WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis.—Given the vast amount of sportsmen and sportswomen in Wisconsin, Calvary Baptist Church considers a wild game dinner a great opportunity to share the gospel with a large group of people. Calvary Baptist held its Ninth Annual Outdoor Adventures Banquet Feb. 20 and 21. The sole purpose is to reach others with the gospel.
Over 480 people attended. They enjoyed venison sausage, fried fish, pheasant dumpling soup, smoked salmon, and pickled Northern, as well as some more traditional fare. “Interestingly, a very large number of first-time guests joined some others who had attended previous banquets,” says Jack Austin, pastor of church education. “Most of these guests came as a result of personal invitations and the investment in personal relationships over the past year, but we did see 25 walk-ins show up on Saturday night.” Pastor Jon Jenks believes the key to a large attendance hinges on the church family extending personal invitations and the relationship building that occurs throughout the other 51 weeks of the year.
God orchestrated the presentation of the gospel through the theme “The Seasons,” which celebrated the seasons of nature as a picture of the seasons of one’s life story. Sean Yusten, a member of Calvary Baptist, showcased God’s love by sharing a moving account of his dad’s life story from his boyhood years to his death from cancer in December 2014. Jeremy Harrill, a Department of Natural Resources officer from Cleveland, North Carolina, also brought the gospel to a personal level through his message and salvation invitation.
“While post-event follow-up efforts can be challenging in some cases, there were 24 people requesting that someone from our church family contact them to discuss spiritual matters, including three who indicated that they had trusted Christ at the event!” Austin says.
At the banquet’s conclusion, Harrill said he was personally enriched as he watched the church family demonstrate ‘body life’ at a high level. Austin says, “From food prep, to set-up, serving, clean-up, media presentations, decorating, inviting and just plain hard work, there is a sweet sense of camaraderie and joy in serving Christ together.”
The Outdoor Adventures Banquet owes its success not only to people’s hard work, but also to their prayer support. Even before it began, a dedicated OAB prayer team of over 120 people from 11 states and seven countries was bathing the event in prayer. Austin says, “Our church family can see a strong link between the faithful prayer of God’s people and the impact of this year’s Outdoor Adventure Banquet.”
Calvary Baptist Church is now following up with attendees and planning “bridge” activities that will bring them back to the church. Austin says, “We are not content with having a great annual event if we cannot create more frequent spiritually centered interactions with those who attended the banquets.”