FERGUSON—First Baptist Church here recently had a change of scenery.
Instead of holding a crusade inside with pews and carpeting, they moved outside under a tent in the parking lot.
“We’re learning new ways to reach people,” Stoney Shaw, senior pastor, said. “We’re in a changing neighborhood and we wanted to be out front and to be more visible to the community.”
The evening agenda was a bit different than most worship or revival services. Tables were set up outside the tent with hot dogs and soda while another portion of the parking lot was alive with children laughing and playing Frisbee.
“We want to attract younger families in the neighborhood,” Shaw said. “Having a fun atmosphere for the children before the service helps say, ‘We’re here and we love you.’”
Ike Motley, First Ferguson’s assistant pastor who is African American, did much of the organizing and gained support from African American congregations.
“The best thing about the crusade is the way it came together,” Motley said. “Stoney and I were praying for ways to reach the community and last July we mentioned the tent crusade. However, we didn’t have the resources. We discovered that tents cost about $750 to rent plus all of the other expenses.”
Motley realized that if the crusade happened it would need to be the result of answered prayer.
“The Lord continued to press me with this project,” he said. “We decided to ask God to provide our entire funds for the crusade. We had to do everything outside the budget. If this was His heartbeat, He must supply it all.”
The first provision was the tent. Shaw and Motley discovered that a tent was available through the Missouri Baptist Convention. Then, the other supplies began to come in.
“I got a phone call from church,” Motley said. “They said, ‘Ike, someone is here with some soda for you.’ I thought someone was bringing a couple cases in to the church.”
When Motley arrived at church, he discovered a semi truck delivering a huge supply of soda donated from an Inner City Mission. In addition to the soda, other donations were made for food, electricity and other necessities. A sofa was even donated to give to a needy family on Friday evening.
Several African American congregations supported the Crusade effort with preaching and singing during the week.
“We wanted to see a uniting racially and with denominations,” Motley said. “We want to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Shaw said the entire First Ferguson congregation was focused on this goal.
“Our church wants to serve the community and to see people won to Christ,” he said. “We didn’t have anyone lined up to serve in some of these jobs and they just showed up to help.”
Shaw said the crusade was just one of the events planned for the year.
“We have Trunk Treats coming up next,” he said. “We need to keep going. We need to tell the neighborhood to come and fellowship and to tell them this would be a great church home.”
Almost 800 children attended Trunk Treats last year. In the summer, the church held a Community Day with games, inflatables and food. On the Fourth of July, the church took part in the Ferguson celebration in January Wabash Park located next to the church with a booth set up to pray for troops. The booth attracted about 80 families.
“We need to keep it up,” Shaw said. “We don’t want the community to say, ‘They don’t stick with anything.’”
By Vicki Stamps