A Crazy Idea

A couple of months ago I added an item to the agenda of our shepherd’s meeting titled “crazy idea.” As usual, I emailed the agenda to everyone ahead of time and I have to give credit to our shepherds. Not a one of them called for an explanation in advance! I love a church that welcomes “crazy ideas.”

At the meeting I laid out the specifics of the idea and sought approval. I wanted to close out the Holy Spirit series with a rather unique message. Instead of asking people to listen to another sermon I wanted to challenge them to be the sermon. The idea was to contact the Family Center (a local non-profit that serves needy families) and ask them for a list of items they needed. Then we’d organize the lists and have them ready for Sunday. I would stand up at the normal time of the sermon, give a few instructions, pass out the lists and then we’d dismiss church. The challenge to our families was to take the lists and go shopping right then! Don’t eat lunch. Don’t fellowship in the hallways. Go be the sermon! We would then arrange three drop-off locations around Columbia, take collections until 12:30 pm and take everything over to the Family Center. So far, so good. I love a church that gives “crazy ideas” a fair hearing.

Of course, all that sounded cool but it wasn’t crazy. Here’s the crazy part. I proposed that we forgo the contribution on Sunday and explain that whatever they planned to give to church that morning was to be their “budget” for the shopping trip. Have you ever been to a church where the preacher said, “We’re not taking up a collection today?”Our giving had exceeded budget in 2010 so this was good way to share the blessing with our community. Plus, it would really raise the stakes in terms of our purchasing power. Our average contribution is around $12,000 a week so ideally we’d be able to unleash a major blessing on the Family Center. The shepherd’s unanimously approved the idea. I love a church that approves “crazy ideas.”

So we arranged all the details with the Family Center and set a date. We kept it all a big secret outside of notifying a few volunteers to man the trucks. Everyone else showed up expecting a normal Sunday. As the message got closer, I started to get nervous. How would they respond? Would they like this idea? Would they participate? The answer was a resounding “Yes!” From the moment I started explaining the idea there was an immediate spark in the room. I could sense excitement and there was even a little cheering in both services. Within 5 minutes the Worship Center was empty and there was a line of cars trying to get out of the parking lot. I love a church that gets excited about “crazy ideas.”

Still, one big worry remained. Would we fill the trucks? I had a feeling that it could be big and I explained to Lolly Watson, the director of the Family Center, that were were talking about a lot of people here but I just didn’t know. Would everyone participate? Would they really give their entire contribution to the Family Center? Would we fully embrace the idea? Again, the answer was “Yes!” By the time the second service started I was already hearing stories from around town. Sav-a-lot had to open two more check-out lines. A cashier at Dollar General asked “who are all these people coming in with shopping lists?” Someone said there were so many Maury Hills people in Wal-Mart that all we had to do was start a hymn and we’d had church. The manager at Big Lots said he’d work out a donation for us if we do it again. Then after second service dismissed I went out to check on the trucks. Jim Webb parked his SUV at Sav-a-lot and it was already full. He’d called in a second truck and they were loading it. I stopped by Wal-Mart and was absolutely floored. We had one of those huge box trucks and it was already 75% full. As I stood there, families would come up with 2-3 buggies filled to rim and by 12:30 the truck was completely stuffed from top to bottom. Way more than I expected! I love a church that implements “crazy ideas.”

Finally, we headed over to the Family Center to put everything up. Lolly Watson had several six foot tables laid out in a small room to organize the goods. The first two trucks arrived and it filled up all the tables. She said thanks and they replied, “Oh no, this is just the start of it. There’s much more on the way!” When we pulled in with the box trucks and threw open the doors the response was amazing. Speechless. She started calling in staff and board members to help them get everything sorted. We quickly overwhelmed the sorting room and starting stacking items in the hallway and another room. The coolest thing was that we didn’t ask for volunteers to unload because we didn’t know what to expect, but 25-30 members showed up unannounced and started unloading. I love a church that not only implements “crazy ideas” but embraces them.

That’s about it. It was a great Sunday and I’m glad to have been a part of it. Thanks to our leaders for having the boldness, our ministry staff for having the skills to organize and make it happen, our volunteers for having the heart of a servant and our congregation for agreeing to do something “crazy.” Here’s to more in the future!

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