From ROGER ALFORD, The Christian Index
OMEGA, Ga. — Forty-one people surrendered to Christ Friday night in a rural Georgia church, the latest to witness a revival movement that has swept across the state of the Deep South.
This time it happened in a meeting hall at Bethel Baptist Church in Omega, where about 400 men had gathered for a feast of beasts, a dinner featuring a variety of game including deer, pigs and quail.
Pastor Troy Dykes said members of his congregation prayed for a harvest of souls and the Lord answered those prayers in a group of camouflage-clad men, many of whom are more used to sitting on tree stands than pews.
“God moved like we’ve never seen him before,” Dykes said.
Similar localized revivals have become common across Georgia in the past year, with congregations reporting from a few dozen to nearly 200 salvation decisions in a day at church shrines and church events.
A first review of statistical reports submitted by churches to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board shows 14,333 baptisms in the past year. That was in less than 60 percent of the churches that reported it.
The settings for the revivals were different. Some were inside, some outside. Some people have been saved on eaves, some in theaters, some on college campuses, and some in church shrines.
In an area of Columbus known as Little Chicago, 102 residents claimed Christ in a day-long evangelistic outreach that included door-to-door visits and a church block party. In Millen, 40 people made their confession of faith at the town’s theater, where local pastors organized an evangelistic outreach.
In January, the First Baptist Church in Blackshear reported 19 confessions of faith at a venison dinner. Another 28 people gave their lives to Christ again at the event.
Blackshear First Baptist men had manned the herd and prepared deer they hunted themselves to feed more than 400 people.
Two-time Bassmaster Classic champion Hank Parker, an outdoor legend, shared his Christian testimony at the event.
A member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame, and the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame, Parker isn’t shy about sharing his faith and always lets his fans know that winning fishing trophies pales in comparison with receiving Christ.
Gambrell said fishing and hunting are part of the Southeast Georgia culture, which makes venison dinners and other outdoor events popular.
“It’s very easy to use them as a reach,” he said. “We’re still seeing fruit from it.”
In North Georgia, the Cassville Baptist Church began the new year with nine baptisms, the first sign that spontaneous revivals were continuing into the new year.
“We cannot attribute this to anything other than the work of the Holy Spirit and faithful obedience to what God has called us to do,” said Pastor Andrew Hackler of Cassville.
In Omega, Dykes invited former outdoor TV show host Chuck McAlister to share hunting stories and proclaim Jesus to the men attending the beast festival. McAlister, now a pastor in South Carolina, spoke of a platform surrounded by deer, moose, and even duck mounts. With his favorite shotgun slung over his shoulder, McAlister reminisced about growing up hunting with his father and grandfather, who taught him to live by biblical standards.
“In my opinion, the most effective thing you can do to reach unchurched men is venison eating,” McAlister said. “In rural America, by and large, men have one thing in common: they love the great outdoors, and you can use that as a platform to win them to Jesus.”
Dykes said the Lord uniquely gifted McAlister for such events.
“I’ve heard countless evangelists in my life, but I’ve never heard anyone who has the ability to trap men with his wit and his hunting stories like Chuck McAlister,” Dykes said. “Then he presents the gospel to them so clearly. He had every ear.”
Dykes said the Lord did something special at Omega.
“It’s an amazing feeling to know that God used our event to transform men’s lives,” he said.