This past weekend the small town we planted our church in had its big annual festival: people come from all over for the parade, rides, games, food, vendors, prize animals, etc. What makes this sort of thing so important is that the community gathers together. I say this because in the bedroom community our church exists there isn't a lot of gathering that takes place. People sleep in this town, they do not generally play here or work here. But "Elburn Days" is one of the rare occasions where people are hanging out (Halloween is another of those times - expect a post on the virtue of Halloween in October). This year we rented a booth and gave out free bottles of cold water. No strings attached. No sales pitch. It wasn't "Witness Water" with a tract printed on the label. I am not sure if that exists, but it would make a million dollars so it probably will soon. Anyway, we had free bibles on hand, and church information, but that was for people who inquired. Giving away water was not a means to the end of evangelism, but the end itself. Of course ultimately the end of all things is the glory of God and we place a high priority on the proclamation of the Gospel, but we also value works of mercy and serving the community God has sent us to. So we gave away water while others were charging for it to show that we care for our neighbors. People were surprised and very pleased.
I am so grateful for all the hard work that went into the planning and manning of this community service (something I was hardly involved in). We are already planning for something even better next year. I would love to hear what other churches have done, or are planning to do in their communities. It could be inspirational for us and others.