As Ronnie Chaney surveyed the crowd at the 2014 Randolph Baptist Association (RBA) Sportsmen’s Expo, he was excited to see a room full of unfamiliar faces.
“We ask our church members not to come to the Expo unless they come to serve or bring someone who is unchurched,” Chaney said. “When I look out across the crowd, I don’t see many people that I know. It looks like we are hitting our target.”
Chaney is the pastor of Union Grove Baptist Church in Seagrove, which partnered with fellow churches from the RBA to host the Sportsmen’s Expo.
The annual event is an evangelistic outreach tailored to unchurched men, women and children who love hunting, fishing and the outdoors – a prominent demographic in Randolph County.
Unlike other pockets of lostness in the state where atheism and agnosticism are more prevalent, Chaney said many of the people they are trying to reach in rural Randolph County have a basic belief in God, which makes for one less barrier to overcome when sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
BSC photo by C. Walter Overman
Steve Sells, director of missions for Randolph Baptist Association, says the main goal of the annual sportsmen expo is to win people to Christ.
“We prayerfully feel that this event is reaching a group of men and women who we don’t have to necessarily convince of God’s existence and we just build on that,” Chaney said.
The RBA has sponsored the Expo five consecutive years as part of the association’s annual North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) outreach. Each year, 10 percent of the NCMO’s receipts are distributed to the state’s 78 Baptist associations from which they came. This means that when local churches support the NCMO they are also supporting strategic evangelism efforts in their local associations.
The event attracts popular hunting and fishing vendors, includes free meals and drinks and features numerous seminars and door prizes. Before the grand prizes are drawn, an evangelistic sermon is preached and people are invited to trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
“The number one thing our churches want to do is win people to Christ,” said Steve Sells, RBA director of missions. “That has been our objective the five years we’ve done the Expo.”
The 2014 Expo was the most successful yet, drawing more than 2,100 people, about 500 more than expected. By the end of the night, 93 people made first-time decisions to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and 74 recommitted their lives to the Lord.
“It is the most phenomenal thing I have ever seen in my life,” Sells said. “This far exceeded anything we expected. God just showed up and did His thing.”
Sells said the association will focus on following-up with everyone who made a decision, with the goal of connecting them to a local church.
“Our priority is to minister to these people and get them connected to a local church and grounded in the faith,” he said.
The top door prizes this year included two hunting rifles, a guided boar and turkey hunt in South Carolina and a guided fishing trip on the Yadkin River. The RBA uses the NCMO money to purchase the top door prizes, to cover the cost of the food and other expenses. Individual churches and vendors supply additional door prizes.
Thanks in part to the NCMO, the event is free and open to everyone in the community.
“We couldn’t do it if we didn’t get this money,” Sells said. “We look forward to it every year so we can put on this sort of thing.”
In addition to associational missions, the NCMO supports the mission and ministries of Baptists on Mission (or N.C. Baptist Men) and helps provide training, coaching and other support to more than 100 church planters across the state each year. For more information about the NCMO, visit www.ncmissionsoffering.org.