Used to be that phony evangelists like Peter Popoff would be the only ones sending people vials containing "holy water", "Dead Sea Salt" or pieces of "holy cloth".
Now, First Baptist Dallas is giving members little vials containing "Holy Ground", inside of a "prayer tent" as shown at left.
What is this? Well, that is a foldable "prayer tent", with a little vial filled with dirt under the tent. But not just any dirt. This is special, "holy" dirt.
How is the dirt in the vial "holy" and called "Holy Ground"? It is dirt from the construction site of the new $115 million dollar First Baptist Dallas campus. I'm not kidding. I couldn't have made this up myself. Apparently someone went out to the construction site and filled buckets with the construction site dirt, bought some vials, and filled thousands of vials with the dirt. What a tremendous service in the Lord's work, putting construction site dirt in little glass vials. I'm sure Jesus was pleased with that project. If FBC Dallas has any extras, perhaps they can be handed out to the homeless, or sold on eBay.
At the church's website announcing that the pastor is going to give these vials inside of the "prayer tent" to attenders on May 15th, they say:
Notice, it is the pastor who is going to give it out. Just like it was Peter Popoff personally sending you the "holy water", right? Thank you, pastor, for the vial of "Holy Ground". And I wonder if the statement above contains a typo...is this a reminder for people to "pray" for the new campus? Or did they mean a reminder to PAY for the campus? After all, the "Holy Ground" was handed out on the first anniversary of the "commitment Sunday", to remind people of their commitment to pray, er, pay for it!
"Dr. Jeffress has a special "prayer tent" to give each person who attends Sunday's services that includes a vial of dirt from the construction site - "Holy Ground" reminding everyone to pray for the construction of the new campus and the future ministry of First Baptist Dallas."
Yes, someone on staff at First Baptist Dallas - or maybe it was one of those high-priced "generosity consultants" - came up with the bright idea that they could keep the peeps motivated to pray and pay for the new church by handing out a vial of "holy land" dirt inside of a "prayer tent". Maybe they got the idea when they read that the Catholics were installing vials of the pope's holy blood as a relic in a Polish church.
This is just a shameless gimmick. It is an insult to people's intelligence, to infer some sort of "holiness" to the actual spot where the church is being built. The bible refers to "holy ground" as being a spot where God's presence was on Mount Horeb where God spoke to Moses. A church construction site is not "holy ground" any more than the pope's blood is special or holy.
"Guilt Gifts" - A Marketing Strategy
FBC Dallas members, let's consider what this is all about from a pure marketing standpoint. In this age of church marketing, you need to consider the motives of your church leadership in going to all of this trouble to make you a vial filled with dirt in a prayer tent for display at your house. What your church and their marketers have done is use the strategy of giving you a "guilt gift". Non-profits have engaged in this for a long time. It is a practice that some fundraising groups discourage.
Marketers have coined the term "Guilt Gifts" to describe unsolicited gifts given to potential donors to create even the slightest amount of obligation for a return financial gift. Marketers recommend this strategy when they believe that the net increase in giving from the guilt created, is greater than the total cost of preparing and sending the gift. You certainly didn't ask for the church to dig up dirt and fill a vial and prepare a prayer tent, but they did it and they gave it to you. While this particular gift may not include a direct solicitation for money, the connection is obvious: church members committed future gifts to the church construction, and on the one-year anniversary of your commitment you are given a gift that took time and effort to prepare. It is more than a magnet or a card. It is a vial with special dirt from the construction site that YOU committed to fund. The pastor mashed the big red button and blew up the church creating the dirt, based on YOUR commitment. That vial represents what you said you would do to rebuild. Masterful marketing strategy in giving you the vial of dirt created when your pastor mashed the big red button.
A blogger here wrote about this tactic used by a charity raising money for children in Peru. A little bracelet is sent to the potential donor, and it is implied that a poor Peruvian girl made it. The blogger wonders if the bracelet was made in Peru, by the girl, as it is implied in the letter. Obviously it is not, it is a gimmick sent to thousands of potential donors with an expected net increase in giving greater than the cost of preparing the gifts.
I hope the vial of "Holy Ground" in the prayer tent has a removable lid. If so, maybe in days to come church members will be instructed to sprinkle the Holy Ground on their yard or on their doorstep to sanctify their home, or to smear it on their door posts, or to sprinkle some in their coffee.
Or as Peter Popoff instructed people to do with packets of holy "Dead Sea Salt", maybe church members can sprinkle the "Holy Ground" on their checks that they send in to FBC Dallas for the new church construction.
One last piece of advice to FBC Dallas members: do NOT carry this vial in your car, and always keep it WITH the prayer tent. Otherwise, it might be mistaken for something other than dirt, and a police officer might be quite skeptical when you try to explain that you have a vial of "Holy Ground" dirt from your church construction site. When you explain THAT to the officer, he will likely think you've been smoking the contents and will haul you off to jail. :)