Georgia Pastor David Wheeler’s love for old cars is turning him into a YouTube celebrity.
Nearly 6 million people have tuned in to watch Wheeler and his family restore rusted clunkers on their YouTube program, “Revstoration.”
“We take old, forgotten, abandoned things left for dead and bring them back to life,” said Wheeler, who is typically on screen in worn jeans, boots and greasy T-shirts, trying to get long-abandoned cars and trucks back on the road.
Wheeler’s look on the program is in complete contrast to his typical Sunday morning attire at Porterdale Baptist Church, where he’s a well-heeled clergyman in a suit jacket, matching slacks, button-down shirt, classy tie, and polished dress shoes.
In both roles, he is seeking to point people to the One who can give them new life.
From the pulpit, Wheeler proclaims the gospel boldly. On the YouTube program, he’s more subtle, stealthily weaving Bible into conversations about brakes, batteries and ball joints, being careful not to be so preachy that he chases nonbelievers away.
“Revstoration” is affinity evangelism at its best, allowing Wheeler to forge relationships with people who share his love for old cars.
David Thrash of McDonough surrendered his life to the Lord and was baptized by Wheeler as a result of the program.
Thrash was channel surfing when Wheeler popped up on his TV screen.
“I don’t think that was coincidental or by chance,” Thrash said. “I think it was meant to be. There was just something about him that drew me to him. He’s funny. He likes to tell jokes. But if you watch his videos, he has a way of slipping God in.”
Steve Foster, evangelism catalyst for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said outreaches like Wheeler’s are effective tools in sharing the gospel.
Foster said affinity evangelism has been highly effective in reaching people with shared interests. That includes hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.
“I know there are a lot of guys who love old cars, and so what David is doing can reach people that no other avenue is reaching,” Foster said.
Wheeler himself came to faith as a 12-year-old while helping a Georgia preacher work on a car. Brady Blalock, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Griffin, had asked him to help change a tire. While they worked, Blalock shared the gospel. That was 1992.
Since then, Wheeler has served in ministry roles in Georgia and Alaska, finally settling at Porterdale in 2017. That’s where his father and “Revstoration” co-host Dennis Wheeler committed his life to Christ.
Wheeler had the privilege of baptizing his father. Now, together, they share their faith to the watching world.
“Revstoration” is a family affair. Wheeler’s mother Cheryl, wife Nicole, son J.C. and daughter Reagan also turn up on camera.
The Wheelers want to show people that Christians are fun-loving people who have a variety of interests, including restoration of old vehicles.
“We want viewers to get to know us,” Wheeler said. “The goal is to develop relationships with those who are viewing so that they will feel comfortable enough with us to communicate with us, to send us prayer requests, and to ask questions about our faith.”
In the three years the program has been on YouTube, at least a half dozen viewers have come to faith in Christ. Those are the ones they know about.
“I have no idea how many people have come to faith who have not contacted us,” Wheeler said. “We’ll probably never know that until we get to heaven.”
YouTube has provided Wheeler a valuable platform to effectively spread the gospel, said Richard Bumpers, the missions strategist who leads Georgia’s Stone Mountain Baptist Association.
Bumpers said Wheeler, through his program, is being invited into living rooms across the country, albeit virtually, to visit with people who may not typically interact with Christians.
“I strongly believe that it is essential for pastors to constantly seek creative methods to share the gospel with others,” Bumpers said.
Churches have long recognized the value of ministries built around vehicles. Some offer classes on how to do light maintenance on vehicles, like changing the oil, swapping out a battery or changing a tire. The classes always include a gospel presentation as well.
Others set aside Saturdays to do oil changes and simple mechanical repairs for single moms and others who can’t afford the cost of having work done at automotive shops.
“We have tried to create an open door for people outside the church to have someone they can talk to about spiritual matters,” Wheeler said. “We have had viewers visit our church in person because of the program, and there’s no telling how many people watch our online services because of the connection they have with ‘Revstoration.’”
Wheeler said other Christians can use their hobbies as a ministry outreach.
“We all have things that we enjoy outside the ministry,” he said. “I believe there are ways we can leverage those to share the gospel.”
— Roger Alford is editor of the Christian Index.