How do believers effectively fulfill the Great Commission when average Americans spend their lives chasing entertainment? Why bother witnessing to sinners vacationing on the Jersey Shore, one of today’s most noticeable hot spots of blatant rebellion and youthful corruption?
Theologically speaking, where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. More concretely, Jesus still calls his disciples today. He calls us to take up our cross and follow him. Christ calls his church to bring his message of faith and repentance to the whole world, even to those who are the most hardened to truth. This is what our Lord and Savior has called us to do at the Boardwalk Chapel.
In the early 1940s, Rev. Leslie Dunn stood on the Wildwood Shore and counted the cost of bringing the gospel of Jesus to the lost souls who traveled from near and far in search of fame and happiness. With the oversight of the Presbytery of New Jersey, a boardwalk property was purchased, the Gospel Pavilion was built, and the seasonal ministry of proclaiming Jesus through nightly programs began in July 1945.
As years passed and the outreach became today’s Boardwalk Chapel, staff continually sought to shine as lights through the chaos of revelry on the boards. Each night, the Chapel demonstrated the truth of Jesus through preaching the Word, testimonies, music, and skits. Every summer, staff witnessed to thousands of people from diverse nationalities, cultures, and religions. These short-term missionaries also enjoyed Christian fellowship with visiting ministers and youth groups, with some staff even finding spouses during the summer. Outreach on the Jersey Shore prepared countless believers for roles as pastors, teachers, elders, missionaries, evangelists, fathers, and mothers—all seeking to carry out our Savior’s call.
Essentially, the Chapel’s history is one of faithfulness. The Lord has faithfully kept his promise to build his church. Likewise, Jesus’ disciples have faithfully followed him wherever he has called them to go, even by carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth.
By the grace of God, the Boardwalk Chapel’s seventy-second year of ministry has begun with the same mission of faithful obedience. We still seek to proclaim Jesus to a lost and dying world while equipping the saints to build his church. And the Lord has faithfully given wisdom to our PNJ Home Missions Committee to make procedural changes to enable the outreach to grow and expand over the years.
For example, in prior years, summer staff often obtained daytime jobs to support themselves, thus limiting their ministry and fellowship opportunities to nighttime efforts. But by increasing summer fees for staff and churches, the Chapel has become more financially stable, and nearly all summer staff operate on a full-time basis.
This change enables young people to focus on robust training and hands-on evangelism all summer long. In addition, church groups are integrated into daily staff training and activities, resulting in expanded opportunities for fellowship and daytime ministry, including a Friday afternoon outreach for local children.
Armed with his experience as a husband, father, pastor (of Calvary OPC in Cape May Court House), and retired military chaplain, director James Zozzaro regularly seeks additional ways to expand the short-term mission capabilities of the Chapel. He delegates responsibilities to handpicked leaders and encourages more churches to become involved each year. He selects a year-round maintenance coordinator and an administrative assistant. In addition, Zozzaro chooses seasonal coordinators to oversee evangelism, music, drama, and audiovisuals at the Chapel and a mature couple to act as parents at the staff house.
This summer, the season begins with two weeks of staff training in June—Dr. Henry Krabbendam presents his School of Evangelism, and Pastor Zozzaro gives college-level lectures on “Defining and Defending the Faith.” Staff members coordinate daytime activities and evening programs with visiting churches for eleven weeks, and the season winds down in September with weekend concerts and youth group activities.
Last year, the Lord blessed us with twenty-one summer staff and over three hundred church visitors. This year, our twenty-eight staff members are coming from as far away as Georgia, Michigan, and Wyoming, and some church groups from as far away as Maine, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. The Lord has truly blessed the Chapel with faithful servants who dedicate their time and resources to assist in every element of ministry.
As the seed of the gospel is sown each summer, it is exciting to see the Lord at work among the lost souls in Wildwood. Indeed, books could be written about the encounters that staff have been blessed to witness and participate in.
The ministry of the Chapel, however, does not end after the busy summer of witnessing to tourists, workers, and Jersey residents. The Chapel’s goal also includes equipping disciples to be effective witnesses for Christ in whatever fields he has prepared for them back in their homes, churches, and neighborhoods. Thus, the Chapel’s ultimate objective to build the worldwide church includes an ingathering of the lost and an outpouring of faithful servants who are strengthened during the summer’s ministry.
When our Lord walked the shores of Galilee, the harvest was plentiful and the laborers were few. So it is even now. Faithful disciples are needed to go into the fields every day. As an international hot spot, Wildwood is particularly ripe with opportunity for young believers to proclaim the gospel boldly while learning to face culture shock for future mission endeavors. The OPC has been blessed with a great resource in the Boardwalk Chapel, one that we all must carefully cultivate for the growth of the kingdom of heaven as we wait for our Lord to return.
What should faithful laborers do?
Pray: All ministry ultimately is the Lord’s. He is both willing and able to equip his disciples to carry out his work. Please pray for our leaders, year-round residents, seasonal staff, visiting church groups, and other volunteers. Beseech the Lord to have mercy on dead hearts, that they may respond to the gospel and live in him.
Serve: We always welcome volunteers. Please contact us about staffing positions for the end of this summer, open ministry weeks for churches next year, and other opportunities now and in the future.
Give: As early missionaries were blessed by churches they served throughout Asia, so we as regional short-term workers need the material and financial help of all our brothers and sisters. Please consider donating or supporting staff and church groups as we follow the Lord’s call to fish for men in Wildwood.
The author is the administrative assistant of the Boardwalk Chapel. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more about the Chapel, go to the website www.boardwalkchapel.org. Connect with the Chapel on Facebook. New Horizons, June 2016.