I was speaking with a local business owner last night that I met at a community event a few weeks back. We actually met at this local free concert series in the park down the street. He was there handing out advertisements for his shop while we were handing out water to the thirsty folks. After the concert last night, some of The Journey went out to eat, as we do every week after The Gathering. As we were finishing up, the business owner was there, too, and stopped by our table on his way out to ask what our "angle" is. Now, those weren't his words, but my summary of a 2 minute conversation. He wanted to truly know how we were planning to get those people into our church. He seemed stunned when I said, "We're not planning to get those people into our church." He just kinda stared at me. After the dazed look melted away, he wanted to know why were handing out water. This seems to be a hard concept to grasp in our western, money/resource based mind set. "Why would you spend money on people and not ask for something in return?" seems to be the real question. I assured him that we love the people at the park, and hope that they will come to Christ, but that our real goal was to be kind and show love unconditionally.
[ASIDE: Last night we even added a twist to the routine. We brought a box of Milkbone Dog Biscuits since so many people bring their dogs to the park for the concert. My daughter LOVES dogs, and she would take treats to the dogs while we brought water to the people. (By the way, a box of smaller Milkbone Biscuits is about $4.00, so there's really no overhead there. But we've discovered that dog lovers love people who love their dogs. They receive love by having their pets loved, too, so this is just another way to love people.)]
While most business owner's goals are to get them into their shop, our goal is to be Jesus in their lives. That seemed to just stun the local business owner. He even said something to the effect of, "Most churches would at least hand out a flier about themselves and capitalize on the marketing." Exactly. And that's fine for them. But it's not what God asked us to do. God asked us to go love thirsty people by giving them a drink of water.
[Sidebar] In three weeks, we are planning a cookout for the ENTIRE community. We're expecting to feed around 500 people. And the following week we are going to do a kid's club in the park every day from 9 a.m. to Noon with crafts, recreation, Bible story, and snow cones. Because we love Jesus and love our community, we are free to expect nothing in return. Rather, we get to lavish our love, resources, and life on Jesus by pouring ourselves onto people.
The business owner just kinda stood their again, thought for a second, and said, "So, you're like the anti-marketers?" Well, no. We are pro kindness. I told him again that our goal is to let people know they are loved and we are here to serve with no strings attached. He just kinda nodded, and walked away as he said, "Cool. I'll see you guys next week." I hope he understood, but don't think he did. But he will. And now we have another person to love and another person to serve. We just have to discover how to serve him and show him love. It's an exciting thing to be odd. It's like that line from the end of "The Incredibles."
TONY : You look different.
VIOLET : I feel different. Is different okay?
TONY : Hey, different is...[clears throat] Different is great.
Yeah, he's right. Different is GREAT. And I'm loving it.
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