What would Jesus do if 250,000 people showed up on His "doorstep"? Hed
probably go into the midst of the throng and find ways to connect with them.
When Christians ask, "What would Jesus do?" the answer is often a
straightforward "Get involved!"
"If your job is to pick peaches, the best place to do it is in the orchard,"
says Tim Knopps, event evangelism associate at the North American Mission Board
Woodstock 99 and the Winnipeg Pan Am Gamestwo huge events which occurred
simultaneously last summergave on mission Christians a chance to do what Jesus
would do and get involved. Local Christians saw the influx of thousands of
people to their area as a God-given opportunity to share the good news.
One thing both these events had (and other large events have) in common was
their sizeapproximately 250,000 visitors converged in one central location for
a limited time and for a specific purpose. Another common factor was that local
Christians were ready to receive the masses and prepared to do whatever they
could to be servant ministers and evangelists. A third similarity of these two
events was that they had access to excellent resources finances, personnel,
materials and expertiseavailable from NAMB and the International Mission Board
But your church doesnt have to wait for a mega event to take advantage of
similar opportunities. What are the "gathering" times and places in your
community? What could your church do at the next county fair, Thanksgiving Day
parade, football game or similar event to serve people and build bridges to
Heres what other Christians and churches have learned that might help in
your next special event outreach.
Chris Wells involvement in the Pan Am Games outreach dates
back to Spring 1996 when a representative from Campus Crusade for Christ
visited the Evangelical Fellowship of Winnipega group of cross-denominational
evangelical churchesto give them a "heads up" concerning the Pan Am Games. This
Olympic-type sporting event for the 42 countries of North, Central and South
America and the Caribbean was scheduled to take place in southern Manitoba
during the summer of 1999. The Games consist of competition in 41 sports and
involve a little more than 5,000 athletes and team officials from participating
Wells, pastor of River South Baptist Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, naturally
assumed God wanted His people to be involved.
"We estimated 250,000 people would attend or participate in the Games, so
God wanted us there!" Wells said. Following the 1996 Olympics he attended a
week of training in Atlanta to gain insight and expertise in sports event
evangelism. When he returned, he worked at organizing local churches and
leaders to strategize and implement their plans. It was called Reach Out
Wells quickly realized the outreach effort needed the focused leadership
only a full-time person could provide. The IMB responded by sending a
missionary, who coordinated the efforts of Reach Out 99.
Wayne Dyer had almost no notice that Woodstock 99 was coming to Rome, New
York. Dyer is the Director of Missions for the Davis Association in upstate New
York. As soon as he heard about the pending rock concert, the Rome Clergy
Association made contact with the Family of Woodstock Corporation but was
virtually ignored. Dyer, and other clergy, never received confirmation for
involvement until a few weeks prior to the event.
"We were not sure up to the last minute whether or not we could do what we
wanted," Dyer said. "The rules kept changing! This event was a moneymaker for
the Woodstock Corporation. They saw religious involvement as a problem."
Dyer got involved in the Woodstock outreach for several reasons.
"Ive been an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and I knew I could minister
personally. Ive seen all that stuff beforedrinking, drugs and nudityI didnt go
in unprepared," Dyer said. "Second, as a director of missions, I wanted to give
leadership. But most of all, with a huge group coming to our area, I knew some
would be open to the gospel. After all, thats what the church and the
association is supposed to be about."
Both evangelistic efforts hit upon a winning strategy, and both Wells and
Dyer credit NAMB for helping them find creative ways to make an impact. Leaders
of Pan Am and Woodstock outreaches were advised to discover the needs of their
events and then find creative ways to meet them. They were also told to invest
in only quality materialssomething people would see as a souvenir. Highly
successful ministries and materials resulted from this advice.
An example of a practical approach to sharing Christ came from an unlikely
source. Southern Baptists were the only ones with the foresight to print maps
of the Woodstock area. Dyer and a group of 20 volunteers distributed 50,000
tracts that included a 27- by 18-inch foldout with a map of Woodstock on one
side and a map to heaven (the gospel) on the other.
"People wanted our maps. They came to us," said Knopps, who spent a week in
Rome volunteering at Woodstock. He was instrumental in leading the outreach
efforts, and it was his idea to provide maps and Mardi Gras-style beads as
souvenirs. "Our maps were so popular that the Rome Chamber of Commerce took
cases of them and handed them out all over the area," Knopps said.
"Mardi Gras beads became a major hit," Knopps said. Volunteers mingled with
the crowd wearing their beads, and people asked where they got them. They were
directed to the "Christian" booth where beads were given with a tract.
In the same way, "More Than Gold" booklets and pins became hotly
sought-after commodities at Winnipegs Pan Am Games.
Event Evangelism comes in all sizes but the principles are one-size-fits-all.
Whether a quarter million people gather for a rock concert or one clown stands
on a street corner with a pocketful of balloons and a concern for sharing
Christ, the ABCs are the same.
A. Attract attention. On the final day of Woodstock when
things were winding down, a teenage mission volunteer removed his shirt and had
his back painted with the On Mission logo. Once the fellows body was
sufficiently decorated, Tim Knopps hoisted him onto his shoulders and sallied
forth into the crowd, armed with beads and tracts to give away. "On Mission
Boy" (above) was highly visible, and many opportunities for sharing their faith
resulted from this creative venture.
B. Build a bridge. Whether it is through a shared interest,
a common experience or the use of a tract, find a way to connect with the
C. Communicate Christ. You may want to give your testimony
of how Christ changed your life and share some appropriate scriptures.
D. Determine the decision. Give the person the opportunity
to accept Christ right then. If they are unwilling, help them to see that they
can do so at any future time.
E. Evaluate the event. At Woodstock, since volunteers were
dealing with huge masses of people, they realized mass distribution was the
best approach. However, they were always looking for opportunities to share
their faith one-on-one in the midst of the chaos.
F. Follow up faithfully. People who made decisions at
Woodstock were put in contact with local churches. The tracts were designed to
provide the churches easy access to those who wanted more information.
G. Glorify God.
"We learned that literature must be souvenir quality," Wells said. "We saw
many religious tracts and leaflets littering the grounds during the Games but
we never found one of our booklets."
"Give us jobs nobody else wants," Wells told the Pan Am Games organizing
committee. As a result, the "garbage busters" were formed and this ministry won
the notice and praise of local and national media. "We based our involvement in
the Games on a servant attitude, and our primary target was not visitors, but
the people of Winnipeg itself," Wells said.
Another commonality of these two events was the positive effect of
Christians partneringregardless of denominationto achieve a common goal.
Winnipegs churches had collaborated only one other time, during a citywide
Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade, and they found the experience rewarding and
"The service we provided gave the churches a good reputation in the larger
community," Wells said. "The Games furthered a movement already begun in
Winnipegs evangelical community. We have had joint praise, worship and prayer
events in the past and the Games encouraged people to talk, pray and work
together even more."
When the media suggested Wells was using the Pan Am Games as a springboard
for spreading the gospel, he freely admitted that was true.
"We are using the Games," Wells said. "I dont apologize for that."
Connie Cavanaugh is a writer and speaker living in Cochrane,
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