SBC Life Articles

Innovative Evangelism

It seems many are looking for something free. But most find it difficult to accept some things when they are offered free of charge — like a car wash — or salvation.

Members of Sheridan Road Baptist Church in Tulsa, Okla., found that to be true of many who brought their cars to the church's free car wash.

As an outreach to the community, church members set up a free car wash on the church parking lot (no donations accepted) just "to plant some seeds and let people know we care for them," said pastor Tom Woodson.

The idea, Woodson said, came from David Kirkhuff, who drives an outreach bus and is a children's worker at the Tulsa church.

"I had read about something like this in a Southern Baptist publication," said Woodson, "but David came up with this idea on his own."

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a Saturday, Sheridan Road's parking lot became a car wash as about twenty-five members scrubbed, detailed, vacuumed, and shined forty to fifty cars.

"We did everything from junkers to luxury cars, from pickups to vans," Woodson reported. "We even did one limited-edition Maserati and a $67,000 Bluebird church bus — ours."

The event was promoted only by a sign on the church's marquee and by some college students who took fliers to nearby stores.

Woodson said people were dumfounded that the church wouldn't take any money for washing the cars.

"One person said, 'don't you care about money at this church?'" Woodson said.

"We told him we were not here for money, but to serve and let people know this car wash is free, like salvation. It's a gift, receive it if you want."

In addition to getting their cars washed, patrons were treated to free candy bars and soft drinks while they waited, courtesy of church women who served as hostesses.

Woodson said members brought five-gallon buckets, sponges, and towels, as well as two shop vacs for the day's work.

"We had two stations," he explained. "After the cars were washed, they would pull up under one of our canopies for the vacuuming and detail work."

Although there was no ulterior motive, the pastor and church members had an opportunity to share Christ.

"We printed up fliers about two upcoming events, a Labor Day fish fry open to the community and a couples' communication (marriage) seminar, to hand out," Woodson said. "We also had some evangelistic tracts to give away."

Woodson said the church didn't necessarily plan for the event to be a soul-winning opportunity, but it worked out that way.

"When I go to a volunteer car wash, I never get out of the car," Woodson remarked. "But the vacuums were extremely loud, so most people got out of their cars, and we had a chance to talk to them.

"We had church members there who are not bashful about sharing their faith."

One young man said he wanted to talk some more, and a layman in the church explained to him how to receive Christ.

"He led him all the way up to receiving the Lord," said Woodson, "and although he was qualified to do it, he called me in, and I got to lead him to the Lord."

The young man was among three who made professions of faith during the four-hour period, and there were several who wanted assurance that they were saved, Woodson said.

One of the three has already joined Sheridan Road, along with her parents who joined by statement from a church in Ohio.

"These were people we had been ministering to," acknowledged Woodson. "After they joined, the father volunteered to do some work for us, changing a light bulb forty feet above the baptistry that no one had wanted to attempt."

Woodson said the car wash was a part of a bigger picture for the church, which runs about 250 in Sunday School.

"At the end of June, some people committed to pray for and support our ministries," the pastor said. "A lot of people have gathered to pray before our worship services. I believe a spirit and atmosphere of prayer has prepared some people to come to Christ.

"It was almost too easy to lead these people to Christ at the car wash," admitted Woodson. "It was as if they were literally dropped in our laps. God was definitely at work."

He said in the last six weeks, twenty-six people have made professions of faith at Sheridan Road.

The Sunday after the car wash, several people who are looking for a church home, attended our worship services, Woodson said.

"We've kept all the car wash equipment," Woodson noted. "We're going to do it again next year, probably twice now that we've seen how effective it can be."

Woodson believes the secret to having a successful evangelistic car wash is prayer, enthusiasm, hard work, a soul-winner's heart, and very loud vacuums in the detailing bays.

    About the Author

  • Dana Williamson