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Church ministers to 'poverty stricken' community through Super Bowl event


New Heights worship team made the atmosphere comfortable for the community by performing secular music prior to the message.

Pineville—A weekend that started in cancellations and chaos ended with 14 coming to know Christ.

New Heights Baptist Church in Pineville hosted a service on Saturday, Jan. 31, and a Super Bowl party on Sunday for the community.

Their goal was to "take the edge off church as usual" to reach the poverty-stricken area to which the church ministers, Jeff Day, music director at New Heights, said.

Pastor Mark Elkins teamed up with Evangelist Steve Paysen for what was originally going to be a four-day, old-fashion revival.

"We've never done that before, and there's a reason why," Elkins said. "But I'm always up for trying new things."

They both agreed that this was an evangelistic event targeting lost people.

A friend asked Elkins, "Mark, can lost people worship?"

"God was saying you're asking people to do something that they're not capable of doing and it creates barriers," Elkins explained. "We needed to come up with something to remove the barriers."

So, he took the pamphlet that he'd been handing out and threw it away.

"If we're going to do this for lost people, then what would it look like, feel like, sound like?" he pondered.

They decided to have a service on Saturday night where they would give out gift cards and food and Paysen would preach, and then hold a Super Bowl party on Sunday evening.

They started with what at first seemed an unpopular idea: changing the music to secular music. "If they can't worship, why should we sing worship music? If that's going to bring barriers, then lets remove all the barriers," Elkins said.

"The thought was let's get some good, clean, hand-clapping, toe-stomping music where people are relaxed and comfortable," he continued. "When Steve stands up, he'll be able to stand up in the freedom of the Lord and preach the Word, and we'll just let God do the rest."

They played songs such as "Happy" and some older 50s and 60s music.

With $500, just enough to cover renting the theater, things started to fall into place. A worship leader from a local church agreed to do the music, a truckload of non-perishable food items to give out was arranged, other donations came in and a company was going to donate chicken for the families that came.

"It was obvious at that point that God was in it," Elkins commented. "Things were starting to fall together, and I was getting more and more confident every day."

Within a week of the big event, however, things unraveled. The worship leader backed out; the non-perishables items and the chicken were no longer available.

"At that moment I stopped and said, 'All right God. What are you saying? What are you doing? What do you want us to do here?'" Elkins said.

"I just left it in His hands," he continued. "It wasn't comfortable. I was just trusting Him."

Then, money and gifts started coming in from church members and unexpected sources. With the help of the local radio station and New Heights' worship team, the music came together.

In the end, they had enough to send 80 families home with food for a week. Drinks and pizza were donated. The church gave out gift cards and an iPad mini.

Paysen preached on Saturday and 11 people responded to God's call. During the church service on Sunday, "dozens of people" responded at the invitation, Elkins said.

During halftime on Sunday night, Elkins baptized two. When he extended an invitation for anyone else who knew they were saved but had yet to be baptized, a 10-year-old girl responded and with her mother's permission was baptized that night.

At the same time, two teenage girls were outside—one talking to her father and the other to her youth pastor. Both committed her life to Christ.

"It was just the Spirit of God," Elkins said. "It wasn't necessarily the method or approach that we used, it was just that we tried our best to honor God, and God honored us." (WR)

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