Area residents are invited to hear gospel music and an inspirational message at the third annual Big God Across the Ozarks event, which begins tonight at Gizmo's Event Center on Highway 86 in Wheaton. The celebration continues through Sunday, Sept. 11 with singing beginning at 6 p.m. and services starting at 7 p.m. each night.
"We can already see God at work," said Rev. Paul Wahlert, pastor of the Wheaton Southern Baptist Church. "We have received a lot of support already, even in a down economy."
Currently, the Wheaton Area Ministerial Alliance is working to publicize the 2011 event to area churches and communities. In the past, the event has been promoted at churches from Joplin to northwest Arkansas and from Marionville to Shell Knob.
"Last year, on the last night, we had over 2,200 people in attendance," said Wahlert. "We are preparing for that many or more this year.
"We had 190 people come forward to make decisions on the last night of the event," said Wahlert. "That was really amazing. The numbers are not as important to us as the changed lives are."
Over 6,000 people attended the five-day event last year. More than 20 area churches were involved, and a total of 385 decisions were made during the 2010 Big God Across the Ozarks gathering.
This year's event will feature evangelist William Blackburn, of Fort Smith, Ark. Blackburn has served as a pastor for 24 years. He has also conducted over 700 single church revivals resulting in over 80,000 decisions for Christ.
"William Blackburn's message will be for all age groups," said Wahlert. "He will offer an evangelistic message for area churches as well."
Blackburn earned a teaching degree at the University of Arkansas-Monticello where he attended on a football scholarship. Before turning his life over to Christ, Blackburn was a successful businessman in the field of advertising, marketing and public relations. He also produced and directed two feature length motion pictures.
For more information on Blackburn or William Blackburn Ministries, visit www.williamblackburn.com.
The Big God Across the Ozarks Celebration will also feature musical performances by Dean, Gayna and Geoffrey Forrest, who will be accompanied by an area wide choir.
A Kid's Rally is planned for Saturday, Sept. 10 at 9 a.m. The youth rally will offer games and a gospel message.
Community members who attend Big God Across the Ozarks are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. Nightly services will be moved to a pavilion west of the event center grandstand in the event of rain.
"This event was designed to reach the unchurched with the gospel of Jesus Christ," said Wahlert. "We want to reach those people who don't feel comfortable in church but do feel comfortable hearing the word of God at a rodeo arena.
"Big God 2011 is for everyone," said Wahlert. "It is for all age groups. It is for everyone that wants to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Community members who have questions about the event are invited to call Wahlert at 417-652-3186 or Rev. Mark Hall at 417-652-3898. The event is free to the public. A love offering will be accepted during each service.