By Ashley Perham
Baptist & Reflector
In 1997, Kimsey walked away from tournament fishing to take a youth pastor position in Maryville, but he returned to the tournament circuit to pray for his fellow fishermen. He and his family would set up a tent at the boat ramp entrance and pass out breakfast and New Testaments to the competing fishermen. He would also ask how he could pray for them.
“Many of them were just immediate needs. Simple stuff. But some of the things were very complex, and we began to become very personal with the fishermen. Later, many of them would come to me and utilize me as a chaplain for the fishing tournament circuits,” he said.
In his first year of ministry, Kimsey saw 80 people accept Christ.
Kimsey’s tent ministry began to expand to other competitions, like drag racing and hunting. These prayer tents led to the founding of Sportsman Ministries, which recruited professional fishermen to help with the tents. Some of the fishermen that participated in Sportsman Ministries when they were younger are now the top competitors in bass fishing, Kimsey said.
“Now with major league fishing they hold prayer meetings and stuff at each one of the tournaments, and the Christian men get together and always invite the other fishermen to come in and to be a part of what’s going on,” he explained.
Kimsey became pastor of Woodland Park in 2012 and brought his tent ministry with him. He sets his tents up in Walmart parking lots, sidewalks or any place with a large flow of people that gives them permission.
“The tent ministry is very dynamic in the way that we do it. We put signs out by the road, and we put signs on our tent, but we also … have it at a table in a restaurant, or we will have it on the sidewalk of a business,” Kimsey said. “The tent ministry is very, very diverse and it can be utilized in so many different ways, but I believe that God is honored in it.”
Kimsey said people will often drive by the tents, then turn around and come back because they felt they needed to. Several people have been saved and baptized through the tent ministry. Some of them have even joined Woodland Park and become “very, very vital.”
The volunteers from Woodland Park usually set up the tent once or twice a week in the church parking lot and somewhere in the community. Kimsey also uses the tent as a time to disciple church members who are volunteering with him.
“We sit, and we read the Bible, and it’s a time that they can answer questions and that they can ask questions and me to answer them,” he said.
Kimsey has helped other churches, both Baptist and other denominations, set up their own tent ministry. They all maintain a kingdom-focused ministry so they can reach people no matter their denomination.
The tent ministry has had to take a few weeks off due to the stay at home order in Tennessee, but Kimsey said he is getting calls asking when they are going to set up another tent.
Kimsey said that the tent ministry is a great way for him to find out what is going on in the community and to reach people that normally would not come to church.
“They’re not part of a church, and they call me pastor, and they utilize that tent kind of as a church outside the church so that we get regular people,” Kimsey shared.
Kimsey himself was touched by people’s prayers after his grandmother’s death. She was a great spiritual influence in his life. After her death, people would ask Kimsey how they could pray for him. Their prayers made an impact on his life.
Kimsey believes that if every church in the county had a tent ministry that simply asked people the question “How can we pray for you?” that Christians could love their neighbors in amazing ways.
“It’s not about the hundred that we have in our congregation. It’s about the one,” Kimsey said. “And we’re out looking for the one, yes, but the ones are finding us, and we’re just giving them a place that they can.”