Here’s a nice article in today’s Pueblo Chieftain newspaper that mentions Milagro, out little ol’ church.
Members of First Baptist pump gasoline, offer prayers.
Churches offer services, hope for good results
By MARVIN READ
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
In advertising, they call it “name recognition” or “brand recognition.”
In a significantly different vein, the world of religion calls it “servant evangelism.”
The approach and bottom line are pretty much the same: Be good enough at what you do or sell that when people have a need for the product or service, they think your brand.
Think Coke, Levi’s, McDonald’s, for example.
Or Pueblo’s First Baptist Church. Or Milagro Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Each of those two Pueblo church communities have reached out to their fellow townspeople in significantly secular ways with the hope of getting others to say, in effect, “Hmmm – they did something good for me and they’re Christians. I wonder what this means . . .?”
The First Baptist bunch was stirred into such an outreach action at a mid-May church conference in Longmont, where they were challenged to “be” the church.
Those from Pueblo who had attended the event got together later with their pastor, Frank Proffer, and decided to address a real community problem: the high price of gasoline.
They took special contributions, put together $3,600, got in touch with McFarland Properties’ Spirit Gas Station at 3206 W. Northern Ave. and, for one magical Aug. 4 day, gave all comers a 50-cent-a-gallon discount on gasoline. The regular price: $2.95; the First Baptist “gasoline angels” price: $2.45.
“Why are you doing this?” a lot of people asked.
“Because God loves you, and so do we,” Proffer said his congregants responded.
There you go: name recognition, brand recognition, servant evangelism. About 40 people from First Baptist (none of whom used the offer for their own cars) pumped 7,036 gallons of gasoline into 616 vehicles (an average of 11.4 gallons per vehicle) out of six pumps from 9 a.m. until about 4 p.m., when the money ran out.
“Cars were lined up, and some people had to wait for as much as 45 minutes,” Proffer said, explaining that the “angels” also washed car windows and offered to pray with and/or for any of the customers who had particular needs to be addressed. That’s clearly the evangelism part of the equation.
Another congregation, Milagro Christian Church, on the south side of town, also also has become auto-intensive in its servant evangelism efforts. Under the direction of Pastor Amy Piatt, members of the congregation have held at least two carwashes, one as recent as last weekend. While folks wait for their autos to be cleaned, food and drinks are served.
The cost to drivers using the service: nothing. In fact, promotions offering the service state clearly: Donations will not be accepted.
Do people drive off in their clean cars feeling better about Christians? About churches? About Milagro Christian Church? Probably.
Will they drive their freshly washed cars to the church at 2111 S. Pueblo Blvd. to see what this sort of Christianity is about?
Will folks who topped off their tanks with discounted gasoline drop by First Baptist at 10th Street and Grand Avenue to visit with the pastor and his congregation?
Obviously, both pastors hope so – that too is the evangelism part of their servant ministry.
If they don’t show up at Sunday services – and Proffer said a few have – the brand, name or church recognition effect is still in place. A good deed has been done, an effort that Proffer said is win-win, because the worker is blessed, as are the members of the community who receive the service. Something positive has happened and if a seed has been planted, fine. If not, if nothing more than a good deed has been done, also fine.
“The return is that you’re going to feel good about helping someone else,” Proffer said, adding that the congregation is planning another gas buy-down come spring, or when prices soar enough that they become a burden.
The Baptist pastor – in Pueblo since Easter – saluted the energy of his congregation’s members – the average age of whom is somewhere between 65 and 70 – for their energy. He lauded what he called the “tireless efforts” of layman Jerry Biddle in organizing the event.
“Here’s a group of ‘Prime Timers’ who were willing to grab life by the nozzle and make a difference in the lives of people in Pueblo,” Proffer said, proudly.
“We hope this will serve as a challenge to Pueblo’s younger population to follow in the footsteps of these senior servants and continue the tradition of serving the needs of people – and maybe finding newer and more innovative ways of serving.”