PONTOTOC, Miss. (BP) — Most Christians are willing to share their faith when it can be as simple as a three-minute testimony, a Mississippi church has found in using the three-minute story witnessing method.
“When you tell people, ‘What we want you to do is share your testimony in three minutes,’ that means I don’t have to sit down and carry on an hour conversation,” said David Hamilton, senior pastor of West Heights Baptist Church in Pontotoc and a former Mississippi Baptist Convention president.
The three-minute story often is used by churches and Christian organizations at events where witnessing is coupled with a prize giveaway to attract people.
Joseph Luby, West Heights’ associate pastor of education, and one of the church’s deacons suggested that West Heights use three-minute story witnessing at Pontotoc’s annual arts and crafts fair, the Bodock Festival, in northeast Mississippi.
West Heights is sponsoring a booth at the October event for the second time this year. Church volunteers will invite people to listen to their story and then register to win a prize. Last year the church gave away a riding lawnmower.
As festival-goers walk by the booth, Hamilton explained, “We’ll tell people, ‘We want you to sign up to win this lawnmower.’ We tell them it doesn’t cost anything, but it does cost them three minutes of their time. Most folks in Pontotoc will give you three minutes.”
At last year’s two-day festival, 36 volunteers shared their stories with 850 people. Five prayed to receive Christ, the pastor said.
In another application of the method, a group of the church’s youth in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes used the three-minute story, coupled with a $100 gift card giveaway, to witness to their classmates. Luby reported that three youths made professions of faith during the student-led initiative.
The three-minute story witnessing method has been used at numerous events — large and small — since Texas evangelist Ronnie Hill came up with the idea.
In the early 2000s, Hill went to the NASCAR race in Bristol, Tenn., where he was giving away a motorcycle “to get people to come into the tent and listen to me preach for 10 minutes.” After the message, people would register for the motorcycle giveaway, which would be held after the race. “We had over 700 saved over three days doing that,” Hill said.
“But what I realized was we were missing a lot of people because they wouldn’t want to wait around” — until the top of the hour — “to hear me preach again. And so I thought, I need more people to help me catch all these people because I’m doing it by myself. So that’s when I started taking people with me and training them how to share their testimony — the three-minute story — so we could catch people as they’d come by. That’s how it grew at first.
“And from there we went to Texas Motor Speedway and did it. And then Sturgis,” the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., where in 2006 Hill partnered with the Dakota Baptist Convention to establish what has become an annual outreach giving away a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
This year’s 10-day rally, Aug. 3-12, marked the 13th consecutive for the ministry. Dakota Baptist state director of missions Buck Hill (no relation to Ronnie Hill) has participated since the beginning and now manages the ministry.
In a video on the sturgisbikegiveaway.com website, Buck Hill admits he wasn’t enthusiastic when Jim Hamilton, then-executive director of the Dakota Baptist Convention, first shared his vision for a ministry at Sturgis 14 years ago. (Jim Hamilton is not related to Mississippi pastor David Hamilton.)
“But the more and more God impressed upon me, and the more years I’ve done it, it is absolutely a need here,” and “person after person comes to know Jesus Christ. We’ve even seen them being followed up for 12 or more years from the people that led them to Christ. And so I’m in it until Jesus comes back or until He takes me home.”
This year, the website reports that 2,732 people were witnessed to and 227 made professions of faith.
Hill shared in an email that, for him, the three-minute story is effective because “it’s my story, it’s not somebody else’s story. It is the simplicity of the Gospel of my life before Christ, and how I met Christ, and what my life is now with Christ. And I think that is why so many people are willing to listen to it. It’s real, and while they may not agree with it, they do not deny that it’s my story.”