OMEGA, Ga. – Forty-one people surrendered to Christ on Friday evening in a rural Georgia community, the latest to experience a revival movement that’s been sweeping across the Deep South state.
This time it happened in a fellowship hall at Bethel Baptist Church in Omega where some 400 men had gathered for what was billed as a Beast Feast, a dinner that included a variety of wild game, including deer, hog and quail.
Pastor Troy Dykes said members of his congregation had been praying for a harvest of souls and the Lord answered those prayers among a group of camo-clad guys, many of whom are more accustomed to sitting in tree stands than church pews.
“God moved like we had never seen Him move before,” Dykes said.
Similar localized revivals have become common all across Georgia over the past year with congregations reporting single-day salvation decisions ranging from a few dozens to nearly 200 in church sanctuaries and at community events.
An early review of statistical reports submitted by churches to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board show 14,333 baptisms last year. That was with less than 60 percent of churches reporting.
Settings for the revivals varied. Some were indoors, some outdoors. Some people were saved on front porches, some in theaters, some on college campuses , and some in church sanctuaries.
In an area of Columbus known as Little Chicago, 102 residents claimed Christ in a one-day evangelistic outreach that included door-to-door visits and a community block party. In Millen, 40 people made professions of faith in the town’s theater where local pastors organized an evangelisticoutreach.
In January, First Baptist Church in Blackshear reported 19 professions of faith at a venison supper. Another 28 people recommitted their lives to Christ at the event.
The men at Blackshear First Baptist had manned the stoves, cooking up deer they had harvested themselves to feed more than 400 people.
Two-time Bassmaster Classic champion Hank Parker, an outdoor legend, shared his Christian testimony at the event.
Parker, a member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame and the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame, isn’t shy about sharing his faith, always letting his fans know that winning fishing trophies pales in comparison to receiving Christ.
Gambrell said fishing and hunting are part of the culture in southeast Georgia, which makes venison suppers and other outdoorsy events popular.
“It is very easy to use them as an outreach,” he said. “We’re still seeing fruit from it.”
In north Georgia, Cassville Baptist Church began the new year with nine baptisms, the first sign that the spontaneous revivals were continuing into the new year.
“There’s nothing else we can credit this to other than the moving of the Spirit and faithful obedience to what God has called us to.” said Cassville Pastor Andrew Hackler.
In Omega, Dykes invited former outdoor television show host Chuck McAlister to share hunting stories and proclaim Jesus to the men attending the Beast Feast. McAlister, now a South Carolina pastor, talked from a platform surrounded with deer, elk, even duck mounts. With his favorite shotgun balanced across his shoulder, McAlister told about growing up hunting with his father and grandfather who taught him to live by biblical standards.
“In my opinion, in terms of reaching unchurched men, the most effective thing you can do is wild game dinners,” McAlister said. “In rural America, men by and large have one thing in common, they love the outdoors, and you can utilize that as platform to win them to Jesus.”
Dykes said the Lord has uniquely gifted McAlister for such events.
“I’ve heard tons of evangelists in my life, but I’ve never heard anybody who has the capability to trap men in their seats with his wit and his hunting stories like Chuck McAlister does," Dykes said. "Then, he presents the gospel so clearly to them. He had every ear.”
Dykes said the Lord did something special in Omega.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to know God used our event to change men’s lives,” he said.