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    Church Gives Away $1000 Every Week to People Sitting in Lucky Seats

    Church Gives Away $1000 Every Week to People Sitting in Lucky Seats

    A Chicago area church is doing something unique.  Rev. Dan Willis pulls a number from a bag and a lucky worshipper wins up to $500.

    Here's part of a Chicago Tribune article describing what's happening at Lighthouse Church:

    At Lighthouse Church of All Nations in Alsip, the congregation can get more than just prayer at the Sunday worship services.

    If a lucky -- or "blessed and highly favored" -- churchgoer is in the right seat, they can also receive a cash prize.

    At each of the three Sunday services, the Rev. Dan Willis pulls a number of one seat from a bag and the worshiper in that seat wins a cash prize. Two of the churchgoers win $250 and the third gets $500. The church gives away $1,000 each Sunday, Willis said.

    The cash prize is part of Willis' recent focus on helping his congregation pay bills and begin a debt-free life, he said.

    "We've had soooo many of our people displaced from jobs, facing foreclosure," he said. "When people's faith was high, their debt was down. When their faith was down, their debt was high. I realized the two are connected."

    Willis concedes the cash prize is a gimmick to fill the pews. But he's unapologetic about the plan, because it's working. On a typical Sunday, his church draws about 1,600 people to its three Sunday services. But since the money giveaway started, about five weeks ago, the congregation has grown to about 2,500 each week, he said. The money for the giveaway comes from the church offering. Lighthouse is a non-denominational church.

    "If I can get someone in here and teach them and give them money, that's what I'm going to do," he said.

    Read more here.

    OK... this is pretty unconventional.  Good idea or terrible one?  What do YOU think?



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    1. Gary Humble on Wed, November 04, 2009

      I’m sorry.  I can’t wrap my mind around this kind of gimmick.  I don’t care what kind of times we live in.  I hate to go here…but seriously…would that pastor be so excited about his giveaway if Jesus showed up one day at his service.

      You jump almost 1000 in attendance because people are hoping for a chance to win money and you’re excited about that?  Somehow you think that God is doing something in your church?

      I don’t get it.

    2. Leonard on Wed, November 04, 2009

      People have been coming to the Salvation Army for food and clothes for years, people come to rescue missions for food and a bed and they hear the Gospel.  I worked on Skid Row for a year and saw this all the time.  People come to church to see friends, get their Jesus on for the week…  There are a ton of reasons people go.

    3. CS on Wed, November 04, 2009

      “Willis concedes the cash prize is a gimmick to fill the pews. But he’s unapologetic about the plan, because it’s working.”

      Ladies and gentlemen, this is pragmatism at its best. 

      Whatever happened to the power of the Gospel to bring people in to fill the pews?!  Whatever happened to people, convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, saved by Jesus Christ, wanting to come and glorify the Lord in worship?!  Why is it taking cash prizes to bring people into the house of the Lord?!

      I’m sorry, but this sort of nonsense makes me so angry that I am quite tempted to type up some really nasty words about this church and its pastor.  I best step away from this post for a bit.


    4. JOB on Wed, November 04, 2009

      Youth Group was always packed on pizza night and the weekend before a Great Adventure trip!!  Now it’s happening in “big church”.  Idon’t get angry anymore.  We live win the gimmick era of the church, there is no biblical basis for these gimmicks, in fact what did Jesus do when people were following Him for the wrong reasons?

    5. Pastor Matt on Wed, November 04, 2009

      This guy has missed the point by some margin.

      Jesus said that he told truth through parables in order to hide the truth, not to make the way easy - I think he did so in order to hide it from those who were not yet ready to hear it, from those not desperately seeking the truth lest they reject it before they connect with God and humbly repent & believe.

      Getting people in your building with the offer of cash gets them to hear the gospel for completely the wrong reasons and motivations - they’ll hear it but not be ready for it at all.  Pearls before swine.

    6. Carlos Perez on Wed, November 04, 2009

      Just Do IT!

    7. TC on Wed, November 04, 2009

      whatever it takes.  get the people there, let God do the rest.

    8. Curious on Wed, November 04, 2009

      Jesus gave away meals and healing.  I guess a few thousand attended His services hoping to get a touch, a blessing, a freebie…but ended up getting confronted with the Kingdom.

    9. JOB on Wed, November 04, 2009

      None of them were there for a meal because there was none planned.  All day listening to the word of God.

      THen later when the were following Jesus for hte meals did he send them away.

      All those who buy into these gimmicks need to ask yourselfs how many people will be turned off and never come to Christ because of a gimmick, stunt etc   Even busineses know they can lose customers by using the wrong methods.

      anyone remember PTL?

    10. Peter Hamm on Thu, November 05, 2009

      Guys, he’s not trying to make the narrow way easier, and on the other hand, he’s not trying to make it narrower.

      DO I think it’s a silly gimmick? Yes. Do I think it’s evil? No.

      That said, (I can’t believe I’m saying this) I need to think on it more, but JOB, you actually make a decent point just above here… Jesus did indeed OFTEN not give the people what they wanted. Something to think about, although he sometimes did. I think I’d be loathe to support an initiative like this.

      (Full disclosure: We’re giving away a Wii this weekend, but we’re not using it as a gimmick or a draw… nobody, in fact, knows it’s happening till they get here.)

    11. CS on Thu, November 05, 2009


      “Jesus did indeed OFTEN not give the people what they wanted. Something to think about, although he sometimes did.”

      But the overwhelming majority of those came in the form of supernatural miracles, which were to authenticate His identity as Messiah.  It’s not like when the 5000 men and their families were sitting down in groups that he spun a roulette wheel and said, “Congratulations!  Here’s your year’s supply of fish and bread!”


    12. Leonard on Thu, November 05, 2009

      Jesus may have spoken words to slow the roll of some early adopters who wanted to co-opt him as king, however the church did not.  The extent the church went through to reach the lost, and the pushing God did on those in the early church to get them to move beyond their city… 

      I am not sure I think giving away 1000 bucks is the answer, but lets not get our undies in a twist here simply because Jesus didn’t do it.

    13. Steve on Thu, November 05, 2009

      Cheap gimmick. But interesting. Great that he is upfront about it.

      can he do the whole loaves and fishes thing and turn that $1,000 into $500,000 dollars then we have ourselves a par-ty.

    14. Chuck Warnock on Mon, November 09, 2009

      Pragmatism—just because it works—isn’t the criteria for church outreach.  Church outreach planning begins with theology, not with adopting an unethical come-on to entice people.  If this pastor really wants to help people who are hurting, why not develop a ministry to do that? 

      My guess is that this is less about helping people than it is about filling pews.  Follow up in a few weeks or months when the giveaway stops to see how he’s doing.  Of course, you can draw a crowd in a lot of ways—serve beer, roll out the big screen TV and become a sports bar.  Lots of possibilities which would work to draw a crowd, but which aren’t compatible with what Kingdom values.

    15. Chad Whitmore on Thu, November 12, 2009

      What you win them with is what you win them to.

      I’m not convinced getting people into the worship service is effective in winning them to Christ. Personal relationships, one-oon-one interaction is how they are won. Haven’t we figured out yet that when people are “won” with a worship service they are most often won to the worship service. Jesus becomes someone you visit on Sunday instead of a life-transforming power you surrender to.

      All gimmicks do is get in the way of true, effective evangelism.

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