Flat Creek Baptist Church going ahead with evangelistic outreach despite government official's threat to levy $1,000 fine


FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. — Flat Creek Baptist Church plans to have the car show Saturday despite threats by a local official to slap the congregation with a $1,000 fine.

“If they have a car show, they will be fined,” said Fayette County Administrator Steve Rapson.

Rapson’s actions have exponentially heightened interest in the annual car, a key evangelistic outreach that revolves around vintage and classic vehicles. Organizers are planning for what’s expected to be the largest crowd ever.

Flat Creek Pastor Josh Saefkow said his church will not be bullied and is inviting the entire community to attend the free event that will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, with the written permission of the Fayette County Zoning Department, rapper Rick Ross will proceed with his paid admission car show at the former Evander Holyfield mansion in north Fayette. That same zoning permission for the church was denied last month.

Ross held his car show last year with county permission. Officials let him have the event without placing any restrictions on him. The church held a car show last year without asking for county permission. Neighbors around the Ross mansion complained about traffic congestion at last year’s show, and it got the county’s attention for this year. There were no complaints filed about last year’s church car show, but a county marshal saw the church putting up a sign for this year’s show and told them they had to get a permit.

Saefkow, president of the 1.2 million-member Georgia Baptist Convention, told his congregation last Sunday that said both Fayette County Commission Chairman Lee Hearn and Commissioner Eric Maxwell have apologized to him. The two wanted to approve the church car show but were outvoted by commissioners Charles Oddo, Edge Gibbons and Charles Rousseau.

“This is not persecution,” Saefkow told the congregation. “This is bullying … bullying at its finest. It’s clear to me that some of our public servants have gotten a little too big for their britches.”

The pastor continued, “We never asked for permission to do evangelism. Christian obedience may mean civil disobedience. Let me remind you why we are having a car and craft show: this community is full of broken, lost sinners who are in need of God’s mercy and grace … [and we want] to build a connection with our neighbors who need us.”

“That’s why I say to Mr. Rick Ross — you are invited to our car show. County commissioners, you are invited here. Our desire is to wash the feet of those who serve us. I don’t care if you are the biggest critic we have in this community. We’re inviting you to Jesus.”

Meanwhile, northeast of the 20-acre church campus, a varied show with an individual ticket price north of $200 will include over $300,000 in prize giveaways with awards for best car, best bike, hustler of the year and best hot rod, according to vibe.com.

Ross-rented buses will take attendees from off-site parking lots to his mansion. At least two dozen off-duty officers will provide security and direct traffic.

Rapper Diddy plans to fly in on his personal jet to attend the show, he said on Instagram.

So, if the church is ticketed for a zoning violation by the county marshals, what happens next? The ticketed person must show up in person before Fayette State Court Judge Jason Thompson, who will make the determination whether county zoning language will make a church’s evangelistic and community outreach efforts an illegal venture.

Off stage, the county has begun plans to rewrite the county’s A-R zoning ordinance to do away with a list of things you cannot do in that zone, Rapson said Thursday.