Birmingham Baptist church uses archery tourney, other events to reach outcomment (0)
July 20, 2006
By Alicia Morris Atcheson
In your personal opinion, what do you understand it takes for a person to go to heaven?”
It’s a question that has transformed the congregation of Sharon Heights Baptist Church, Birmingham, in North Jefferson Baptist Association. And when church members coupled it with archery and golf tournaments, car shows and bake sales, that question began transforming the community as well.
Four years ago, Sharon Heights Baptist had approximately 120 people in Sunday School on a given Sunday. Today the congregation has more than doubled, and there are approximately 320 in Sunday School.
Pastor Jason Dunlap said this is a direct result of the congregation “being intentional” in everything it does.
“Everything we do, even if we just have a bake sale through our Acteens, we do it with the intention of getting information from individuals and then following up with a visit,” he said.
Four years ago, the church began the FAITH evangelism outreach. Every Thursday night, 18 teams of three church members trained in the FAITH program go out to share the gospel using the word “FAITH” with each letter representing a step on the road to heaven.
Since then, Sharon Heights has seen more than 100 professions of faith and baptized 70 of those individuals.
“FAITH is what has ignited our people,” Dunlap said. “Pure missions and evangelism is involved as well.”
“Pure missions and evangelism,” as he describes, is a focus to reach out to their community in unique ways.
Recently the congregation hosted an archery tournament in conjunction with its fund-raising efforts for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. Church member David Brown, an avid bow shooter, knew there were many others in the Birmingham area who enjoy his favorite pastime. He approached Dunlap about hosting the tournament at the church.
Brown said the result was “absolutely incredible” with about 30 shooters producing four professions of faith, nine rededications and an extra $1,000 toward the offering.
“This was the first time we had ever done something quite like this, but we did it with the intention of sharing the gospel,” Dunlap said. “We set up the shoot behind our sanctuary. We fed them lunch and shared the gospel during that time.”
Keith Pickle, a deacon at Sharon Heights, said the tournament is exactly the type of thing the church is encouraging its members to do to reach out to the community.
“We’re challenging our members to take whatever God has gifted them with and use that to reach other people,” he said.
“David (Brown) used to have an archery shop in town. He’s been doing bow shooting for 20 years. He’s not a real outgoing person, not the kind to go out and do the door-knocking, but that was a way he was able to use what God had given him to reach others and just look at the results. That’s what it’s all about.”
Many Sharon Heights members are catching the vision and developing new outreach ideas.
Dunlap cited the example of one member who has a passion for restoring antique cars. He suggested to Dunlap that the church host a car show in August with the proceeds going to missions.
In another intentional effort in August, Sharon Heights will host its fourth annual golf tournament. The tournament serves a dual purpose — it is a fund-raiser for the church’s building fund and an opportunity to share the gospel with the golfers during lunch.
Brown and Pickle agree that each outreach event helps the church target specific groups that may not normally hear the gospel.
“We’re reaching an untouched group,” Brown said. “A lot of hunters and outdoorsmen are not just going to walk into church on Sunday, but they’ll come to these events. Then they can see Christians living by example, and it gives us an opportunity to share our faith.”
The church also plans to host a Soccer Ball Sunday this year.
“We always encourage the children to bring their friends to any of our events,” Dunlap said. “At Soccer Ball Sunday, each child will get a ball. When the kid comes and fills out a card, we usually get their parents as well.”
The soccer balls — emblazoned with the same colors as salvation bracelets — will allow the church to share the plan of salvation with children.
And the method of reaching parents through the children has proven effective, too.
During its recent Vacation Bible School, a young girl accepted Christ. When Dunlap went to follow up with the girl, he led her mother to Christ as well. Both were recently baptized.
“Our people know that we are not changing the gospel, but we have to change the methods of presenting the gospel,” Dunlap said. “When I was lost, I just didn’t get up one day and say, ‘I want to go to church and feel bad about who I am.’
“That’s why we have to be intentional.”