I’m writing this note from the Las Vegas airport while we wait for a flight to take us to Reno where I will be speaking at a Bible conference at Sierra Bible Church Sunday through Tuesday. In case I somehow forget where I am, I only have to look up and see the slot machines in the gate area. I can hear the incessant carnival-style music playing and just a second ago, I heard a recorded voice say, “Wheel of Fortune.” They have automated the process to the point that you can’t tell if people win or not because they pay off in credits that you redeem at the desk. You don’t hear anyone shouting, “Jackpot!” and you don’ t hear the sound of coins dropping from the machine. Right now things look to be a little slow. This is my first time to fly into Las Vegas, and although I knew there were slot machines here, it’s still a bit of a surprise to see folks with their computers and carry-on bags sitting at the machines. Of course, this is all just to tantalize the passengers. They have lots of nickel slot machines. I guess you have to go to one of the casinos on the Strip to find the big-money machines.
Marlene reminded me as we were flying in over the Grand Canyon that when I graduated from Dallas Seminary in 1978, one of my ideas was to go to Las Vegas and plant a church. I think that we even talked with someone from the Conservative Baptists about it. Looking back, I can see that that would not have been a good idea, not because it was Las Vegas but because I was in no way ready for that kind of challenge. Today Las Vegas has become one of the fastest-growing cities in America. From the plane window you can see the city sprawling in all directions across the desert valley. Needless to say, there is much more to Las Vegas than the casinos, and that part is like any American city, filled with people who come here for all sorts of reasons. There are quite a few churches in Las Vegas, but the explosive population growth means that more churches are needed. I think Jesus would say that the harvest is plentiful here, as it is in every large city.
All of that to say I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Las Vegas even though this is only our third visit, and this time we’re just changing planes. I just glanced up and saw the slot machines, something you won’t see in the Tupelo airport. The airport is filled today with people coming and going. It seems that the arrivals look a bit happier than the departures, but that’s not surprising. If you stay long enough in Las Vegas, you eventually learn that the house always wins.