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Car shows give Baptists venue to use hobby as outreachcomment (0)

October 26, 2006

By Laura K. Womble

Harold Fanning’s fire-red 1970 Chevy C/10 pickup attracts attention. And he’s not afraid to use that to the advantage of Kingdom work — just ask him.

In fact, ask a number of Alabama Baptists around the state who are plugging in to the “niche ministry” of car shows to reach out to their communities in a unique way.

“People who are interested in cars are pretty much in a world all their own,” said Fanning, pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church, Decatur, in Morgan Baptist Association. “There are hundreds of people out there interested in classic cars, especially middle-aged men. It’s a fellowship thing.”

He believes that using a common interest or hobby is an effective form of evangelism. “Churches see how popular the hobby is and have seen an opportunity to reach people through it. It’s an avenue [by which] you can really reach people where they are.”

Churches like Whitesburg Baptist Church, Huntsville, in Madison Baptist Association are using the concept full force to draw people from all walks of life. More than 700 people attended Whitesburg Baptist’s second car show, held Oct. 7.

“People who have a passion for cars came to show and view cars,” said Debbie Milner, recreational director at Whitesburg. Then, she said, they heard Christian music and messages and had an opportunity to accept Christ.

Sammy Gilbreath, director of evangelism for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM), said the SBOM has developed many Intentional Evangelism ministries for subcultures that share a common interest. The state board helps churches identify a passion shared by a group of people, like cars; create a relationship using that passion; and then share the love of Christ through that relationship.

Niche ministries like car shows and events for bikers, horsemen and fishermen are successful “because they plug into some personal passion,” Gilbreath said. “It is ... exciting when we can show [church members] how to make their passion evangelistic. This is the best of both worlds for a Christian.”

Although the antique car show was not the main event at the Oct. 21 fall festival hosted by Concord Highland Baptist Church, Hueytown, in Bessemer Baptist Association, it was one of the features.

Concord Highland Baptist member Joe White, who shows his ’40 model Chevrolet, said car shows “are a good method to draw a crowd, let people look at the cars and then invite them to church.”

For more information about using car shows as Intentional Evangelism, call Gilbreath at 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 320.

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