For seven years I have been attending the Kentucky Derby Evangelism Outreach with Sports Fan Outreach International ( see sfoi.org/ ). It was at this event, with this ministry in 2013 that I preached the gospel in the open air for the very first time. Up until that point I had been a Christian and regularly sharing the gospel since 2008. So evangelizing wasn't new to me but proclaiming the gospel in the open air was a desire that I could not shake for almost a year before that first trip with SFOI to the Kentucky Derby.
I remember that first time when I was asked to get up and preach at the derby, the fear that came over me, I was nervous, terrified in fact and yet I knew that this desire to preach had been there for a long while leading up to this very moment and I knew that I need to take this first step out in faith and not let this fear keep me from proclaiming the truth, I was prayed for by members on my team and I was in constant prayer in my mind with the Lord to help me overcome this fear and give me the courage to preach.
Here is the very first time I ever opened air preached at the Kentucky Derby.
What seemed like forever while I was speaking to the crowd was actually only seven minutes.
Going back home from the Derby Outreach that first year I was so excited and couldn't wait to get on the streets in my local area and proclaim the gospel. Although, I couldn't find many others who were willing to go out with me and so I continued handing out tracts and engaging in one on ones.
After a phone conversation with Bill Adams ( Head of SFOI ) who gave me some encouragement and wisdom in how to go about preaching in the open air when I didn't have anyone else willing to go out with me.
It is wise to go out with others on the streets, going alone can be dangerous, which is why you must exercise wisdom if you desire to preach but have no one that is willing to join you. For example, don't go in a bad part of town by yourself to preach the gospel. A college campus, an open public area ( like a sporting event ) with lots of people passing by would be a better option. It's wiser to have someone with you but that might not always be an option, therefore, planning and being wise about where you go is necessary for your own safety.
It would be a few years before I began to see others out preaching the gospel that I was able to connect with and build friendships and partner with out local events. Every year I would encourage them to join me at the derby, knowing the impact it had on me and has help me grow over the years by learning from all the brothers who attend that can impart their knowledge and wisdom onto others has been a valuable part of my growth over the years in theology ( from the discussions among the brothers ), and ways to improve as an open air preacher.
Finally, after attempting to encourage the other local guys to attend, Adam Wright ( of Made For This Ministries ) joined me and has just returned from his fourth year at the Kentucky Derby Outreach.
I share all that to give you an idea of what it is like the first time you attend the derby and preach in the open air for the first time. There can be a tendency to leave the outreach on a spiritual high, longing to be around the brothers and preach with many others who are like minded but that is not always the case when you return home. Even so be faithful, continue to press on.
I caution you that while it is a great feeling and experience to be around so many like minded brothers who have a passion and desire to preach in the open air as you do, when going back home you might not experience the same atmosphere with brothers in your community or in your local church. Don't become disheartened but love on them and be gracious and kind. Should the Lord will, He will bring others along with you.
Here is Adam preaching to the crowd, this brother has been a huge encouragement to me and a good friend over the years and together this has been our favorite outreach away from home to attend. From the fellowship we have driving down to Kentucky, staying at the camp grounds and the drive back home. Adam is a great brother in the Lord and I am truly thankful to have him with me over the last four years going down to Kentucky.
This year Adam and I had two brothers from our area join us for the first time. They contacted me in July 2018 looking to do evangelism. Nathaniel and Seth Porter began joining me at evangelism outreaches I had planned throughout the months of summer, into fall and winter. I told them about the Kentucky Derby and SFOI and they were on board wanting to join us. We were blessed to see these two brothers come out and experience the derby outreach for the first time. Here below is a picture of the two brothers sharing the gospel on our first day out at Churchill Downs for the Oaks.
We often say, it is not the derby if it doesn't rain, well it rained! Day one it rained early and the rest of the day was nice. But day two the day of the derby race it rained on and off throughout the day. If you ever been a part of an SFOI event, then you are aware that the weather doesn't stop the preaching.
The crowds will keep coming....
And the saints come prepared to evangelize....
And preach regardless of the weather....
Like the rain every year at the derby, you can also expect these things to happen.
Large Crowds will come to the races.
The gospel will be preached.
Above pictured, Jaycen Saab of AppalachiaCry Ministries
Preaching draws conversations....
In this photo above Adam Wright is preaching
Photo by Pastor Adam Cutshaw who also pointed out this...
"6 evangelists-green (#3 is difficult to see)
10 interactions-red (#7 is difficult to see)"
This lady above came up and told me she was a Christian and that we were pushing people away from Jesus by the preaching. She told me that the way to reach people is through relationships, every objection she raised I simply took her to what the scriptures say and by the end of the conversation she shook my hand and said thank you for the conversations.
Praying is vital to the ministry and happens throughout the day.
Pastor Steven Stanley praying for John Coble before he preaches.
Dan Davis praying for Jamie Hall before preaching.
Ken Hisle praying for an individual who heard the gospel.
And gospel tracts go out.
Do people get upset and angry with us..... YES! Not because of our method, truthfully, it's because they are angry at God, and in rebellion against the one who created them. Therefore, they take out there frustrations on the messengers. Many walked by and called us names, and cussed at us.
Standing behind this barrier, when I was preaching a young man came up and flipped the stand over and walked away, after I finished and Heath (standing talking to the man in the dress coat and pink shirt) began to preach, a young man drunk and angry came and kicked the barricade into the inside of my left leg, then he walked away.
I've often said, if you want to experience the hatred people have for God, go stand on a street corner and preach the gospel to them and the majority of the time you will find out first hand.
And yet we must remember that but by the grace of God we would be no different, we may not have acted out in hatred the same way as these few examples given but we were just as much at enmity with God as those who vocally or physically make it known.
It is the love of Christ though that compels us to proclaim the gospel to the lost and dying world that they may experience new life as we have received in Christ.
God is good and merciful and I pray that His grace will be given to those mentioned above and the many others which heard the gospel at the Derby this past weekend.
May they be granted salvation in Christ!!
I want to thank all the brothers who came out this year to proclaim the gospel at the Derby. Also a huge thank you to Bill Adams and SFOI for hosting this event every year and bringing out speakers to teach us and taking care of the logistics to house and get all the preachers to the track.
I also want to say a special thank you to all of you who have supported us financially to attend this event, Adam Wright, Seth and Nathaniel Porter and I truly thank you, those who donated to the ministry gave generously and provided our way down and covered the entire cost of our trip this year.
Thank you to all of you who prayed for us while we were out at Churchill Downs preaching the gospel. You were just as much a part of this mission trip to the Kentucky Derby through your prayers.
Continue to pray for all those who heard the gospel, that God would grant them salvation and that He would raise up more brothers to come and preach the gospel at the derby next year.
All glory belongs to the Lord!
by Ricky Gantz
Welcome to our blog page. If you stop in to read the blogs, please leave a comment. Always interested in your feedback.