COMMERCE — Maysville Baptist Church had more people saved at their Wild Game Dinner this year than ever before. There were 472 people who indicated that they trusted Jesus Christ as Savior when evangelist Bailey Smith gave the invitation.
Maysville Baptist knows how to promote, plan, host, and implement a Wild Game Dinner with expertise and excellence. Their design of this annual event is the equivalent of Frank Lloyd Wright, the world famed architect, drawing up the plans for Fallingwater or the Guggenheim Museum.
The church, which averages less than 1,000 in worship each Sunday morning, had 3,100 people – mostly men – present for their Wild Game Dinner on Feb. 18. Since there is no way the church could host that many people on its property they reserved the old Wrangler Blue Jean plant in downtown Commerce for the dinner.
Amazingly, the huge gathering of thousands of people can be fed in a matter of minutes because of the incredible organization at the serving lines. More than 400 church members are involved in making it all happen.
The Commerce city schools and Jackson Country schools provided 18 school buses to transport people from parking lots, some as far as two miles away, to the facility. Law enforcement officers were secured to help with the flow of traffic.
County commissioners, school board members, mayors, and political leaders were in attendance for the dinner. Internationals from as far away as Russia, China, and Thailand who were in Athens on business trips were also in attendance. One businessman from Chicago trusted Christ as his Savior at the event.
Scores of door prizes are given away each year, and this year there were 89 giveaways. The total number of door prizes was valued at $25,000. The grand prize was valued at $3,200.
The spiritual side of preparation
Lest anyone think the Wild Game Dinner is a ruse or a ploy to get people’s name on the church roll or in the Lamb’s Book of Life, they would have to overlook the spiritual side of the preparation.
Maysville Pastor Shane Roberson explained, “The spirit of this year’s Wild Game Dinner was one of excitement, highlighted by two things. First, our church was committed to pray for the dinner. Nothing was done at this special event that was not bathed in prayer.
“David Sharpton, our executive pastor and pastor of education and evangelism, made sure that every men’s ministry meeting had a time of focused prayer for the lostness of this area; and every man who prayed for the Wild Game Dinner was asking the Father to break our hearts for lost souls.
“This kind of commitment to prayer began to echo throughout the whole church. This brought unity and the spirit of cooperation to everyone that worked and an intentionality about those whom we were targeting to invite to the event.”
Sharpton added, “The pastor asked us to pray for 500 salvations and that is what we were doing. We had 472 saved, so when I speak to our men at our weekly men’s gathering on Wednesday I am going to ask them, ‘Where are the other 28?’
“Second,” Roberson stated, “was our commitment to excellence. We were not shooting for perfection, just excellence from the praise and worship band led by our worship pastor Chuck Sullivan, to the 40 serving lines organized by Rebecca McDowell.
“Everything was challenged by the thought, ‘Is this the best we can do?’ These two things describe the spirit of excitement at this year’s Wild Game Dinner.”
Many churches have traditions – homecomings, anniversaries, Christmas musicals, passion plays, block parties – but the Wild Game Dinner at Maysville Baptist has become not only a tradition, but a prototype for other churches to follow. In fact, every year churches from around Georgia and other states come to see the enactment of this spiritual phenomenon.
Roberson added, “This event means a great deal to our church. This is our opportunity to come together and for one night bring northeast Georgia around the dinner table and serve them a warm meal with good music, give away a lot of prizes, and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“As a matter of fact, the Gospel is why we do what we do. We desire to share the Gospel with as many people as we can. We focus on it weekly through our visitation ministry, monthly through our special events, and yearly with our Wild Game Dinner.
“And our goal is not just to make converts, but disciples. This is where our follow-up comes in. We will send every decision card that was made by a guest from another church to their pastor. For those who have no church affiliation, we want to get in their home and love them and offer them ways to get connected to Maysville Baptist Church.”
“… our goal is not just to make converts, but disciples.”
Sharpton commented, “We have identified 58 people who were saved that live in our Jerusalem and we have already called every one of them on the phone and invited them to a breakfast at our church this Sunday morning. We want to love on them and let them know we have a spiritual home for them here. I am going to talk to them about what is next in their spiritual journey.”
“For those who made decisions from other states or who live too far away to attend our church, we find a local Southern Baptist church and reach out to the pastor to help us with the follow-up on those new converts.”
Sharpton explained, “Bailey preached a message from I Peter 3:9 on ‘Fighting to Die.’ His message was not an appeal to lost church members, but to all who are fighting against the grace, mercy and long-suffering of God.”
Pastor Roberson highlighted the preaching of Smith at the dinner by saying, “Bailey delivered a relevant message that was personal, pointed, and powerful. It was one that put the 3,000 plus people in attendance in the crossroads of heaven and hell. What a joy it was to see more than 470 decisions for Christ. God used Bailey Smith in an incredible way.”