CHESNEE, SC – Earlier this year, 16 churches from across the Chesnee community participated in creative service projects and outreach opportunities on the first "Love Your City" day.
Several revivals occurred in the weeks that followed, and some projects have become ongoing ministries. Pastor Daniel Godfrey of Arrowwood Baptist Church imagined a ministry day like this over a decade ago after participating in smaller-scale servant evangelism activities. Then last year, while engaging with an evangelism team and other pastors in his association, the city-wide idea became more concrete. Brandon Lewis, pastor of Piedmont Baptist Church, shared an evangelist's idea to host revivals and community outreach simultaneously. "I believed a number of my Chesnee pastor friends would join forces on an idea like this," he says. They did, including a small group of them who prayed weekly for revival nine months leading up to the event.
Basic data research revealed that there were roughly 15,000 people living in the Chesnee zip code and surrounding areas, and that 12,000 of them were unchurched. The planning team decided to focus efforts on a 10-mile radius of the community. A "Chesnee LYC" Facebook page was created, along with a billboard announcing the event. Postcards were mailed to area homes, provided through a grant from the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Participating churches planned the ministries they each would provide during Love Your City day. All lay leaders were invited to attend three joint worship and evangelism training services leading up to the project date. "The pastors were also unified working together on this. The desire to see God work in our community resonated with them," Godfrey says.
On the morning of Love Your City day, 30 participants were positioned around Chesnee holding inspirational signs with messages like "We're praying for you" and "Jesus loves you." In 13 different ministry locations, there were free car washes, a prayer drive-through, a diaper and wipes distribution, free meals, and inflatable play areas for children. Church members talked about their faith as they interacted in the community. People began responding to the simple acts of service almost immediately. "Several folks allowed us to pray for them and were overwhelmingly grateful. People were shocked to realize the free food and car washes were given with absolutely no catch," Lewis says.
One young mother heard that Arrowwood Baptist Church was giving out free diapers and wipes and walked from another part of town to get some. At the time, her daughter was wearing the last diaper the young mother had. After hearing about free diapers, another mother came to Arrowwood Baptist the next day to ask for some. Godfrey said this same woman's brothers had prayed to receive Christ at the church's free lunch on Love Your City day, and that Godfrey had prayed for this woman with the brothers.
Nine of the church's planned revival services to coincide with the event. New Vision Baptist Church joined Arrowwood Baptist Church to host services led by a guest evangelist, where 29 people were reported to have made professions of faith. Other churches also reported salvations. Lewis says he is most excited to see that pastors from across the community are drawing closer together as a result of the event. "We still meet every Wednesday morning at First Baptist, Chesnee, to fellowship and pray for one another. This has helped each of us as pastors, but I think it also helps our respective churches; healthier pastors make for healthier churches," he says. According to Godfrey, next year's event planning is already underway, and he hopes the idea spreads. "Churches have been asking to be a part of this going forward, including other denominations," Godfrey says.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This article appeared in the Baptist Courier, newsmagazine of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Julia Bell writes for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.