SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (BP)--Beyond the celebration on the track when Lee Pulliam won the FindItHere.com NASCAR Whelen Late Model 200, there was rejoicing in heaven when three teenage girls were led to Christ that same night.
The SBC of Virginia (SBCV) sponsored the Friday night, July 1, race at South Boston Speedway, with the North American Mission Board defraying some of the sponsorship cost. The speedway's annual Fourth of July holiday weekend is a fan favorite and actually features three races (Pure Stock 50, Limited 100, Whelen Late Model 200) and fireworks afterward.
It was more than a one-time outreach, but part of a vision for churches to share Christ with thousands of race fans and continue the "God's Plan for Sharing" (GPS) statewide evangelistic effort begun in 2010.
Jack Noble, the SBCV church health strategist for the region who developed a plan to provide churches with an avenue of outreach not just for one race night but for a number of races throughout the season, noted, "Good evangelistic opportunities are not just one-day events.
"Good evangelistic events take days of preparation and follow-up," Noble said. "That is what we did by distributing FindItHere.com logo items at the four races that preceeded the big day. Our newly 'logo-ed' trailer was a magnet that drew hundreds of people who wondered what FindItHere.com was all about. Then we enthusiastically shared the truth."
More than 60 volunteers from 11 churches stood just inside the speedway's gates before the race personally to welcome the thousands of fans. They asked attendees if they wanted to register to win a free flat-screen TV. Upon registering, the person would hear a three-minute Gospel presentation.
Jackie Carver, pastor of Palestine Baptist Church in Moneta, trained his volunteers personally -- and then personally led three girls to Christ.
Carver noted the simplicity of an outreach for "faithful service" that led to the girls' prayer to turn to Christ. "God used me to be a light in someone's life that otherwise I would never meet," the pastor said.
David Rathel, pastor of Fork Baptist Church in Scottsburg, cited two key benefits from the SBCV initiative. "First, it gave churches a chance to show the people in the community that we love them and that we are interested in ministering to them. I think many who came to the race were surprised that we were willing to spend our time serving them on a July 4th weekend.
"Second, it gave people in our churches opportunities to share the Gospel. This was the first time that many of the people in my church have ever participated in a Gospel-sharing event like this. I was impressed by their willingness to boldly approach people and share. I'm excited that they've now had an opportunity to get experience in personal evangelism, and I hope their boldness infects all of our church family."
Jack Stewart, pastor of Grace Southern Baptist Church in Virgilina, gave the opening invocation for the race. He was among SBCV volunteers who took part in parts of the race weekend, waving the green flag, presenting the winning trophies, riding in the pace car, manning the children's area and preparing FindItHere.com funnel cakes.
"The preparation of working four races before the big event and the commitment to follow up set the tone for a great day of evangelism," Noble said. "The spiritual tone was also increased when volunteers arrived the day of the event and were each asked to take a prayer lap around the facility."
Brandon Pickett, director of media services for the SBC of Virginia, worked with the track and area media on coverage of the race.
"It was amazing how the track and community embraced this race and the theme of FindItHere.com. Between the track announcer and the drivers, the name FindItHere.com was spoken about every 10 minutes. On top of that, I was invited to talk about the website on the radio on and off throughout all three races totaling about 30 minutes of air time."
Cathy Rice, general manager of South Boston Speedway and a member of an SBCV church, was thrilled not only with the turnout but how the community embraced the race theme. "So many people came to me and said that this was a true blessing," Rice said. "God was with us all night and we are looking forward to next year's FindItHere.com already."
Reported by the staff of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia convention.
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