2140 Crystal Beach Road, Winter Haven, FL 33880

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Sharing God’s Love on Free Shopping Day (by Jonita Barram)

Faith Baptist Church’s annual Free Shopping Day will be Sat., Dec. 10. Lil Tolley came up with the idea of FSD. She says the goal is for the church to show our love for the shoppers, and tell them that God loves them more than we do. The desire is to see “many lives turn to Jesus Christ.”

Since the purpose of Free Shopping Day is to see many lives turn to Christ, shoppers who come to FSD will be directed to the chapel to hear about Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Sean Fielder says:

The main purpose of the gospel presentation is to show the people whom we’re serving the reason that we’re doing the event. To summarize, we are doing something for them that they could not do for themselves because Christ has done something for us that we could not do for ourselves.

Sean makes it clear that the church is here on FSD to help with gifts because times are hard right now and a lot of people can’t buy gifts as they would want to. “So,” he says, “‘we are doing this for you when you are not able to do it. But the reason we’re doing this is because Christ did something for us that we were not able to do, which was save us.’ So we try to draw a parallel.” He says that the gospel presentation sets the Free Shopping Day apart as a church doing something, not as another community event. He says FSD is more than a charity event, that we are “drawing a picture.”

Gospel Presentation
The gospel presentation takes place in the chapel before shoppers are ushered into the shopping area, 100 at a time. The gospel presentation starts with a 5-minute video, narrated by Jerry Smith. It tells the story from creation and the fall of man and the promise of the Savior to the nativity—how Jesus came to save us and restore our relationship with God. Sean says, “That is where the video ends; then we pick it up from that point on live.”

That “live” portion includes two special music numbers: “What Child Is This?” and “He Looked beyond My Faults.” Sean says, “We’ll do a song, and then we’ll talk about part of the message of the song.” One message is that Jesus was not just a man, but the King. “The big theme at the end,” says Sean, “is that there is nobody good enough to make it to Heaven without salvation. And there’s nobody who has been bad enough to be exempt from salvation.”

Sean and those ministering with him will formally present the gospel seven times that day. Contact Sean if you are interested in helping, and definitely pray for him, those ministering with him, and all who will hear the gospel.

Moving On
As you can imagine, some people will be eager to get on with their reason for being at Faith on FSD: shopping! Sean says,

We realize that people are there to shop—get their presents and go. So we have a card that they fill out, with their name, phone, address, and all that. There are three boxes that they can check. The first one is “I know I’m not saved, and I want to talk to you about salvation.” “I am saved, but I’m looking for a church home.” Or, “My family and I are in need of prayer.”

Sean says: “People are more apt to check the box. And it’s easier to get a one-on-one follow-up with them than it is trying to do it right on that day because again, that day, they came here to shop. And this gives us a reason to follow up.” That follow-up gives people at Faith another opportunity to minister to people in the community. If you are interested in following up, contact Sean Fielder. And pray for this follow-up ministry.

A Testimonial
Jodi Murdoch’s family was one of those who shopped at FSD last year. She says FSD

was really a blessing. The boys—at the time, they were 11 and 9—seemed to really get a lot out of the salvation message and were excited about getting a New Testament. The parents were really relieved to have access to gifts for their children, because they absolutely couldn’t have afforded to give them anything for Christmas. So it was a real blessing.

She says the children enjoyed playing on the inflatables and the parents saw that they are “not in this boat by themselves, there are other people who are struggling.” Jodi says they really appreciated what they got.

Jodi herself was impressed by how well FSD was organized. She says:

They saved back nice gifts for each group so everything didn’t get picked over by the first group. I think everybody did such a great job, especially Lil. This has just been a real blessing that she has brought to the community.

Jodi plans to shop again this year and then join with other workers in providing a loving, serving environment for the shoppers. If you would like to be one of those workers, contact Lil Tolley. You can usually find her by the FSD table in the foyer.

The FSD Schedule
Lorrie Gnann is one of the workers who have been helping Lil Tolley from year to year in every stage of planning and carrying out Free Shopping Day. Lorrie describes the FSD schedule for shoppers.

Registration
The shoppers will gather at the front of Fellowship Hall, where Lorrie and her helpers will greet them and explain how the traffic will flow through the whole process. She will give each shopper an envelope with two tickets for each child that the shopper/shopping couple is shopping for. They will later exchange those tickets for gifts. At the registration table, shoppers will also receive a gift bag with brochures from the church, tracts, a church bulletin, and little toys for the kids.

Gospel Presentation
After registering, the shoppers—who have been assigned times for shopping so they will arrive in groups of 100 at a time—will move into the chapel, where they will hear a gospel presentation. After the gospel presentation, each shopper will receive a free Bible.

From the chapel, the shoppers will go into Fellowship Hall for a time of fellowship with people from our church. This is the opportunity for the members of Faith to get to know the shoppers and perhaps even share the gospel with them personally and informally. Lorrie says she thinks this is a great idea. “Before, they were hearing the gospel and then going straight in to do their shopping. This is going to give them the opportunity so that the people who have questions don’t feel pressured that they’ve got to leave to go shop.”

Shopping
From Fellowship Hall, the shoppers will go to the Family Life Center gymnasium to do their free shopping. After they’ve chosen their gifts, they will go to a gift-wrapping area to get their gifts wrapped. Lil Tolley says, “The reason we offer gift wrap is it completes the process and gives some of that wow factor. When the adults walk out of the building and they have beautifully wrapped gifts, people are going to remember ‘beautiful—that church’; ‘beautiful—God.’ It helps the people, and it also keeps the gift a secret.”

Weary shoppers will then be able to sit down for a meal provided and served by the people of Faith Baptist.

A Word to the People of Faith
Lorrie says that those who work on FSD show God’s love, show that we’re a caring group, that we’re there to help the shoppers, we’re there to bring the message to them to lead them to salvation.”

If you are thinking of participating, Lorrie would tell you, “It’s just an awesome experience.”

What would God have you do on Free Shopping Day?