More than three dozen people responded to an invitation to follow Christ at a Sportsmen’s Banquet and Wild Game Dinner hosted by New City Church in Bath, Maine, on Oct. 1.
“Hunting is huge here, and the great thing about it is that … a lot of the folks who would find themselves out in the woods or spending time with a community of hunters would probably not be the ones who would be taking their families to church or coming to spiritual things,” said pastor Joel Littlefield.
Partnering for Outreach
The idea came from Life Community Church in Jamestown, N.C. This church regularly holds wild game dinners and was looking for opportunities to help church plants host these events in New England. After a successful banquet in Vermont a few months ago, the Life Community Church expressed interest in helping a Maine church plant, so church planting catalysts Lyandon Warren and Barry Murray connected them with Littlefield and New City Church.
Micah Ray, pastor to college students and singles at Life Community Church, said serving in New England is part of the church’s Acts 1:8 strategy to participate in missions locally, nationally and globally.
“I just think it’s good for our church to understand that there are still large pockets of lostness, as well as places without thriving churches right here in our own country,” Ray said.
Life Community offered to guide New City through the process and provide a chef and speakers – brothers Dan and Mark Witt, who are well-known in the hunting community after being featured in an article in Field & Stream. New City would be responsible for finding a venue, marketing, inviting guests and obtaining the wild game.
Reaching the Unchurched
New City began planning with the goal of reaching the unchurched, rather than making the event a gathering for Christians. They partnered with several other churches in nearby towns, as well as the Baptist Convention of New England and local businesses in order to provide a completely free event with plenty of large-ticket prizes at a well-known venue, the Maine Maritime Museum.
Thanks to prayer and focused effort, the community responded positively. Although New City Church, a one-year-old church plant, averages about 55 to 60 attenders, one hundred people attended the banquet – and at least 80 of them are not connected to a local church.
“We fed all of them, as much as they could eat, to their heart’s content,” Littlefield said. The menu included exotic dishes like elk and quail jumbalaya, venison stroganoff and wild turkey with dumplings.
And after the meal, “everyone stayed quiet, sitting through the whole thing, engaged with the message,” Littlefield said.
Response and Follow-Up
After the dinner, local believers spent time connecting with visitors and were able to pray with several people.
“[Hunting] really does speak to the Mainer and especially to the unchurched,” Littlefield said. “Overall it was a really successful evening. It was just a joy to do it.”
Participants were encouraged to fill out registration cards, which all served as raffle tickets. Organizers were thrilled to see that out of 100 people, 37 responded in some way on their registration card. Twenty-six wrote that they had placed their faith in Christ, nine recommitted their lives to follow Jesus and two asked for more information.
Over the coming weeks, New City Church will follow up with banquet participants.
“That’s honestly the part I’m looking forward to the most,” Littlefield said. “My joy as a pastor is really to be able to reach out to these people, to disciple, because that’s really our mission here – to make disciples.”
Kimber Ross serves as the communications coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England.