St. Johns River Baptist Association offers gift of gospel at Putnam County Fair

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EAST PALATKA— It’s not rare for people to come home from the fair with all sorts of prizes and gifts—stuffed animals, handmade trinkets, funnel cakes—but at the Putnam County Fair, there’s one gift that surpasses all others.

“The greatest gift we can give at the fair is the gospel,” said Asa Greear, St. Johns River Baptist Association’s mission strategist.

The 2024 Putnam County Fair marked the eighth year the association shared the gospel at this annual event. In 2023, 50 people made professions of faith in Christ through this ministry, and 18 have done so thus far in 2024. Greear credits the positive response at the fair first to God and then to the collaboration of multiple church leaders and volunteers from Putnam and neighboring counties as well as the Florida Baptist Convention.

The greatest gift we can give at the fair is the gospel.

Asa Greear mission strategist, St. Johns River Baptist Association

Each year, as preparations begin for the fair, Baptist church leaders and evangelists from nearby cities plan and strategize. “First Baptist Church of Palatka designs our booth according to the theme set forth by the county,” said Greear, a task the church has handled for three years. In addition, pastors and members of various churches take turns manning the booth to share the gospel with everyone. The booth offers Bibles, Bible tracts, other Christian literature for the whole family and toys for children.

One of the most popular tools used at the fair to engage parents and children in listening to the gospel story is the Evangelism Cube or EvangeCube. Volunteers use the cube as a visual tool while sharing how people are separated from God. The conversation progresses to the death of Christ on the cross, as displayed on the cube, and to Jesus’ resurrection, which guarantees salvation for everyone who believes. Every volunteer, pastor, evangelist and new team member is engaged in sharing the message of Christ.

“The SJRBA does this outreach at the Putnam County Fair every year and is very effective at that venue,” said Patrick Coats, Florida Baptists’ Central region catalyst for FBC. Coats said he has personally witnessed many gospel conversations and prayers among people of all ages.

Some may question why a Baptist association puts such a priority on a county fair.  Greear explained, “Jesus commanded us. Matthew 28:19 reads, ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’”

Individuals who make salvation decisions are connected immediately with churches represented at the fair. The specific church then follows up with the new convert for discipleship. The current membership of St. Johns River Baptist Association is 54 churches, with 18 represented at this year’s event.

Many of the new converts become active members of a church, Greear said. Over time, he added, some new believers approach him and say, “I saw you at the fair.”

“We can give people food every week, and they will be hungry; toys, and happy for a moment; but give them the gospel message, and they will live forever,”  Greear said.

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