You have seen stories like this on the Wall, and in headlines everywhere. A church caring for its community buys a bulk order of gas, promotes it to the public and sells it back to whosoever will for $1 per gallon.
Sounds sweet, doesn’t it?
However, thanks to the Christian Post, some cynical folk in the Church suggest ulterior motives for these churches that strike gold in the media and new visitors while others worry about drilling for oil elsewhere.
Church leaders have debated for years whether modern marketing techniques cheapen the faith or are an effective — and necessary — means of evangelizing. Even those Christians who believe some marketing is helpful disagree about how far they should take the approach.
You tell me… is it genius outreach, focused marketing or just a kitschy PR stunt? Regardless, well-meant outreach does anything but “cheapen the faith.” Here’s a thought: You have an avowed atheist and his family of five driving an SUV to this gas station. You think he is going to tell the preacher at his window,” You know, never mind. I’m going to go pay this $4 per gallon over there. Thanks anyway.” My guess is no.
When you have folk that are staging prayer groups at a gas station to lower prices, I would say people are desperate for “change”, and not just at the pump. Whatever the cost.
To respond to the ne’er-do-wells among church marketing, we have Rev. Tim Lucas, who has done one of these gas outreaches:
“We canceled services that day, and said our service to the community will be our service,” said the Rev. Tim Lucas. “This wasn’t a gimmick, ‘Hey, come to our church.’ There was no bait-and-switch. We didn’t try to convert people. We just wanted to show we care,” he said.
Does this outreach effect butts in seats? Yes. Why wouldn’t you want to go to a church that cares so much… and anytime you put $1000s behind your faith, it’s more than capitalism. Does this outreach reek of marketing? Yes. But who cares when the news shows up to cover something GOOD that a church is doing.
In other words, stop hatin’ folks. If these churches want to spend all that money, give it back to the community, provide people a brief respite from the oil companies gouging AND have the nerve to put out a press release… let them. I don’t see your church doing it? And that’s probably we ain’t talking about it. “Oh, thank heaven,” indeed.