When patrons stop for gas at what appears to be a typical convenience store just off a state highway in Jacksonville, Ark., they may go inside to pay for their gas and plan to pick up a six pack of beer and a carton of cigarettes. But instead, they are offered the gospel.
They don't sell alcohol or tobacco products, girlie magazines or lottery tickets at the Acts 1:8 Convenient Store. Customers find Bibles, Christian books, tapes and CDs for sale, and may hear a witness from the Christians who run and visit the store.
Pastor James Bolden and wife, Cynthia, who lead Evangelistic Ministries Church in Jacksonville, opened the store in March, with the aim of offering a gospel influence to the hundreds of locals who would traverse such a store every day.
The Boldens' independent charismatic church of some 500 members named the store after the Scripture that talks of the Holy Spirit's power. They say God's presence is in the store -- so much so that some who have wandered in to buy quick food have ended up confessing Christ as Lord.
Some take their lunch breaks in the store to hear taped sermons or taped Christian music played, Bolden said. Parishioners and other local Christians frequent the store -- just off State Highway 161, in the town of 38,000 people -- to give tracts to visitors and engage them in conversation.
"We have three church members who are employees of the church in other positions who run the store," Bolden said. Hours are weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The store is closed on Sundays.
Bolden faced the rebuke of locals and product distributors who took their business elsewhere when they learned that no beer or cigarettes were available for sale in the store.
Employees pass out "Our Daily Bread" daily devotionals and tracts, and there have been "good reports of people getting saved," Bolden said. "They ask 'What does Acts 1:8 mean?' and it just opens them up for it."
One distributor was unloading goods at a nearby store when he asked what Acts 1:8 meant. He went home and studied it in his Bible and gave his life to Christ as a result of simple curiosity over the store's name.
Profits from the store go to missions works supported by the church, including churches in West Africa, South America and the Philippines. The church also uses the store profits to support an outreach ministry in Sacramento, Calif., and in South Africa, Bolden said.
A sign in front of the store says "Stay Motivated," a motto Bolden brings in from his military service in the U.S. Air Force and Army. "I served 24 years in the military, so I use a lot of techniques I learned to mobilize and take ground," Bolden said. When patrons ask what the motto means, another door for witness is opened, Bolden said. "We tell them it means to stay 'Motivated in Jesus.'"