The Boardwalk Chapel
The Boardwalk Chapel is a unique Reformed Gospel-preaching and evangelistic training ministry. This facility, owned by the Presytery of New Jersey (OPC), is located strategically where thousands of people from many ethnic races, cultures, religions and nationalities pass by the live, dynamic presentation of the Gospel of Christ. The Chapel building is an auditorium with a stage, seating up to 100 with the entire rear open to the boardwalk traffic. As people walk by, they can easily see and hear the programs. The building is usually open during the day and well after the evening programs have ended (often past midnight). It becomes a gathering point for people who drift in and out of the evening program to look at tracts and Christian literature, receive Godly counsel, praise God for the Chapel's existence, or challenge its very right to exist.
In relation to evangelism, we believe in the urgent and sincere free offer of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, with its call to repentance and faith, to everyone. And we also realize our utter dependence on the sovereign saving working of the Triune God. To him is and must be all the glory (John 6:44, 17:2; 1 John 4:19)!
The ministry of the Boardwalk Chapel has blessed Christ's church through the presentation of the Gospel to thousands of people each summer, through the training and the development of spiritual growth of hundreds of Christian young people, and through the encouragement and equipping it provides to seminarians and pastors.
Many current pastors, elders, deacons, teachers, and members in various Reformed churches have been blessed by the experiences they have had at the Chapel over the years.
The ministry is a seasonal, denominational, evangelistic outreach. The Chapel is not a local church and does not have communicant members. The ministers and church youth groups that come each year represent OPC, PCA and other Reformed congregations. Those who come to serve, to participate in its ministry, or give to support it are committed Christians with a heart for proclaiming the Gospel.
The full-time volunteer staff includes up to 20 young men and women recruited from applicants who are at least 18 years old, have a good pastoral reference, and are members in good standing of a Bible-believing church. When the volunteer staff arrive, they undergo two weeks of intensive training. A prepared curriculum includes an overview of Reformed theology, apologetics, church history, denominations and cults, principles and practices of personal evangelism, including sharing the Gospel, how to give a personal testimony, participating in the nightly programs, expected responsibilities and Christian conduct.
They then participate in ten weeks of ministry centered on the evening programs. During the programs, the staff is responsible for Gospel skits, testimonies, and vocal and instrumental music. After the program, the staff travel the boardwalk in small groups looking for opportunities to witness. With a handful of tracts, a couple of New Testaments, and boldness instilled by a time of prayer, they approach people with the specific purpose of sharing the Gospel.
The staff also includes up to four paid summer assistants. The paid staff provides counsel, scriptural training, and general oversight of the volunteer staff. They are responsible for the spiritual growth in grace, patience and character of the volunteer staff. Under the supervision of the director, the paid staff plan the evening program, direct skits, and conduct various aspects of the program. They provide oversight for the small groups witnessing along the boardwalk.
The intern training is unique. In a church setting, opportunities for being in front of people, counseling, teaching, and so forth come from time to time, but on the Chapel staff, it can occur on a daily basis. The summer assistants, many who are seminarians preparing for the ministry, are often given special training and oversight as pastoral interns with nearby Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church. There they are given special opportunities to hone their preaching and teaching skills in a more formal setting.
The staff is supplemented by the participation of weekly visiting ministers, their families, and church members. Over the course of the summer, up to 12 seasoned pastors minister at the Chapel for a full week. Their primary responsibility is to preach two 10 to 15 minute Gospel messages during the course of each evening program. They are available for evangelizing and counseling as opportunities arise and regularly take time to mentor and encourage the staff and summer assistants in their work. It is such a rich and blessed ministry for these men that the preaching schedule for visiting ministers is filled well in advance of the summer season.
Yesterday and Today
In the early 1940s Rev. Les Dunn, pastor of Calvary OPC in Wildwood, stood on the boardwalk overlooking the world-famous beach of this Atlantic Ocean coastal resort town with a vision. He saw a unique opportunity to present the Gospel to thousands of visiting tourists who are attracted to the beach and carnival-like atmosphere of the amusements, stores, restaurants, and entertainment along the boardwalk during the summer season. Originally called the "Gospel Pavilion," the building was located on property purchased by Rev. Dunn along the boardwalk among the tourism businesses.
The Chapel has faithfully conducted its Gospel preaching and evangelistic training ministry every summer since 1945 under the oversight and support of the OPC's Presbytery of New Jersey (PNJ). The PNJ employs a part-time director who is responsible for recruiting, training, and directing a full-time staff of volunteer college-aged young people and paid summer interns or assistants (mainly seminarians). Other responsibilities of the director include scheduling the weekly visiting pastors and staff as well as the use of the facilities.
The Chapel asks that you pray for its work. Please pray especially during the summer for God's blessing on the staff and for our gracious Lord to turn hearts of stone to flesh, that men and women, boys and girls would hear the Word of God clearly, turn from their unbelieving ways, repent of sin and find salvation in Christ.
The scope of the program is limited by the financial gifts the Chapel receives. Additional giving would aid the ministry in meeting the existing needs of the Chapel as well as enabling future growth. Specifically, this includes:
- aging buildings in need of constant repair in the damp, salt-air environment
- our desire for the staff to serve the Chapel without the need to have secular employment
- current outreach expanded through increased staff (especially interns)
- a full-time Chapel director
- additional programs during each day
- an extension of the Chapel season
So the needs and opportunities are great. Your faithful prayer support is needed and appreciated as well as your financial support of this unique evangelistic ministry, as God leads you to give. Churches and individuals may designate gifts for the general budget, for summer assistants, or to the Bill Welte Memorial Scholarship Fund for volunteer staff. You are also encouraged to remember the Chapel in your estate planning.
Financial gifts made payable to "Boardwalk Chapel" may be sent to:
The Presbytery of New Jersey Home Missions Committee
Attn: Mr. Robert Mattern, Treasurer
665 Pasadena Dr.
Magnolia, NJ 08049-1640
"My experience as preacher at the Boardwark Chapel was the only 'street preaching' I ever did. It was gratifying to be able to present Christ and his saving work for repentant and believing sinners to the multitudes passing by every night for weeks on end. That so, especially because we believe that if the Holy Spirit attended that external call with his own internal call, people got saved! At the same time, the involvement of countless numbers of young people as workers, counselors, skit performers and worship singers was clearly important in their maturation as witnesses for their Savior. More than a few of them even met their marital partners at the Boardwalk Chapel. All in all, it is a wonderful place and has been a sharp and effective tool in God's gracious and mighty hand for much of the twentieth century, and on into the twenty-first!"—Tom Tyson, retired OPC pastor & General Secretary and current MTI teacher
"From about 1964 until 1974 I preached at the Boardwalk Chapel for one week almost every year. It was a wonderful time for my family to enjoy a week at the shore, and it was a humbling experience for me to preach the Gospel to complacent passers-by. I remember how some of the merchants would ask for our young people to work for them because they found they would not steal from them. I heard seminary students handle the outrageous theology of hippy street dudes with inspirational patience. It was good for me and the members of churches I served to realize that our often stuffy denomination engaged in evangelism at this earthy level."—Rollin P. Keller, retired OPC minister
"Since 1975 as seminary student and now as a pastor, the Boardwalk Chapel has served me, my congregation, my family and my community in ways for which I will ever be grateful. It is the Gospel pavilion where Christ is faithfully and creatively proclaimed night after night from the stage and on the Boardwalk. It is a proving ground where young college and seminary students discover the truth of their Calvinism and learn to effectively share the Gospel. It is a harbor of refuge for passing believers who sense in their hearts that there is more to a vacation than fast rides, tee-shirt shops and hot beaches and who discover at the Chapel sound teaching, sound literature, sound counsel and the refreshing Water of Life. At the Boardwalk Chapel, young people and their families from my congregation see other young people stand and swear their love for Jesus. They see how the Gospel really changes lives. That is so important! The usefulness of this Chapel to the Kingdom and to the OPC is utterly incalculable."—Tom Church, OPC pastor
"The Chapel was essential in confirming my call to the ministry. My work as an assistant director honed my pastoral and evangelistic skills. It is vital outreach."—Art Fox, OPC pastor
"My wife says after each trip to the Boardwalk Chapel: This is my favorite week of the year! When I was 12 or so I remember coming up to the Boardwalk Chapel with my father, who was one of the guest ministers. My most vivid memories were doing beach evangelism and viewing the old Martin Luther film. We have the privilege of continuing the tradition of annually taking a group of high school youth from our church in Frederick, MD to the chapel. It had been one of the most enjoyable and fruitful experiences of our church's life.
"Our young people have the opportunity to get to know each other better, and to see their pastor and his wife up close as we practice community. We serve one another through household chores. We learn to problem-solve, and with up to 22 people in the apartment, there is ample opportunity for that! We all work together around the chapel in strenuous conditions, faithfully honoring our "no complaining" rule. The young people eagerly contribute to the evening program with music, skits and testimony. And all of us enjoy Mrs. Ellis' cooking and humor!
"Growth happens as we are immersed in the Gospel. Each morning, we explore how justification, adoption and sanctification by faith impact our relationships with God and one another. This is so important for high school kids who have grown up knowing they're supposed to do the right thing, and who sometimes feel that's how they remain in God's favor. Each evening we hear testimonies of college age kids that encourage our kids in a life of faith and hear messages pointing us to the love of God in the Gospel (amazing, Pastor Ellis can preach an eight-minute sermon!). Faith creates its own outlet. Many jump at the opportunity to spend time out on the boards after the evening program sharing their faith with passers-by.
"Our kids say it is the most spiritually meaningful time of the year; God has used it powerfully in the lives of many of them. Partly as a result of their Wildwood experience, several have decided God is calling them into either missions or full-time ministry. All of them take a renewed faith in the adequacy of the cross back to their homes and schools. No wonder my wife calls it her favorite week of the year!"—Dick Ellis, OPC pastor
"What a privilege and ministry developing experience the Boardwalk Chapel was for me! While serving as pastor of Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Wildwood from 1971 to 1979, I interacted with the seminarians and collegians on the chapel staff, preached Sunday nights at the chapel, passed out lots of tracts, and engaged in evangelistic conversations on the boardwalk and beach. Conversations with Len Chanoux, the Chapel director during many of those years, always stretched me. What a zealous servant of Christ!
"The Boardwalk Chapel also enabled me to meet people from many different OP congregations who had come to minister at the Chapel or simply to support the ministry with their presence. Ministry at the Boardwalk Chapel takes you beyond your comfort zone, reinforcing the need to live all of life and conduct your entire ministry in dependence on Jesus. Being part of this ministry was a wonderful opportunity to serve Christ, to see up close the extension of his kingdom, and to be shaped by him."—Richard R. Gerber, Associate General Secretary Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension
"When I was in seminary I wondered about whether to do summer internship in a regular congregation or to serve at the Boardwalk Chapel. The choice to minister at the Chapel was the right one for me and provided an extremely intensive exposure to ministry that would be hard to replicate in any other environment. Heaven will reveal what fruit may abide from two summers there (1972 and 1973) but we saw very encouraging responses from people who probably would never have set foot in a church to hear the Gospel."—Stuart Jones, OPC pastor
A Personal Conversion Account
"In Romans 10 we read, 'How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.'"
In the summer of 1994 I was sent to the Boardwalk Chapel with other youth from my church. Our purpose, among other things, was to assist the interns with evangelism at the boardwalk. As is obvious in the above Romans chapter, people must go and bring the message of good news. The interns were indeed the hands and feet to those who had not believed. One such unbeliever, who despite growing up in the OPC for 15 years, would come to believe and call on the name of the Lord.
This individual grew up "knowing" God and something about that man Jesus. However, this person didn't understand that being cognizant of God was not equal to being a child of God; in other words, the person I am writing about is what James refers to when he writes: "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder" (James 2:19). You wouldn't think that somebody who would go on to become a deacon in the OPC and a seminary student could be so aloof as a youth. However, we know that the Lord is a sovereign God and as such he has much at his disposal. Thus, the Lord would use the Boardwalk Chapel as his feet to deliver the good news of Jesus Christ.
As we would go out in the evenings assisting the interns with evangelism things began to click. The interns would commonly ask those they spoke to that if they were to die tonight, would they go to heaven? As for me I knew I was going to heaven because I "knew" God and was a "good" guy. However unique I thought my line of thinking was, it was shared by almost everybody else! As the interns then evangelized the many tourists they were evangelizing to me—a 15 year old who grew up in the OPC and should have known better.
It was through the ministry of the Boardwalk Chapel that I was brought to true salvation in Jesus Christ. I praise God for this work and implore others to assist them. In order to answer some of Paul's rhetorical questions from Romans 10, just consider what the Lord is and has done through the Boardwalk Chapel."—Brian P. Blake
The Boardwalk Chapel
P.O. Box 602
Wildwood, NJ 08260-0602
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