Published June 30, 2011
PERRY — There was a pro bass fisherman, a snake handler, and inflatables for the children. Women were encouraged to participate in any of the outdoor sports seminars or they could attend a spiritual growth session.
For six hours on June 25, nearly 3,000 Georgia Baptists and their unchurched friends swarmed over the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter to whet their appetite for all things outdoors. The Hank Parker and Friends Outdoor Spectacular brought leading national television personalities to the front row seats in the facility where attendees learned how to be better fishermen and hunters – but also to see the value of a personal walk with the One who created it all.
The event, sponsored by Men’s Ministries of the Georgia Baptist Convention, was the prototype of a new approach to sponsor ministries that churches can use to expand their evangelistic outreach. Glen McCall, who oversees the program, said churches can partner with the state convention to promote such events and encourage their members to bring unchurched families to the outing.
Stacy Dyer, senior pastor at Harmony Grove Baptist Church in Blairsville, agrees with that approach.
“We’re reaching folks through events like this who may never come to the church house but will come to the fairgrounds. This is a wonderful way to break down barriers to the gospel that some people may have.
“This is how you earn the right to speak to people about the Savior. You provide a good common ground and take it from there,” he said.
Dyer should know. His church has a strong outdoor ministry called Xtreme Christian Outdoors (www.xtremechristianoutdoors.com) with a television presence and local participation in camping and learning outdoor skills.
Tom Alderman, pastor of Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Statesboro, agreed with Dyer’s assessment. He brought 38 men to the fairgrounds, two who rode on their motorcycles.
“The men in our church agreed that this would be a good opportunity to bring some of their unchurched friends to hear some great outdoorsmen give tips on how to be a better hunter or fisherman. The added dimension of these speakers being dedicated Christians and hearing their testimonies really made it attractive.
“This day really exceeded my expectations.”
That’s the word that McCall hopes gets out to those churches that may not have taken advantage of the opportunity.
“Many people who were saved through event evangelism, as we call this kind of outreach, were not saved because they wanted to attend an evangelistic event but because they were attracted to the overall program. It was only after they attended the event and heard the gospel in a fresh, new way did they commit their lives to Christ.
“That’s what we are praying for as we make new inroads into reaching our Jerusalem – our state – for Christ.”
Everyone who attended the day’s main event, which included a more intentional evangelistic flavor, was eligible to attend one of three grand prizes. Attendees registered at the door for the drawing.
The prizes and winners were:
• Hank Parker’s Z21 Ranger bass boat – Ben Thompson, member of Isabella Baptist Church in Sylvester;
• All Terrain Vehicle – Caleb Pezent, who attends Evergreen Baptist Church in Adell; and
• Sea Island Vacation – Janice Cadwell of Evergreen Baptist Church in Cochran. Cadwell’s husband, John, is pastor of the church.
All prizes were donated and no Cooperative Program or mission dollars from any source were used in their purchase.
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