By Tim Massengale
Pastor Mark North took a last bite of his omelet and washed it quickly down with a gulp of black coffee. Wiping his mouth with the napkin, he reached for the check.
“Thanks again, Elder, for inviting me to meet you for breakfast. Sorry to have to run, but I have to get the church bus to the shop before ten this morning for an oil change. If I do, they promised to have it done by four o’clock so we can use it tomorrow morning for our church bus route.”
Elder Vernon Baker nodded. “I understand. I have several hospital visits to make myself. So how’s that new bus working out for you?
Mark grinned. “Excellent. You were right. It’s been one of our best evangelism investments. We pack it every Sunday morning with over fifty kids. A number have received the Holy Ghost and we have two families coming now from our bus route. We are constantly using the bus for various church transportation needs. Fact is, we need a second one. But we just can’t afford it right now. I hate that. I wish there was a way we could keep our momentum going.”
Brother Baker snatched the meal check out of Mark’s hand. “I’ll pay for this, son. I invited you. You know, you could start a car ministry if you wanted to.”
Mark scowled. “You got the check last time, and the time before, and before that…” He tried to grab it back but missed. He cocked an eyebrow. “What’s a car ministry?”
The white haired preacher paid the cashier and reached for a toothpick. “Car ministry is a simple, but effective transportation ministry we’ve used for several years. It’s surprisingly easy to do. More than once, as I have watched cars pull into our parking lot with extra riders, I thought, ‘Why didn’t we think of this before?’ We have about thirty people coming on Sunday morning that would not be able to come without our Car Ministry. Most have the Holy Ghost now.”
Mark nodded for Elder Baker to continue.
Car Ministry Explained
“Like any church our size, we have several hundred church members that drive their car to church each Sunday. They bring themselves, their spouses and their children. A few bring friends and extended family members. But most of these cars arrive with several empty seats – seats that could be carrying souls in need of salvation. Car ministry attempts to utilize these empty car seats for evangelism. If I’m driving to church anyway, why not take a few minutes to pick up someone that would like to attend church and who is also needs God?
“You only need two simple elements, Mark, in order for Car Ministry to work: (1) Saints willing to pick someone up and bring them to church, and (2) individuals needing a ride that wish to go to church. All we have to do is find both of these elements and you are in business.”
Mark nodded. “Okay. But how do you get your people to volunteer to pick someone up?”
Elder Baker continued. “Several years ago during a sermon on soul winning I pointed to various members within our congregation and asked them this simple question: ‘Who owns your car?’ I got a variety of answers. One replied, ‘I do.’ Another said, ‘the bank does,’ or ‘my father’ or ‘the lease company.’ But with a little persuasion I got them all to admit that, ultimately, GOD owns their car. It truly is HIS car. He owns all we have, for we belong to Him. God owns our families, our bank account, our houses, and yes, even the car we drive. We have surrendered everything to HIM.
“Well, since God owns your car — then God wants to use it for a few minutes each week. Will you let Him? If that saint will answer YES, then here’s what I tell them we will do: We will come into your neighborhood with a door knocking team. We will knock on doors all around your house, extending out for several blocks, and we will find someone that would come to church if they only had a ride. If you are willing to call them a half-hour early on Sunday morning to remind them that you will soon be by to get them, and then will pick someone up and bring them to the House of God, we will find them for you. So, are you willing to let God use His car?”
How Car Ministry Works
Mark looked somewhat dubious. “So you just asked who would pick someone up and that’s all it took?”
“Well, that’s how we launched it. Car ministry starts by asking who would be willing to pick someone up on Sunday morning. We stress that we will find these people for them if they will just bring them. All we need are willing car owners. Once we have this list of willing individuals, we then ask who would volunteer to meet at the church once a month on a Saturday morning (we provide plenty of free coffee and donuts) and go out door knocking for a few hours. We quickly train our door knockers and then hit the streets to find the hungry souls.
“Training the door knockers is easy. I just have them memorize the following dialog: “Hi, my name is Mike and we are from New Life Tabernacle. We are launching a transportation ministry in this neighborhood to help people attend church that do not have a ride. Do you attend church anywhere on Sunday morning? [We let them answer]. Well, would you or anyone in your house be interested in attending a wonderful, friendly church on Sunday morning if we provided free transportation?”
Elder Keller glanced at Mark, who still had a slightly skeptical look on his face. “Okay. Keep going. Tell me more.”
Elder Keller continued. “Well, they answer, ‘yes‘ or ‘no.’ Or they may ask additional questions. Granted, most do say ‘no.’ Either they already attend church or they have no interest in doing so themselves. However, you will be pleasantly surprised to find out that there are people all over your city that would like to attend a loving, friendly, exciting church if they only had a ride. Mark, I’m serious. They are out there! All you have to do is pray and then knock on doors for a few hours and you will find them.”
Mark nodded slowly, but still not convinced. “So, what kind of people do you find needing a ride?”
The elder pastor quickly responded. “After having successfully done this for several years, we have found that the majority fit into six different categories: The majority are elderly – those that can no longer drive for a variety of reasons. Health or poor eyesight is the most common reason. But they would love to attend church once again.
“Next are single car owners. Usually their spouse has the car on Sunday morning for work. Since they only have one car, they need a ride for the rest of the family to attend church.
“After that we find teens that are sometimes interested. I’m serious! It’s more common than you think. Often they are the shy, lonely kind and just want fellowship. So they hope to meet other young people at church. They want friends. They want to belong to a youth group. So when our door knockers see a teenager, we stress the youth fellowship aspect.
“We also find children. These are usually kids whose parents want them to attend Sunday school, but don’t wish to take them themselves. While a bus ministry works best, a car ministry can also provide transportation.
“Occasionally we find those that can’t afford to drive to church. With rising gas prices, some have limited funds and therefore must restrict their driving to only essential locations like work and shopping. The only way they can come is if they can find a ride.
“The final category is the unmotivated. Oddly enough, this individual wants to go to church, but they need encouragement to do so. They know that they will get up and get ready if someone is picking them up. But without that obligation, they will just stay in bed.”
When Mark nodded this time it was with more conviction. “I’m beginning to see what you mean. We have people like that now who attend our church. Many of them I helped find a ride.”
Elder Keller grinned. “Exactly. All you need to do is match up those needing a ride with those who are willing to give a ride. Son, with a little effort, most of the cars pulling into your parking lot on Sunday morning can have an extra rider to two. Individuals that, before long, will be responding to your altar call and stirring the waters of baptism.
Best Places To Find People
Mark leaned back against his car. “Any suggestions on where to find these people that need a ride?”
Brother Keller nodded. “The first place to look is the immediate neighborhood around the homes of those willing to pick up a rider. In many neighborhoods, a team of five to seven individuals, knocking on doors on Saturday morning between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM, will find at least one or more people needing a ride.
“We have also found that results are greatly influenced by the economic status of the area. Poorer neighborhoods often have more people who lack transportation. Apartment complexes also are prime locations. Retirement villages and low income housing projects are especially fruitful. You will find that the poorer the neighborhood, the more people needing a ride.
“However, any neighborhood, with a little time and effort, will yield riders. Elderly individuals, who have moved in to live with their children, often do not wish to impose upon their married children for a ride to church each Sunday. Neighborhoods with lots of kids provide many opportunities to bring children to Sunday school. Mark, the old saying is still true: Hungry people are everywhere. Don’t let the enemy discourage and lie to you. They are out there! With a little time and effort, you can find an extra rider for every car.”
Every Soul Needs God
Mark sighed. “I see exactly what you are saying, Elder. The enemy has all too often convinced us that no one wants to come to church. Well, that’s not true! Like you said, many people would come if they just had the chance.”
Elder Keller grinned – he knew he had a car ministry convert. “You are so right, my friend. Scoffers will say, ‘these are just old people and kids.’ True, the majority tend to be. But remember each has a soul. And each has others within those homes that are in need of salvation. Once saved, you now have an ambassador to that home that can lead the whole family to Christ.
“So Mark, perhaps your church cannot afford to purchase another bus or van. But even when you can, please don’t neglect the many cars that fill your parking lot each Sunday morning. The majority of your members would be willing to give an unsaved individual a ride if they only knew who needed one. Just ask them! With a combination of a little time, shoe leather, and prayer, you can see dozens of new faces sitting in our pews every Sunday. And hopefully, with the Lord’s help, many of these individuals will also have their names written down forever in the Lamb’s Book of Life!”
Mark nodded in agreement, then glanced at his watch. “Jesus help me! I got to get that bus in the shop!”
He waved goodbye and drove toward the church to get the bus. But as he pulled off the highway into the residential area that surrounded his church, he could not help but wonder how many people there were in this neighborhood that wanted to attend church if they only had a ride. With God’s help, he was determined to find out.