An avid hunter, Ron Brent thought he knew what to
expect when fellow outdoorsmen gathered to boast of their bounty.
He envisioned a rowdy crowd where the fish tales
became more unrealistic with every beer gulped. What he found was a group of
hunters more interested in being fishers of men.
"I saw men who weren’t drinking, and they weren’t
cussing, and they were having a great time," Ron says. "I left knowing they had
something I didn’t have. Three months later, I became a Christian."
Ron is now pastor of global evangelism at Hebron
Baptist Church in Dacula, Georgia, an outlying suburb of Atlanta. The church
sponsors an annual wild game dinner to appeal to people like Ron who was
unchurched when co-workers invited him to the dinner. Now the event is held at
the county fairgrounds and draws about 3,500 people. In addition to a menu of
deer, rattlesnake, elk, ostrich and alligator, the program features sports
figures who share their faith.
Each year about 200 people make professions of
faith at the dinner. Afterward, church members visit the new Christians and
those who have expressed interest in Christianity or church involvement.
The wild game dinner is a time-consuming production
requiring year-round planning and efforts of countless volunteers. But using
hobbies and special interests as avenues to share Christ does not have to be so
elaborate. It can be as simple as riding a bike.
The racing reverendJohn
Stockstill, youth minister at South City Southern Baptist Church in Wichita,
Kansas, realized teenagers in his community spent their time at a bicycle
motocross track. He decided to visit the track with church students and invite
their friends to church. The teenagers talked him into joining their sport, and
he is known now as the "Racing Reverend."
John, 31, was hospitalized one weekend last year
after crashing in a race. His only serious loss, however, was a broken
John also teaches math full time at a local high
school. Though being involved in motocross racing eats at his free time, John
says it’s worth it. Four or five previously unchurched racers now regularly
attend church at South City.
The motocross sport involves racing one-gear bikes
on a dirt track through obstacles, jumps and turns. Racers are grouped by age
and skill, meaning it can be a family affair. Racers win points in local and
national events. Points are tallied at the end of the March-to-November
To minister to spectators, John and the church
youth created "Bicycle Messengers for Christ" or BMX. At local races, the group
sets up a tent to distribute water, T-shirts and Christian music CDs.
Ron Brent, the hunter, is involved in a similar
ministry through karate. Rather than sitting on the sidelines, Ron took up the
sport and has earned a black belt. The church has a karate team that does
demonstrations to the song "The Champion" which highlights Jesus’ victory over
Satan. The team does karate stunts such as breaking boards with their hands as
attention-getters. Then team members share the gospel. More than 100 people
have accepted Christ through the ministry.
If bike racing and board splitting don’t appeal to
you, take heart. Any hobby you enjoy can be evangelistic.
Gerbrandt turned her hobby of making scrapbooks into a business venture by
founding "Memory Makers" magazine and "Punch Your Art Out" books. But it’s more
than a business for her.
Working with someone on a scrapbook points the
conversation to personal issues about how Christ works in our lives. A
newlywed, for example, might make a scrapbook of how she met her husband, or a
mother could chronicle a family vacation.
Michele encourages Christians to include scripture
in their scrapbooks. The verses can be a discussion starter for people looking
at the book. Pages can also include events such as baptisms or mission trips.
When a fellow scrapbooking hobbyist asks, "What are you working on?" you have
the perfect opportunity to talk about your faith.
Scrapbooks can also be instruments of healing. A
woman Michele knows suffered the death of a baby. Six months later, Michele
offered to help the woman make a scrapbook to remember the child’s life. "You
can offer help with that. You offer hope through that."
Women working on crafts together are the modern-day
equivalent of a quilting bee, Michele says. Her church, Crossroads Baptist in
Northglenn, Colorado, regularly hosts a craft night. People come to share ideas
for all kinds of projects, from needlework to cross-stitch. It brings people
from all walks of life to the church, she says, including people who may not
come to church for a Bible study or worship service.
A hobby can be used to build relationships with
non-Christians if you view it as an evangelistic opportunity.
Hunting for a hobbyIf you
don’t have a special interest but would be willing to try something new as an
outreach activity, just look around. "Find out where the people are. Whatever
it is, God can be involved in it too," adds John Stockstill, the motocross
enthusiast. "Find out what people are into and meet them where they are."
A community’s interest will vary and change. When
Hebron Baptist Church began the wild game dinner 11 years ago, the church was
in a nearly rural community. Many members enjoyed hunting and fishing. With the
area becoming more suburban, the church has begun evangelistic golf
tournaments. Teams of four play in the tournament. Church members participate,
but the aim is for each team to include at least one non-Christian. Golfers are
treated to lunch and a gospel presentation before the tournament. The program
gives participants something to discuss as they play 18 holes.
Follow up is important so always include a feedback
form for group events, stresses Ron Brent. The form should include ways for
people to indicate if they have made a profession of faith, if they want to
know more about Christ or if they want information about a church. The form can
also be used for participants to register for door prizes that gives them an
incentive to fill out the form.
Lynn Stevens is a writer living in
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