Amid pandemic, FBC Branson draws 400 families to evangelistic event
BRANSON – When it comes to ministry, the First Baptist Church here is done with the wait-and-see mentality.
“We’re going to go: Greenlight, go! But we’re going to adapt,” Terry Brown, associate pastor of community ministries, told The Pathway, describing the church’s approach to ministry amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Brown added that, oftentimes, people restrict ministry to the church building, but the pandemic has challenged churches to take ministry into the community.
“The secret,” he said, “is discipling people. Find out where they are, and go there to reach them.” Of course, in the midst of the pandemic, this sometimes requires creativity.
Take one of the more recent examples from FBC Branson: For the past 14 years, the church has organized a large back-to-school bash to serve and reach out to their community. And this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled events in Branson and across the nation, they made the decision to pray, press on and adapt as needed to continue ministry.
Instead of their usual close-contact, back-to-school bash, they organized a drive-through evangelistic event in a large parking lot. The event featured Real Encounter, a ministry that blends motorcycle and bike stunts as well as other action sports with a passion for proclaiming the gospel and making disciples. Real Encounter was founded by Brad Bennett, director for Making Disciples at the Missouri Baptist Convention.
The event took place on Aug. 16, from 2-4 p.m. But an hour before the start time, nearly 100 cars were beginning to line up on Branson Hills Parkway, waiting to enter the parking lot. So, adapting their plans again, they pushed to start the event early. As cars filed through the parking lot, they were able to watch Real Encounter perform stunts, and they could tune into a radio station to hear Bennett’s gospel presentation. Since cars were continually moving through the parking lot, Bennett repeatedly shared the Good News during the two hour event.
By the end of the drive-through, back-to-school bash, the church had reached out to 400 families and distributed 1,000 backpacks, as well as cookies, popsicles, candy and information about the church. They also received names and contact information for each family who participated in the event. An outreach team has been following up with these families, and separate prayer teams continue to pray for them.
“I felt like the event went really well,” Brown said, “but God was gracious because we didn’t have any idea of what we were doing since we had never done this before. … Clearly, God answered our prayers.”
Brown said that the church is now planning its annual Christmas bash for the first Saturday in December. While he doesn’t know exactly what the event might look like by that time, he knows one thing: The church will pray, press on and adapt, trusting God to help them make disciples in their community.