Wednesday, July 12, 2017

We Go to Church in a Movie Theater

Cornerstone Church, Fresno, California
We always turn in the guest registration cards when we visit a church because we want to know how well churches follow up on visitors. But this Sunday, people were anxiously filling out visitor cards and waving down ushers to take them because there was a drawing involved. We’ve been to churches with pretty good gifts for first time visitors: candy, coffee mugs, t-shirts, books, etc. But somehow the chance of winning something (in this case two free movie tickets) excites people more than a sure thing.

The drawing took place just before the evening's feature movie began, and the audience was asked, “Who’s going to win?”  Plenty of people shouted out “Me!” The guy in front responded, “Alright, we’ll find out which of you is a false prophet!”

Cornerstone Church meets in downtown Fresno in an old movie theater, what was once The Wilson. Usually they do regular church things in the building -- prayer meetings and worship services. But during the summer, the church has teamed up with a radio station (The Spirit, 88.9) to use the building as a movie theater again.

This past Sunday night they showed the 2016 film, Priceless. We saw the film before, last year when we were visiting a church, a bar, and a movie theater in every state (it was our South Dakota film). The good thing about the film is that it raises the issue of human trafficking, a real problem that the church needs to address, that individuals need to be aware of it. But I’m not sure it gives the best solutions for dealing with the problem. There may be flaws in a plan involving a man approaching a streetwalker, offering money, and then using motel room time for job counseling. It might not be best to arm oneself and take on criminal prostitution gangs alone. Good solutions in movies, of course, but perhaps not in real life -- and this is an issue in real life.

It’s good that the organization “Made for Them” was represented at the event, since they have more practical ideas for dealing with the problem. They are a nonprofit organization that works to fight human trafficking through, of all things, fashion. They work to educate people about the issue through their MadeForThem fashion line. They also provide jobs and job training. And they provide resources for businesses that are looking to be socially responsible.

It was good to see Cornerstone promoting this good ministry, and to see they have good ministries of their own. Pastor Jim Franklin founded Cornerstone Community Care, a non-profit that partners with local schools to help at-risk youth and founded Feeding Fresno, an outreach to feed needy families. We also saw promotional material for SUM Bible College and Theological School, supported by the church.

But that night was all about going to the movies. The screening was free, and the refreshments were quite reasonable as movie snacks go ($1 for anything, popcorn, sodas, waters).  Cornerstone does many good things; providing a night at the movies may be a lesser one, but it is still a good thing. We might go back in August for the next summer screening: The Case for Christ (if just for the cheap popcorn).

Service Length: 1 hour 41 minutes
Movie Length: 1 hour 37 minutes
Visitor Treatment: No particular attention was paid to visitors; everyone was encouraged to put their names, addresses, email, and phone number on the cards in order to win movie tickets.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 400
Probable Ushers’ Count: 475
Musicians: None
Songs: None
Snacks: Bottled water and soda, popcorn, candy, pickles, and maybe more were available for purchase
Distance to Church: 7.5 miles
Open WiFi: no
Tie/Suit Count: none
Church Website: