the Bible to everyday life, Conley grew up in Southern California, yet it’s not the first time the popular preacher has experienced several near death incidents. During his teen years, he suffered from drug and alcohol abuse and only found God when a twelve-year old boy shared God’s message in a park one day with Conley when he was searching for the truth. Jesus’ message of hope regarding the Saviour’s death and resurrection resonated with him and changed his life.

“I recall going to a mission with the boy the following night and almost daring someone to try and convert me, and that’s what happened. It was all in God's plan.”

That was 42 years ago, and Bayless has never looked back since. Following the horrific accident, though, he now says he’s got an even deeper take on life – and appreciation he never had before.

“The sacredness of what we get to do hit me so powerfully after the accident and changed my entire perspective. I nearly died, but God in His mercy spared me for a reason. He raised me up again for a purpose - to preach to dying men and women. To say my passion has notched up a few levels is no exaggeration and I’m so grateful to God for every day he has given me. I just can’t wait to get to Alive Belfast.”