EASTVIEW, Ky. (KT) – You bring your own chair to services at First Baptist Church of Eastview.
Church members or visitors can plop down a lawn chair around where a 100-year-old oak tree sits on the church grounds and provides ample comfort and protection from the August heat. If you’re lucky, you may get a seat near the base of the big tree, but make room for the makeshift altar because it can be a busy place.
Pastor Mike McGrew stands inside a semi-circle of lawn chairs and preaches his heart out. An invitation on Aug. 16 lasted for 30 minutes after hearing an evangelistic sermon. They came broken, crying and many rededicated their lives to Jesus. Maybe the outdoor air had done them good.
“If there was ever a time the church needed to be strong in the Lord, it’s now,” McGrew said. “I really feel in my heart that this could turn into a soul-saving event for people who won’t normally come to church.”
Eastview Church is located high on a hill and the sound from the speakers on Sunday mornings can be heard from a distance. So can the sound of lawnmowers, the pastor said.
“God gave me something that first Sunday morning,” McGrew said. “Somebody was mowing grass over the hill. Then, all of a sudden, the lawnmower shut off. The Lord told me, ‘They’re listening.’ We were laughing because this past Sunday, there was no grass being mowed.”
Shawn Edwards, the associational mission strategist for the Severns Valley Association of Baptists, attended the Aug. 16 service with his wife on their anniversary.
“I took her there, being a romantic,” Edwards said. “When he (McGrew) thought it was going to die down, grown men went forward to pray at a makeshift altar at the base of the tree. We were sitting there going, ‘This is unreal.’ He’d wind it down and more would come forward.”
McGrew said the Spirit has been in attendance with the outside services under the oak tree.
“It was amazing,” the pastor said, remembering the Aug. 16 service. “Here I was, thinking things were over, and people were coming up and praying under the tree. It reminded me of the old outdoor revivals they used to have.”
The pastor said he decided to use the oak tree as their sanctuary after Gov. Andy Beshear asked churches to stop having indoor services for a couple of weeks because of the coronavirus about two months ago.
“The Lord pointed me to that tree and said, 'This is where you need to have services,'” McGrew said. “The next Sunday we had it outside and it really took off. This will be our fifth Sunday coming up this week.”
McGrew, a bi-vocational pastor who works in maintenance for Hardin County Schools, said he wouldn’t mind being outside all the time. He called himself “an outside guy” and probably learned that from his grandfather, who was also a Baptist preacher.
“He pastored over 20 churches during his time and he had an altar in his barn,” McGrew said. “He had a poplar board. The family cut that board in little pieces when he died and gave it to all the grandkids. I brought that out and laid it at the base of the tree. He prayed for me and my children. It touched a lot of hearts. There is something about being outside.”
McGrew said the church had thoughts of taking down the big oak tree a few years ago after some limbs broke, but when the subject came up at a meeting, it didn’t go anywhere. The pastor said he has a good idea of why.
“That first Sunday, God told me, 'I ordained this tree to be here because you need it now,'” the pastor said. “It’s a big tree that shades the whole parking lot and it has the nicest breeze. When we are done (with the service), the breeze stops. It’s a shady, wonderful place to have church.”