Speedway Evangelism

Pastor Laird Baldwin, Bible Baptist Fellowship, Brookville, Ohio, shares the following account that may be an idea starter for outreach in your church:

When Wayne and Carmen Watkins began attending our church, we quickly learned that Wayne drives race cars at a local speedway in the Pro 4 category, a mix of modified stock cars and racing trucks. Located in a motor racing hotbed, our church expressed an immediate interest in Wayne’s racing.

Since the Watkinses had no significant church background, we wondered whether our mutual interest in racing might be a means of developing a relationship with the family. Over Sunday lunch, Wayne raised the question, “I wonder how ‘Bible Baptist Fellowship’ would look on the side of my truck as it whizzes around the track?” I replied, “I don’t know if we can afford to paint your truck, but we have baseball caps with our church’s name on them. I wonder how ‘Bible Baptist Fellowship Racing’ would look on a cap?”

Whoever heard of a church with its own racing team? I popped this question on my blog. In response, pastors wrote, “You may reach a segment of our population that no one else can touch,” and “You could have a Tract Night at the track.” I ordered a couple hats with “Bible Baptist Fellowship Racing” imprinted, and they were an instant hit at church.

Wayne wanted to buy 10 hats to give out to the crowd at the speedway when he drove. I was taken aback by his offer. “They are eleven dollars apiece, Wayne. That’s quite a bit to give away,” I said. He replied, “I know, there are people at the track from all over. We may be able to get someone else to come to church. Do you have any literature to put in the caps so people have directions to the church and the times of our services?” At his own expense, Wayne, an unsaved man, was financing an effort to invite people to church and evangelize them!

Our church planned a couple of “Church Night at the Track” outings for which Wayne obtained reduced admission. Our church had its own  cheering section in the stands for “our” driver. On the second of our track nights, Wayne distributed the “Bible Baptist Fellowship Racing” caps while the public address announcer introduced our team to the crowd. As an added surprise, Wayne placed decals of our church name on the rear quarter panels of his truck. What a thrill for us to watch as the “Bible Baptist Fellowship” Ford roared onto the track!

Wayne’s car may never win a race, but we have a family attending faithfully who otherwise we might not come, and we’ve had many opportunities to share our testimony with people we might never have met otherwise. We’ve found a new mission field and an effective way to reach it.

Laird Baldwin, pastor
Bible Baptist Church
Brookville, Ohio

Gaga Ball

After playing Gaga Ball at a Bible college event and at our state camp, we realized the game’s popularity and excitement. We decided to take the game to our Corn Festival, an annual summer celebration held on the town square of our county seat to honor farmers and the military. We used this opportunity to let people know that our church exists and where it’s located. We displayed posters printed with our church name and website, and had tracts and flyers available for players and spectators.

Gaga Ball is a Jewish game of dodge ball played in an octagonal pit, made from eight 2′ by 8′ deck board gates hinged together. The game is played with a volleyball-size ball that is always live while the ball is in the pit. Players use their hands to hit the ball at other players, and the ball must hit either a wall or another player before they can hit it again. A player is considered out if they are hit from the knees down, “double hit” the ball, or hit the ball out of the pit without the ball hitting a wall or another player. Because the ball is always live , a player can knock several people out with one shot. The angled walls make guessing the direction of the ball difficult and level the playing field for players of all ages and abilities.

At the Corn Festival we had 20–25 players all afternoon, which allowed us to talk briefly with parents, grandparents, and curious bystanders.  We did not charge individuals to play. Recognizing that we have the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is what kids really need, we gave each player a free ticket that has church information as well as a challenge toward their eternal destiny. To get a ticket, they simply ask and have someone give us contact information for the family.

As we facilitated Gaga Ball at the Corn Festival, a man in a neighboring booth watched much of the day. He introduced himself as a board member for the Beardstown Festival and asked what it would take for us to bring Gaga Ball to their festival, saying, “Our kids need something like this.” We replied, “We must be able to pass out information about our church.” They asked us to bring the Gaga Ball, and we are setting up a booth next to the pit where we will distribute tracts and interact with individuals. One of our members, who is a Gideon, has 50 Bibles ready to distribute as well.

Larry Lindow, pastor
First Baptist Church
Littleton, Illinois

Pine Car Derby

Our church’s primary desire is to reach our community for Christ. Our church motto is, “We Preach Christ.” This year for our 60th anniversary we have included, “Preaching Christ and Answering the Call.”

The Pine Car Derby event was an outreach to men in our church and to their friends, coworkers, family members, and neighbors. Our guys love racing! Rather than spending a lot of money on real cars, we used pine cars. We borrowed the track from Faith Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit, Mo., hung up checkered flags, enjoyed a concession stand where everything was free, and had a challenge from Ezekiel 22:30 about men standing in the gap. We awarded ribbons for categories such as the best paint job, most decorated, slowest looking, fastest looking, etc. The men are excited already about next year’s competition.

Three of our men have purchased a new aluminum track for future races, so now we will have our own track and be able to race more often. I’m excited about their enthusiasm and hope God uses this unique tool to reach men in our community. (See Baptist Bulletin for story of this event.)

Nathan Gast, pastor
Fair Haven Baptist Church
Kansas City, Kan.

Drive Your Tractor to Church

In lieu of a church picnic, our church hosted a “Drive Your Tractor to Church” event—an idea that originated from one of our veteran farmers. Tractors, riding lawn mowers, and children’s pedal tractors joined the stream of vehicles making their way to church on Sunday. I spoke on the theme of God specializing in spiritual restoration, using PowerPoint slides of refurbishing vintage tractors to illustrate.

Highlights of the day included:

  • Our community and surrounding communities took great interest in the event.
  • Tractors and lawn mowers from as far as 38 miles away participated.
  • The newspaper and the TV 6:00 p.m. news covered the event.
  • The two greatest outcomes: one young man’s salvation; another man started attending his church that he used to attend years ago.

Our people responded to hosting the event with great energy and joy! They worked hard to make the day a success and were excited to see the community coming together. We are already planning a “Drive Your Tractor to Church Sunday” for next year. (See Baptist Bulletin for story about this event.)

Ken Young, pastor
Forest Lake Baptist Church
Forest Lake, Pa.

Planting Spiritual Seeds through Community Garden

Our church is located in Madison, Wis., a typical postmodern college town. As followers of Christ, we cannot promote much of our community’s liberal agenda. However, recognizing that Madison is “green” with a huge push toward organic food, locally grown crops, and neighborhood food pantries, we found a way to connect with our neighborhood by establishing a community garden.

For the garden, we use a large plot of land that was deeded to the church. Our evangelism theme for our community garden is “plant a seed . . . change a life.” We are not trying to supplant the work of the Holy Spirit, but we want to be respected in our community and build spiritual bridges. We desire to help our people build intentional relationships, with the ultimate goal of seeing our neighbors come to know Jesus.

The following planning and implementing tips may be helpful to you if your church decides to pursue a similar endeavor:

Planning for the Garden:

  • Connect with community leaders. Last year I joined a bike tour of community gardens sponsored by city officials and made contact with our mayor and several community gardening leaders who were invaluable in our endeavor.
  • Use your church property if at all possible. Getting unchurched people on your property can be the first step in getting to know each other.
  • Select the right leader who is passionate about the project.
  • Plan for your water source. We purchased rain barrels but still had to bring in water—a big chore.
  • Recruit experienced gardeners to help you know when and what to plant.
  • Consult helpful websites; i.e., communitygarden.org; aeromt.org; organicgardening.about.com.
  • Be realistic in planning your garden size. We decided on ten 10′ x 20′ garden plots—2 plots for food pantry garden, 4 plots for church families, and 4 plots for our neighbors.
  • Get the word out. Our neighborhood association posted the garden plot availability and linked to our church website.
  • Rent a sod cutter to remove the sod. We advertised free sod on Craigslist and had people lining up to take it away.
  • Decide early whether or not you will be gardening organically. Apply fertilizer in the fall and have the plots ready for planting early so crops like lettuce, requiring cooler weather, can be grown and harvested.

We had a full garden and were producing fruits and vegetables by the Fourth of July, donating extra produce from individual gardens to a local food pantry. The food pantry was overjoyed and our people were thrilled that they were able to help others.

Learning from our experience:

  • Remember that gardening is harder work than most people think. If you allow gardeners to have the same plot the following year, they will take  pride in their space and hopefully assume responsibility for maintenance over the winter and prep in the spring.
  • Ask gardeners to sign a “hold harmless” agreement as part of a gardener’s contract.  This is your chance to set the ground rules and have a face-to-face meeting to get acquainted with neighborhood gardeners.
  • Be ready to fight weeds. We ran into a bindweed that seems unkillable.
  • Realize your yield may be less than anticipated. Our yield was less due to our inexperience.
  • Plan regular meetings to build intentional relationships and to work through gardening challenges.
  • Involve children’s Sunday School classes or the youth group in caring for the food pantry garden spaces.
  • Check with your local food pantry to determine what kinds of produce they need, then plant accordingly.
  • Make the garden a matter of prayer for the whole congregation.

We have yet to see a decision for salvation from gardening families, but we have made incredible inroads to developing connections with our neighborhood. I have been invited to neighborhood cookouts where we converse about our garden. We have neighbors who go out of their way to talk to me, after previously avoiding me. We are planning a gardeners’ harvest dinner during which we will present the gospel. On a scale of 1–10, I would give our spiritual impact quotient a solid 8.

Bill Mattox, pastor
Meadowood Baptist Church
Madison, Wis.