Thursday, August 09, 2007

Free Popcorn!

Every two years, the nearby community of Oostburg celebrates their "Heritage Day." It's a pretty low-key event...the equivalent of a big family reunion. The community was founded by Dutch Calvinist immigrants in the mid-1800's, and a lot of their descendants have chosen to remain in the area.
The demograpics have changed a lot over the past 30 years, though, as many urban dwellers have moved into the area. Although the village still has a semi-rural, hometown appearance, the population has doubled, and the heritage of many of the residents is no longer Dutch.
That said, Heritage Day has become an over-sized block party with Center Avenue shut down, quartet singing in the Pizza Ranch parking lot, and plenty of food stands and old-fashioned bargains to be had. Tour the local fire trucks and rescue squad, buy some books at the Library book sale, take ride in a horse-drawn wagon, catch up on the local news over a piece of home-made pie.
Living Hope Bible Church is a bit of an anomaly among the established churches...a newcomer, just like the folks who've moved in from Milwaukee or Grafton or we try to use the opportunity to get to know people and let them get to know us.
That's where the popcorn comes in.
We always hand out free popcorn. No cost to anybody, except us. We also do free face painting for the kids. And we get to explain why we are doing this...Because Jesus Christ, at the greatest cost to Himself, has provided our salvation. We cannot earn it. We cannot pay anything for it. All we can do is accept it, just as our friends accept a cup of popcorn.
When we do the face painting, we use just 5 colors to explain who God is and what He is like. We tell the kids about heaven and God's desire to have us there with Him. We use the dark color to explain the darkness of our sin and the red to tell of Jesus' death on the cross to pay for that sin. The white shows us dressed in Christ's own purity and righteousness as we trust Him as our substitute/sacrifice, and green stands for growth as believers and God's conforming us to the image of His Son through the power of His Spirit.
Free face paint...illustrations of God's free gift to us through the blood of His Son.
I can't wait to use these simple tools to tell the old, old story once again.
What kinds of "tools" do you use to tell others about the "hope that lieth in you"? Please share some of the things you've found to be successful. Maybe we can use them next time!


Geoff Baggett said...

An excellent missional outreach!

Being from the land of country ham, our annual community festival is (appropriately) the Trigg County Ham festival. It has grown into a huge, capitalistic adventure. So much so that churches or no one for that matter) is allowed to give anything away ... not even water. It cuts into their vendor contracts.

So last year we decided to do the best we could. We got a vendor booth for ourselves and offered a "family special" of a hot dog, snow cone, and soft drink for $1! The families with little kids were loving it. (In a festival where corn dogs are $5 ... you get the picture.) It isn't free, but it is cheap. And we get to share the Gospel message verbally all we want to!

Our churches need to make the most of these community-focused opportunities.

An excellent word, Kat!

elder's wife said...

Funny thing about giving something away for free is that people are so "work" oriented here that they are a bit suspicious of free stuff. That carries over into their spiritual understanding, too, sometimes. Then they think they have to "do" something to earn right standing before God.

Dinah said...

Hi Again, Kat.
I love what your church did. The gospel colors / face painting is awesome - that one-on-one time with the children..... wow. I also like that you involved your church in the events of the community. Very cool.

I see the "fear of the free" in my area as well - because we are so accustomed to strings attached to "free" in the marketplace. But Jesus didn't say it would get easier, did He!?

elder's wife said...

sorry my response is a bit "rough" but i had hand surgery this morning :(
you're right about what jesus said. it does present a challenge when we try to live out the gospel creatively. i think it's important to identify with people where they are and not to expect them to come to us, not go out of our way to offend, but to challenge their thinking.
thanks for commenting!