Life Change Marks Oregon Church’s Outdoor Worship Experience
By Ashley Tinstman
On a cool, September morning in a small town along the Oregon coast, 170 people from the Reedsport Church of God congregation and the surrounding community gathered together for church. But this particular Sunday morning service was slightly different than usual. Rather than gathering together inside the church’s building, the congregation moved their worship service outdoors for “Church in the Park” at Tugman State Park.
Surrounded by a canopy of spruce and cedar trees and a sprawling, serene lake, the congregation worshipped together and listened in as Pastor Justin Linseisen spoke about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. Highlighting the eunuch’s immediate response to the gospel and his decision to be baptized, Justin encouraged the congregation that they, too, could decide to follow Jesus right then and be baptized—and their lives would be forever changed because of it.
Recounting his decision to preach this particular message, Justin explained, “Sometimes it can be challenging to repeat the gospel message over and over, particularly when you’re preaching to the same people week in and week out. But you also never know who is going to be there. You never know who’s going to respond. So, you keep preaching because you don’t know what God is doing.”
And, that morning at Church in the Park, God was definitely doing something. As Justin finished his message and gave people an opportunity to respond, the mayor of the town just south of Reedsport was in the crowd, listening. He had been invited by a member of the church congregation, but initially dismissed the idea until a second person invited him and offered to bring him to the event. Compelled by Justin’s message, he knew that “this was the day.” He stepped out from the crowd, gave his life to Jesus, and made a decision to be baptized.
“This is a prime example of why we do Church in the Park,” said Justin. “The heart behind it is outreach. It’s an opportunity for church members to reach out to those who might not step foot in a church building and invite them to be a part of something where they can feel comfortable and know they belong. And that’s what happened here with the mayor.”
In addition to the mayor, six others were baptized in the lake that day, ranging from a first-grader to a man who had experienced God’s redemption in the midst of a battle with addiction. After the service, those in attendance spent the afternoon together, as well, sharing a meal, playing games, and enjoying the park’s beautiful trails and scenery.
“I think the event was an incredible success,” Justin recalled. “There was something really special about it, and people responded. And, at the end of the day, it was a reminder that God is still doing something here. He still has ministry he wants to do here in Reedsport and beyond—and it’s an honor that we get to be a part of that.”
Now, as Justin looks toward the future, he believes Church in the Park—which Reedsport Church of God has held annually for more than ten years—will continue to play an integral role in supporting the church’s mission.
“As a church, we exist to connect people to Jesus and to one another in community,” Justin shared. “And Church in the Park is an event that says we are still focused on doing that. We’re still trying to reach as many people as we can and connect them to Jesus and one another—which is what we believe will change their life.”
Ashley Tinstman serves as connections pastor of White Chapel Church in South Daytona, Florida. In her role, she oversees the church’s social media and communications, community groups, and special events. Originally from Pittsburgh, she is a diehard Steelers fan and enjoys playing golf and tennis in her free time.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.