I think the field services are some of Jesus’ favorite places of ministry.
Outdoor services seem to be part of Calvary Chapels’ DNA – since the 60s, when Chuck Smith preached and baptized hippies and surfers in the sand at Huntington Beach. When I started walking with the Lord in the mid-90s, Calvary Chapel in Corvallis met regularly at a senior center but used the large lawn in the summer.
I still remember people responding to the good news as my pastor preached the gospel under those great oak trees. We would soon be moving to Crescent Valley High School for our regular gatherings and holding summer services in the large open concrete deck we called the “quad”, which formed a perfect amphitheater. Umbrellas provided shade for listeners as Jackson Creek flowed peacefully beneath the quad.
I also attended CVHS during my freshman year. The quad would be a place where we would preach outdoors to students during breaks. As a high school pastor, I used backyards and parks for discipleship and youth groups throughout the spring and summer months. We had two Trager grids that we could pull behind a truck. We brought the grills to the park, had the kids make their own pizzas, and while they cooked, we played a game of Ultimate Frisbee, then devoured the pies while we worshiped and studied the Bible while the sun went down. was sleeping.
They say old habits die hard. When I first started pastoring in Prineville, I remember having a conversation with our leaders and coming up with the idea of outdoor Sunday services. Knowing the manpower required to complete them, we decided that once a month would be a good pace for such a program. We started in Stryker Park and over the next few years moved to Pioneer Park, which was a great place to attract people passing through town to fellowship or hear the Good Word.
During the COVID closures, many churches have moved to outdoor locations. It fit our comfort zone perfectly and we enjoyed the more frequent weekly outdoor gatherings. In fact, the forced move outside was just at the right time as we adjusted to our new church house, which had no air conditioning. Outdoor services have helped keep our herd cool during the summer months!
For the past two summers we have enjoyed regular services at the Crooked River Park Amphitheater. This place is a wonderful place for our people. We bring our own canopies and enjoy being with each other as the large theater projects the praise perfectly. Our building is not equipped with a baptism so the park is a great place for a horse watering hole and splashing baptism waves for those who proclaim faith in Jesus
Our midweek services also found us in the park this summer! We enjoyed “Proverbs in the Park” at Ochoco Creek Park on Wednesday. There is plenty of space for children to play while parents and youngsters hear the wisdom of the Good Book! We take advantage of these special evenings to grill burgers, participate in a potluck and worship under the towering trees.
I think the field services are some of Jesus’ favorite places of ministry! Charles Spurgeon summed it up well in a sermon on the mountain message in 1873:
It was, without a doubt, a mountain all carpeted with grass and delicate with blond flowers – on the side of which the olive and fig trees bloomed in abundance, except where the rocks pushed upwards through the turf and earnestly invited their Lord to honor them by making them his pulpit. and throne! May I not add that Jesus was in deep sympathy with nature and, therefore, delighted with an audience hall whose floor was grass and whose roof was the blue sky? The open space was in accord with His big heart! The breezes were akin to His free spirit and the world around was full of symbols and parables in accordance with the Truths of God which He taught. Better than a long driveway, or floor after floor of a crowded gallery, was this meeting place on the side of a grassy hill! Thank goodness do we hear sermons more often in soul-inspiring landscapes! Surely both preacher and hearer would benefit alike from the passage from the man-made house to the temple of nature created by God!
Rory Rodgers is pastor of Calvary Chapel in Crook County. He can be reached at 541-362-1125.
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