It’s a little like the parable of the sower, but instead of different soils, there are all kinds of people. Some walk by and avert their eyes, others stop, interested from a variety of perspectives—where is your church? What denomination? Can I get some free stuff? How much is the water?
When we go out into the community, we trust God to do most of the heavy-lifting. All we need to do is our little part in God’s big work.
One of the Taste of Wheaton vendors, as she was setting up, came by and said hello. Looking at our display, she asked for a mug. Sure, I replied. Later, she came back and asked if we had bug spray. I pulled out the can of OFF and she sprayed it on and said thanks. The next day, as we set up she greeted me with a smile.
A student came by three times, the first time looking away, the second time stopping to take a pen and fill out a survey, the third time finding out about our summer programs.
Diane warmly and happily engaged children as they walked by the table. She would take them to the games and encourage them to play and win prizes. Then, she would introduce herself to the parents and give them information about our summer ministries.
She also talked with a follower of Bahai about Jesus and God and religion for about ten minutes. He spoke of how he liked that religion because of how it promised to adapt to changing cultures and societies and needs. Diane explained how she finds comfort in our unchanging God in the midst of a constantly changing world. He went away with Pastor Josh’s book “How Church Can Change Your Life.”
We are praying that we can show the love of Jesus to people in big and little ways.
A couple stopped and I spoke with them about our various areas of ministry. “You know, I drive by that church every day on my way to work” the husband said to his wife. “If you think you might visit us, come in a couple weeks and stop by the café for a homemade cinnamon roll, baked by my wife,” I said, handing him a Café card.
“Well, that sealed it right there,” said his wife, “he’ll do anything for a cinnamon roll.” [Even go to church, I thought/wondered.]
“I’ll be there” said the husband.
A couple pushing their baby in a stroller went by. We talked through various aspects of church, and when I got to the 5K (aka Run for the STARS), the wife said, “My husband likes to run.” And took the flyer over to show her husband, who was already at the next table over.
Three students stopped looking at all that we had on display and two of them eagerly took Bibles. They asked first, tentatively, and were happily surprised when I said that they were free.
"Do you need to register ahead of time to go the a Backyard Bible Club?: asks one mom. "No, you can just come!"
After his time at the display, Bruce Aulie gave a brief report, too.
“Rather than eat by ourselves at the Taste of Wheaton, Caleb and I sat down with our food at a picnic table with a teenager with earbuds and struck up a conversation. He said he was joining the military after graduating from Wheaton North. We found out he doesn't go to our church but is a believer We encouraged him in his faith and talked about what it means to lay your life down. How Jesus did that for us. That we are no longer our own.
“A young woman stopped by our table. A recent college grad, she said she had walked away from the faith during school. Now she was returning. She took a Bible, encouraged to read it and anchor her life in Christ's promise of living water.
“One young boy stopped, a bit shy and embarrassed to be at our church table but grabbed a Living Bible and took off like a shot.
“A group of girls stopped to chat with Diane and with surprise and delight exclaimed, ‘This is my church!’"
Our table at Taste of Wheaton isn’t very big. We’re right next to the Pella Windows display, facing Hale Street. When the bands play, sometimes the music overwhelms the park and it’s hard to hear anything. There are times when no one stops by or people ignore our cheery hellos. So why do we do it?
It’s because every conversation, every Bible grabbed or politely removed from the table, every handout or water bottle or book we give is an invitation to come and see who Jesus, come and meet the one true God and receive his gift of mercy and grace.
If you're going to Taste of Wheaton, stop by; bring a friend with you. Even if you're not, pray for this little piece of College Church in Memorial Park this weekend, that some might have a Taste of Jesus.