A Church Tradition

Cruisin’ the Coast – Biloxi

Last week, I was able to take part in a local tradition down here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a display of classic, antique, and vintage cars and trucks from all around the United States -Cruisin’ the Coast. I remember growing up on the coast, and the yearly anticipation of this unique event where literally everywhere you go, you’re saying, “Wow, did you see that car!” For the past thirteen years, sadly, my own kiddos have never known the week-long event, a festive environment where men, women, and children simply mosey around jam-packed parking lots to chat it up. This year, my family was able to see the southern culture firsthand and I was able to reflect on a few things, too.

“Tonight it’s at the church over in Biloxi,” one of my relatives said. Naturally, I was intrigued. In these situations I always wonder, If I were a pastor, how would I use these events to share the gospel? As we pulled into the parking lot, greeters handed out plastic bags full of gifts, while parking lot attendants helped keep traffic under control. Near the awning, canopies were constructed with signage reading, “Cold drinks”, “Hot dogs”, and “Red Beans”. (That’s right, red beans and rice, y’all! We do thangs right down here!) Everything from plates, to cups, and even napkins were served with a smile. The church volunteers wore matching shirts to stand out and direct people to restrooms, which remained clean. Tables equipped with condiments and trashcans were changed frequently and the environment was, well, relaxing and fun. Simply put, it felt welcoming.

Then, I started to ‘step-up’ my thinking, like I usually do (or over-do). What talents or skills, or even gifts were necessary to achieve this amazing turn out? I’m sure it took a few administrators to coordinate logistics of food and tables, as well as the canopies, but all-in-all thirty volunteers effectually shared smiles and created a family environment for thousands of people to meet a group of people (a.k.a. Christians) who, until then, they had perhaps experienced in an entirely different light.

I can only imagine the comments some might say in light of how Christianity is viewed and perpetuated in America today. “Oh, hot dogs at the church…I wonder how much that’ll cost us?” Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. The small plastic baggies held an invitation to attend church on Sunday, a tract, fan, bumper sticker, and keepsake pamphlet to take home. Every item in the bag had the name of the church on it to serve as a reminder. So, did they do something? I think they did. More importantly, I pray seeds of being in a joyful environment are sown into the hearts and minds of those individuals every time they reflect on this tradition from this day forward. Likewise, I hope together, we, as the church can reflect more on how we can effectively redefine how the world views Christianity by our actions of service, no matter how trivial.

Consider This: What skill, ability, or talent do I have to do something –anything– to reflect the love of Jesus in someone’s life this week? Is there a person who comes to mind who might need help with those gutters? Does your neighbor need a hand with some yard work? Could you volunteer at the local soup kitchen for an hour or so? I’m sure you can think of something, but here’s the most important part: tell next to no one about it. If you can help it, make it something you do between you, that individual, and God, and then tell them Who sent you and why.

References:

Matthew 5:16-17; John 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 12-14

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