Casey Joyce never intended to be a farmer, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t keen to see a harvest.
For the associate pastor of First Baptist Church Bethany, Missouri, farming tasks like plowing fields, planting crops and sharing the fruits have become a way to introduce the gospel into everyday life, all with the goal of seeing a spiritual harvest.
“We knock on doors and have evangelism programs at church, but I wanted to take what the Lord has blessed us with to generate gospel conversations,” Joyce said. “Oddly enough, He planted us right here in a town full of farmers.”
“We don’t really have anything for families to do around here,” Joyce said. “So we began to pray and brainstorm.”
So, blessed with 22 acres of land, the Joyce family decided a farm would become their ministry tool. Beginning in 2019, they transformed the plot of land into an oasis of affordable family fun in the rural northwest Missouri community. First came the corn maze.
Again, Joyce is not a farmer.
“The Lord blessed us with farmers in our church who donate their time and seed, and plant everything,” he said. “I’d never done a corn maze. I’d never even been to a corn maze.”
But after a bit of research, the church members double-planted the crop and later mowed the twisting, winding GPS-guided path, and he had a corn maze.
‘Big swing’ for the fences
Soon, the Joyce family added inflatables, and Gospel Farms kept growing. Four seasons later, what began as a plot of land with a strange pattern of corn growing on it, was soon home to a a tire pyramid, rock-climbing wall, soccer pool table, ninja warrior course, pedal carts, zip line, a paintball shootout and — new for this fall — 18 holes of mini golf.
“I like to think the mini golf course is as good or better than some of the ones you might find in Branson,” Joyce said. “I’m a swing-for-the-fence kind of guy, and that was a big swing. If it’s something that people enjoy and it will get them here to open up a door, I’m all for it.”
Those doors are opening.
“We’ve got school groups from all around, church groups, and even people from California and New York stop by,” he said.
True to the farm’s name, every visitor represents an opportunity for a gospel conversation.
“If you come to a place called ‘Gospel Farms,’ they know the implications of why we’re here, and if we have that gospel conversation, praise God!” Joyce said.
Joyce said he’s had those conversations by the bushel, whether its praying with guests, explaining the kingdom-minded mission behind the farm, helping decipher the biblical symbols and markings strategically hidden in the corn maze, or walking them through the gospel itself.
“We see what we do as a first step,” Joyce said. “It’s amazing how people might come up to get a snow cone or play a round of mini golf, and these conversations happen. People open up, we get to pray with them, and we try to plug them into a church home. We keep pointing them to Jesus, and we keep trusting Him to do His part.”
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For more information, go to www.gospelfarms.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Brian Koonce and originally published by the Pathway.