Evangelism was a central focus of the ninth annual Community For Unity Festival in Rocky Mount on July 29, attended by an estimated 3,000 people.
BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Each year the Community For Unity event draws together churches and businesses in Rocky Mount to help their community.
Started by Shelton Daniel, senior pastor of Greater Joy Baptist Church in the city, the festival has become a popular event each year.
“Every parking space is taken! You’ll have to go find a place on one of the side streets,” a parking attendant told visitors arriving at Boone Street Park to attend the festival.
This year, more than a dozen local churches took part, several of them affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), as is Greater Joy.
Many local businesses and government agencies took part and provided free food, games, music, job counseling, crime prevention information and health checks on blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions – all offered in scores of tents, stands and tables.
North Carolina Baptists on Mission volunteers (also known as Baptist Men) provided free dental care to 20 patients through their mobile, bus-mounted clinic parked at the edge of the park.
Local church members could be seen praying with people at several tables. Michael Cloer, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in the city, prayed with a man after talking with him in front of the church’s tables where about 100 members helped serve free food, cotton candy and popcorn. Members also handed out packets of evangelistic materials.
“We’re just trying to show the love of Jesus in a tangible way,” said Cloer, sporting a red promotional T-shirt publicizing the festival. “It was the first year we’ve been invited, and we were so eager to take part,” he added.
“This year we tried to get all area churches to take part so we can better evangelize this vast number of people who come to the festival,” said festival coordinator Shelton Daniel. “We’re also trying to take an approach of doing some good evangelizing this year and really trying to collaborate with the churches,” he added.
“We have invited more local businesses to take part and this is our largest year by far,” said Daniel, who organized a similar festival event for 11 years in Halifax County before he moved to Rocky Mount to start Greater Joy Baptist Church with support from North Carolina Baptists through the Cooperative Program and the North Carolina Missions Offering.
BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Michael Cloer, from left, senior pastor of Englewood Baptist Church; Shelton Daniel, senior pastor of Greater Joy Baptist Church; James Gailliard, senior pastor of Word Tabernacle Church; and Richard Gurganus, senior pastor, Church on the Rise, with three campuses in Rocky Mount and Nashville, were part of the recent Community for Unity event in Rocky Mount.
Greater Joy has since had to move to a larger building, now holding two Sunday morning services. Daniel has also started several other local churches, including a rapidly growing one in Roanoke Rapids. He estimates he preaches to more than 1,200 people every Sunday now.
Greater Joy took over the building vacated by Word Tabernacle Church, who moved into a much larger facility at the edge of the city to better accommodate its 2,000-plus members. Word Tabernacle has helped sponsor the annual festival for several years.
“We believe in the collaboration of churches,” said James Gailliard, senior pastor of Word Tabernacle, also affiliated with the BSC. “We believe there are so many people in Rocky Mount who don’t know the Lord, unless our churches come together and collectively work on getting to them, I don’t think we can effectively reach them,” he said.
“No one church can get to them all. We need different preaching styles, different worship styles,” Gailliard added.
As Word Tabernacle began cooperating with other Rocky Mount churches, Gailliard said they focused on “foundational doctrines we care about the most: the only way to God is through Jesus, salvation by grace alone and the inerrancy of scripture. All that secondary stuff we don’t get involved with, because we feel that people need Jesus.”
He acknowledged that he has been criticized for saying it, but said, “I still feel that in Rocky Mount, Satan still has the largest church, and we have to do something about. It’s clear in scripture that when the world sees you together, there will be confidence that God sent Jesus, so this unity is necessary.”
For several years, Greater Joy and Word Tabernacle churches have helped sponsor Bible-focused classes, led by the BSC’s Fruitland Baptist Bible College in Rocky Mount. This year, a Fruitland class on biblical counseling was held in Word Tabernacle Church in cooperation with the state convention and North Roanoke Baptist Association.