(Photo: Bay Area Fellowship Church)
Easter at a megachurch in Corpus Christi, Texas, will look like the popular TV game show "The Price Is Right."
Sixteen cars, 15 flat-screen televisions, furniture sets and other prizes are lined up at Bay Area Fellowship Church and ready to be claimed by anyone who attends the church's Easter services on Sunday.
Though the church of some 7,000 weekly attendees has regularly flexed its creative muscles to draw the unchurched, the upcoming "Ultimate Giveaway" is like no other outreach it has ever attempted.
Pastor Bil Cornelius, who made the game show analogy, admits it's a bit "outrageous."
But he sees it as "an opportunity to share Christ with people who may never go to a church for any reason," he told The Christian Post.
The prizes are worth over $2 million and are all donated items or sponsored by members of the church. Pastor Cornelius asked the congregation to give and to get their businesses involved for the bold effort. Bay Area members signed up to give cars, bikes, laptops, gym memberships and other gifts.
"I'm very proud of our people for being so incredibly generous and willing to do whatever it takes to get spiritually lost people in the door to hear about the love of God," the lead pastor said.
Along with some of the bigger prizes, every individual or family attending one of the church's 30 worship services held across seven campuses this weekend will receive a "value pack" of gift certificates worth over $300 from local businesses. Additionally, more than 300 children attending the newest campus – located in a lower income neighborhood on the west side of Corpus Christi – will receive new bicycles.
The "ultimate" giveaway, however, will be the free gift of heaven and Christ.
"We hope to show people that while it is exciting to receive free stuff here on Earth, the greatest free gift of all time is something we haven’t yet seen, but can enjoy for all eternity," said Cornelius, who started the church 12 years ago with five people.
"The entire giveaway leads to the Grand Prize available to all, salvation through Christ, if simply received ... with no strings attached (Ephesians 2:8-9)," he added.
Cornelius acknowledges that the Easter giveaway has drawn some "pretty strong" criticism from other believers, some of whom accuse the pastor of turning Jesus into a product.
But the Texas megachurch pastor responded to the critics, saying: "[I]f just one of their children were lost and found Christ through this program (that they may not approve of), I bet they'd be glad we did it."
Bay Area Fellowship Church expects some 15,000-20,000 people this weekend. The giveaway is open to all members of the church and visitors but excludes staff and their families.
"They're coming for the loot and they're going to leave with Jesus," Cornelius said.