Unity Baptist Church in Ashland, Kentucky, went fishing for men on Aug. 19, and the bait was IMPACT Ashland, a mercy-based ministry event providing free resources to their community.
Heath Bauer, senior pastor of Unity, said IMPACT Ashland “was a chance to get to know our neighbors, find out their needs, to meet those needs in as much as we can and to communicate that God meets their spiritual needs as well.”
The church enlisted around 130 volunteers from their own ranks, and included a few community members.
During the three-hour Saturday event, attendees were provided with numerous services, including an expansive eye clinic, oil changes, haircuts, massage therapy, a wellness checkup, a kids zone for event childcare, prayer tent, clothing store and a food pantry that included produce harvested from the gardens of church members and local farmers.
“Almost all the needs on Saturday were met,” said Amber Bauer, wife of Pastor Heath and the event coordinator.
But the greatest need — hearing and believing the good news of the gospel — was the goal.
“We want to make sure we’re not just feeding the flesh and furthering their delay in coming to an awareness of their need for Christ,” Amber explained.
“We want to make sure that we are trying to move them toward the direction of understanding the need for Christ. And that’s why these needs are here. And their present needs are having Christ as their Savior and in charge of their life and submitting to him, not just getting their next piece of bread. But sometimes they can’t hear you unless they have a piece of bread.”
At least 800 people were served during the event, with 90 families who connected with Unity saying they did not have a church home. Three people got saved that day.
And while the final station allowed attendees to connect with church members for prayer and to hear the good news, the Bauer’s said IMPACT Ashland was designed for every volunteer to engage people in gospel conversations throughout their time on the church property.
“Really keeping that eternal perspective of everything we do in this event, everything is centered around how can I get to a gospel conversation with this person,” Amber explained.
‘All stages of the game’
“Maybe they’re just registering somebody, maybe they’re on the prayer team, or maybe they’re pouring drinks for somebody at the food table,” Heath said. “But while they’re doing that, they’re engaging the people and getting the gospel to them at all stages of the game.”
Heath added that seeing Unity step up to serve and tell people about Jesus was encouraging.
“When I see our people sharing the gospel and meeting needs, serving one another and discipling one another, to me that is the end goal … to see them obeying God and the mission that He’s given to us at the church,” Heath said. “The church is not a building and it’s not a service, but it’s a people with a mission. And to see our people gather together around the mission of God and to be active in it is very fulfilling, because that’s what we’re put here to do.”
Catalyst for more opportunities
But sharing the gospel with people who attended IMPACT wasn’t only a task for Aug. 19.
“Even now, the church is engineering ways where we can have a prolonged impact with these same people,” Bauer explained. “In a lot of ways, IMPACT was simply a catalyst to open up more opportunities for missions throughout the year.”
Unity leaves their property to minister at several low-income apartment complexes nearby, and recently took their Vacation Bible School to the kids and families who live there. The church returns frequently to put on fun and service-related events and members bring residents to church with them on Sundays.
“We pray that the Lord gets all the glory because He’s got a work for Ashland, He’s got a work for Unity. And we really, really desire to see that come to fruition,” Amber said.