Rescuing a Bag of Candy, And the Church

I wasn’t quite sure what to say when the man walked up and asked if we had seen his bag of candy. It was Sunday morning. The Great Frederick Fair’s last day was Saturday. All we had left to do was gather everything from our 40×40 foot tent, shoehorn it into our trailer and be on our way.

“Did anyone see a bag of candy layin’ around here?” the man asked. “I think I left it here last night.”

He was around 50 years old, wearing one of those mesh baseball caps, an untucked plaid shirt and navy pants that looked like they hadn’t been washed in weeks. His Santa Claus belly overlapped his belt, and he carried an unopened umbrella and some sort of small backpack.

“Sorry, man,” I said. “Someone must have grabbed it last night. We would have seen it this morning, if it was still here.”

He stared at me for a moment.

“You don’t think anyone handed it in at the lost and found, do you?”

I shrugged.

“We haven’t seen it.  But you could always check.”

I gave him directions to the office, all the while thinking to myself, “Seriously? You just came back out to the fairgrounds at 9:00 on a Sunday morning to retrieve a bag of candy?”

He walked away looking very nervous, wringing his hands, limping slightly. I saw him a little later in the day, still wandering the fairgrounds, still looking for his lost bag of candy. He was easily recognizable, not because of his appearance but because of the slow pace at which he traveled – everyone else there was cleaning up, ready to get home, moving at breakneck speed.

But when I saw him a third time, just before we left, a thought stuck in my head: if people care enough about something, they’ll go out at any time of day, any day of the week, to find it.

Then I had another thought, probably because my friend Ryan Dagen and I are planning a new Sunday morning service at our church, starting in January:

What does the church need to do to be perceived as valuable? With church attendance reaching new, all-time lows, what needs to change?

That guy was willing to get out of bed early and drive to the fairgrounds just to find a $2.50 bag of candy because, to him, it was valuable.

How can the church become valuable again?

9 Replies to “Rescuing a Bag of Candy, And the Church”

  1. Sean, this fellow approached us Saturday night as we were tearing down, too. I don’t remember the time, but it was nearly one a.m. when we left. He was pretty sure he had left it on one of your counters & it took some convincing on our part to get him to accept that you were all gin fir the evening.

  2. If you find a treasure in a field, would you sell everything you have to buy the field?

    Good thoughts!

  3. Funny you would compare a bag of candy to church. My concern the past few years is that too many preachers and churches are “sugar-coating” God and the bible in order to make it appealing to the masses. Services are watered down and made more entertaining so everyone is more comfortable.

    What we really need, and deep down are craving, is MEAT!!! Sure it’s tougher to chew and digest, but it sticks with you long after the sugar buzz of candy is gone.

    A service that leaves me feeling spiritually fed will have me coming back for more. But a feel good, candy coated service makes me wish I had stayed home and read the paper!!

  4. I think you should meet some of my students. One class in particular this semester, asked to write about what values were important to them, strongly came out in favor of faith — different ones, but equally strongly.

    The church as a source of support and force for social justice has been really powerful among African Americans. Even the social custom of wearing, say, a really awesome hat to acknowledge the specialness of the worship experience reinforces a sense of community. (And keeps milliners in business. Yay for small business!)

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