Saturday, January 28, 2012

Convenience Store Evangelism

There is a Cumberland Farms between my house and my office. For those who do not know, a Cumberland Farms is a gas station/convenience store chain that is open 24 hours a day. I go in almost every day and have a large soda because I prefer my morning caffeine to be carbonated. Because I go in almost every day, I have gotten to know the employees as well as the other regular customers.

But the other day I had an extremely busy schedule and started my day much earlier than normal. It was only 3 AM when I went into the store. There were a number of people I did not know. Though I greeted them, as is my custom, they barely gave me a nod back. Keep in mind that it was 3 AM, and many people are not overly happy at that early hour.
But as I got my drink and made small talk with the employees, I could not help but notice the complete lack of hope in the eyes of the other customers. Though I have lived in the area for 18 years, I only recognized one of the other customers, a young man who had been in the youth group at my former church. He did not recognize me, though I greeted him. He too had a sad and forlorn look in his eyes.

I was so taken by their sadness that I hung back for a few minutes, pretending to look at other merchandise, hoping for an opportunity to speak of word of joy into someone’s life. But the ebb and flow of the conversations they were already having with each other did not afford such an opportunity and eventually they all left the store.
In the days since then I have not been able to get the sad look in their eyes out of my mind. Their conversations, which I could not help but overhear, were filled with sadness. The sadness that seemed to consume them was more than just 3 AM sleepiness; it was from deep within their hearts.

Those precious people need a touch of joy in their lives. They need a life changing encounter with Jesus! Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus came to give abundant life. Jesus came for people just like them. Someone who knows Jesus must introduce these precious people to Him.
I have been wondering lately what it would be like if several Christians adopted our Cumberland Farms and each took a turn showing up at 3 AM and just letting Jesus shine through them. It would definitely be different than the traditional Tuesday night “visitation” sponsored by the church I grew up in. But somehow, it seems that it is the kind of “visitation” that Jesus would engage in. Anyone want to join my visitation team?


  1. Love it Terry! He has you where you need to be. Here in SC most convenience stores close around 11 at night. That 3am crowd musta left a deep impression.

  2. They did. Especially the one young man who I've known since he was about 9 years old. His options in life were always limited due to some situations in his family, but with Christ, a whole new door of opportunity opens. If only we will go through the door.

  3. Chip Colee, FBC, Montgomery, ALJanuary 28, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    A good word, Terry. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement.

  4. Being Missional in Action.

  5. Excellent, I will pray for this new ministry, and seek out some in my areas as well.
    God's favor upon you!

  6. Terry,
    Obviously I cannot join your evangelism group in person from GA, and I'm not sure that a grey-haired grandmother would be the best fit for the task, but I certainly can and will add "convenience store evangelism" to my prayer list. Thank you for your heart for lost people and your desire to live as Jesus would live in the 21st century!
    Cathy Brown


  8. Cameron and Kelley LewisJanuary 28, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    Great idea. Cameron goes "fishing" at our store a lot. But they close at 9. I will share this email with him and see if he is interested. If not, we pray God blesses what you are trying to do! Keep up the good work!

    Cameron and Kelly

  9. Terry,

    Thank you for sharing this with us. As I thought about your suggestion for several churches to consider adopting a Cumberland Farms, something dawned on me. It is not the venue that creates the opportunity, it is the heart that has been prepared by the Lord Himself. Everyday we each enter our own "Cumberland Farms." Everyday we come across hurting people who need to know the Love of Jesus Christ. Your heart was breaking for those lost souls at the Cumberland Farms. This is where evangelism starts, in the surrendered hearts of faithful servants of the Lord.

    Please Lord God, give us a heart that is broken over the lost souls you put us in contact with each and every day. Use us Father, to share the Joy of our Salvation in Christ with those who are lost and hurting. Help us to put the needs of others before our own....Help us Lord, to be foot washers for the sake of your Kingdom. Give us strength Lord, to be selfless servants, fully surrendered to do your will.

    Thank you Brother, your faith has encouraged me this day.

    By His Grace,


  10. You have a good thing going and great ideas. I normally go by our Cumblerland Farms on my way home on Wednesday through Sundays, normally about midnight or one a.m. Same scene. I have developed a relationship with the elderly lady who runs it those nights. Although she confesses she will likely never darken the door of our building, she tells everybody that I am her pastor. She keeps her eyes open and knows the needs of about all of her customers. When one has a need she thinks I can help with, she finds a way to get them in touch with me. It would surprise you how many people she has brought my way who have needs to minister to. Build this opportunity you have if it is at all possible. Real needs, God's way.

  11. Don says if he lived in the area he would be there with you. "That is my type of ministry" Don said and "do you need me there to push it?"

  12. Thanks for praying everyone. Prayer works wonders. I'll keep you updated on what God does.

    Don - if you lived over here, it would not have taken you so many years to get in there at 3 AM like it did me! You are a visitation machine!

  13. I like the way God is leading your heart on this. It's a bit far for me to travel, but I will be praying for the people on the night shift at Cumberland Farms. I hope you get a great response. May the love of God shine through all of us to this dark world we live in!

  14. Hello, Terry,
    My heart was broken by the things you said in this newsletter. I hope you don't mind that I shared them with a church where we spoke this past Sunday. The church was Iotla in Franklin, NC that helped Lyandon with VBS in Poultney last summer. They are coming back there this summer. Words from others about Vermont's spiritual condition reinforce our words.

    God bless you all.

  15. Nel,
    I'm glad you were able to share the story with them. We need all the prayer warriors we can get.


  16. I deliver pizza several nights during the week, and I had a thought last night that I have no scientific evidence of, but it's a theory that I'd like to offer up here for free. My theory is that those that stay up late at night, often into the morning, are less successful financially than those that are early morning risers.

    My theory is based on the fact that most folks who order pizza after 9:00 pm smoke, drink alcohol, and live in lower income neighborhoods. They stay up later, and consume their time with recreation and entertainment endeavors that morning folks might consider a "waste of time".

    I do also know for a fact that most robberies occur after 9:00, and the later it gets in the evening, the higher the probability of something negative happening during your shift.

    Also consider that most productive people who are financially successful probably don't waste their time spending money on products purchased at a convenience store. They are too smart and too frugal to waste money paying 125% of what they would pay for something somewhere else. Personally speaking (and I'm not one of those financially successful, obviously if I am delivering pizzas) I don't patronize a convenience store for this reason. Just a waste of money to buy anything there, as their markup is insane, compared to larger stores and chains.

    I would also premise my remarks with scripture that speaks of being salt and light in a lost and dark world. That "dark world" is definitely happening at 3:00 am, when most believers are sound asleep. And yeah, you'd probably be depressed if you were up at 3:00 am all the time too. If for no other reason than lack of sleep.

  17. Phillip,
    Thanks for your thoughts. To be honest, I'd never thought of it from the perspective of a pizza delivery man. Though you may not have "scientific evidence" to back up your theory, it sure makes sense from a "gut feeling" perspective. So you may well be right.
    My passion is for the lost to know Jesus, so whether rich or poor, depressed or happy, financially successful or terrible stewards, I want to proclaim Him to all who will listen.
    God bless.