July 2021 Connection

“An ING Kind of Church”


I remember years ago while watching the Superbowl, there was a commercial that came on somewhere between the Budweiser Clydesdales and a Doritos ad that caused quite a bit of confusion. That commercial was for something called “ING.” The commercial simply showed a pristine park on a beautiful spring day with a park bench that simply displayed the letters “ING.” An intrigued passerby asked the gentleman sitting there on the bench, “What is ING?” The gentleman simply shrugged his shoulders. Then, fade to black. No answer, no information, no catchy jingle to play in your head for the next three
days. Just those three letters: “ING.”
Almost immediately, conversations online began: what is ING? It began to trend as a top search on Google.com and eventually, you found yourself down the rabbit hole of ING U.S., an investment and retirement group. A commercial for a company that would have likely served as the Superbowl half-time bathroom break suddenly turned into the talk of the town, asking the same question as the commercial’s passerby: “What is ING?” 

The “E” Word

The word “Evangelism” has garnered for itself a bad reputation. Maybe it’s due to the seemingly endless number of times we’ve been subjected to the street corner signs reading “Repent” and “Are you going to heaven?” while the bullhorn guy shouts about hell while waving a well-worn leather Bible. Or maybe we’ve simply received too many tract pamphlets that serve more to instill fear about salvation rather than hope about God’s grace. Was it the distrust instilled by televangelists like Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker? Or maybe the images of the hate spread by the few at Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka,Kansas. But I want to introduce to you the idea that “Evangelism” is, in actuality, a wonderful thing and something that ought to be part of our practice as a church…just maybe not in the way you might think.
Let’s start with the word itself. The word “Evangelist” is derived from the Latin,“Evangelista” which literally means, “bringer of good news.” Hard to be upset with that, right? You’ll discover within the word an even more familiar one: Ev-angel-ist. Do you see it? Even the word “angel,” with its meaning of “messenger,” is
part of this idea of evangelism. Putting the etymology aside, “evangelism” is really just about being a messenger of good news! Again, hard to be upset with that, right?

Back to ING

It strikes me as interesting that ING’s marketing department was able to convince its budget manager to invest in a multi-million dollar Superbowl commercial that does not tell viewers what ING is all about! Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that meeting! But, consider the genius of it all. By giving almost no information – by refusing to begin with the tagline, what was sparked was interest. Interest in something that would have been otherwise ignored, no less!  It was a clever away of saying, “We’re here!” without inundating the audience right off the bat. It allowed the viewers’ interest, coupled with the power of internet search engines, to dive deeper – deeper than anyone would have otherwise.

An ING Kind of Church

Every evening, Grand Blanc’s Bicentennial Park is flooded with families all summer long. We’re talking kids of all ages, parents, grandparents, aunts uncles, etc. And they’re all there for the same purpose: little league sports! Now, imagine you’re part of a group from Grand Blanc UMC that commits to going to some of the games, all the while wearing a shirt with the Church name on the front and the words “Cheer Team” on the back. When you arrive at the fields, you simply sit in the stands and do the best job in the world: cheer on the kids! Now, one or two nights would pass by with out much comment, but eventually, a parent walks up to you and says, “Someone was here yesterday and the game before with that same shirt on. I’m just curious.” Your response is this simple: “Oh, yeah!  I’m from Grand Blanc United Methodist Church. We’re really wanting to commit ourselves to caring for families in our community, and we thought an easy way to do that would be to make sure that every kid here would have at least one more person cheering them on.”
That’s it! No pamphlets. No scripture passages to recite. Not even a commercial about our worship services. It’s almost like sitting on a park bench with ING printed on the back, except now it simply reads “Grand Blanc UMC.”

But Isn’t There More?

But isn’t there more? Sure, there is! But we’re not there yet. No one started an account with ING simply because they saw the commercial. The commercial sparked an interest. What comes next is the connection…and that will be next month’s article. But until then, let’s cheer!
~ Pastor Brian
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