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'Sowing seeds' of faith with $10 bills

Using donations totaling $6,000, Praise Cathedral will give $10 to each visitor who does not normally attend church.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 2, 2002

PINELLAS PARK -- Even people who have never been to church know about the practice of passing the offering plate to collect money from the congregation.

Today one church is reversing that tradition. Praise Cathedral will be handing money to the worshipers.

"We're going to give them $10, then pray for (them)," said the Rev. Mike Thomas. "It's for people who've never been to our church before. . . . We want to give them something."

The idea, Thomas said, is to "sow seeds" of faith in people who do not normally attend church. Churches, he said, have the reputation for always taking and Praise Cathedral wants to change that image.

The idea to give away money came from one of Thomas' congregation members who wants to remain anonymous.

Thomas said the "young man" came to him with the proposal. The man told Thomas he had been praying about how he should become involved in the ministry. The result was several dreams with the idea of giving away money. He wanted to donate $3,000 to the church to carry out the dream.

The man himself did not want to do it at first. But the dream kept happening and he couldn't sleep. He thought it was "half crazy," Thomas said.

Thomas said he knew the man couldn't afford it and tried to talk him out of it.

"He got indignant about it," Thomas said. "By that time, he was so convinced, he was determined."

They prayed about it and realized that "we're supposed to invest in people."

So the man, who's about 30, donated his $3,000 and the church got another $3,000 in donations to carry out the plan. Each of 600 people will get $10 for attending the 9 a.m. or 11 a.m. service at Praise, 4371 76th Ave. N.

If more than 600 people show up, Thomas said, "we'd probably be running to the bank. We're prepared to give."

Thomas said he thinks the idea may have been tried before, but he's not sure where. But for Praise, he said, it's just part of the church's ongoing programs to help the community. Some of those programs have been unusual.

In 1998, church members helped Mayor Bill Mischler start his People Helping People group and spent hours walking around Pinellas Park, praying for the city.

In 2001, they sponsored professional wrestling matches with a Christian message at the city's Ronald P. Forbes Recreation Center.

"This is just an ongoing thing for us," Thomas said.

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