2012 Florida Baptist State
Convention Annual Meeting
Strength Team member Zeb Bishop, a 350 lb. former track and field player, crushed a diet 7Up can with his bare hands, spewing soda into the crowd and eliciting cheers.
“I went to church because I was supposed to,” Bishop said. “I wasn’t a bad person. But when I was 17, I realized that just going to church wasn’t enough.”
Bishop, in his testimony said the “Bible says you can’t do it alone. Accepting Jesus Christ is the only way.”
Herb Hartso, the other half of the Strength Team, bent a straight steel bar into a fish by placing the bar on his head and using his hands to shape the steel for his first feat of strength. Next, he ripped a full-sized phonebook in half.
“I want to share the Gospel with you very clearly,” Hartso told the crowd. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. But the gift has to be received.”
Hartso ended the performance by leading in a prayer for salvation.
Later as the sun rose and more people arrived at Iglesia Bautista Santuario de Adoracion, one of the volunteers, Lymari Rios, remembers how last year, at her mother’s urging, she attended a block party at the same church. There, the woman from Puerto Rico and her two sons heard the Gospel for the first time.
Soon, Rios made a profession of faith and was baptized.
As block party guests nibbled on nachos or made appointments to visit the Florida Baptist mobile dental clinic in the coming week, Riveira was willing to share her Christian testimony with anyone who would listen.
“I am a new person; my life is different, better,” she exclaimed, a smile brightening her face. “I want others to know God.”
Pastor Riveira affirmed Rios’ young faith and evangelistic enthusiasm. Games, face-painting, music, inflatables and a community health fair attracted community residents to the party, but still, Riveira emphasized, “At the end of the day, the main thing is to present the Gospel.”
Block parties, a mainstay of Southern Baptist community outreach for years, “still work,” said GOBA’S Cheyney. Such outreach, he believes, is a non-threatening way for unchurched individuals to wander onto a church campus for a few hours of fun and to meet church members. From there, the Gospel can be shared, and lives can be transformed.
Follow up is a key to the long-term success of a block party, according to Cheyney. Poised to build on the relationships begun at their block party, Riveira’s church, predominantly Hispanic, hopes one day to launch an Anglo congregation.
“We are taking their names so that we can follow up with them,” Riveira said.
In the Tangelo Park community in Orlando, a sense of hopelessness can creep into even the most optimistic of individuals. Jobs are scarce, and times are tough.
For two young adult brothers, their sister and her two young boys, that hopelessness was replaced by a newfound hope in Christ. At a Saturday morning block party on the grounds of Tangelo Baptist Church, Florida Baptist staffer Maxie Miller shared the Gospel with the three young adult siblings. All three prayed to receive Jesus as their Savior.
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