09 June, 2007

Walk the Aisle at the Walmart Church

Stacey Chauf, 37, read about First Baptist Church Walmart in a Thursday circular stuck between the Sav-a-Bunch and the Dollar Market ads about two years ago. The next day, she heard the Friday services and her life changed when she was invited to ‘walk the Walmart aisle.’ Chauf remembers, “I was baptized as a kid after praying the prayer with the pastor. But I was never really sure that I was saved because I had never walked an aisle. I kept hearing my parents and grandparents say, ‘I remember when I walked the aisle… this… and ‘When I walked the aisle… that… I had no specific time in my life that I had walked the aisle. Something was missing. The Walmart Church helped me. After walking the Walmart aisle, I now have assurance of my salvation.”

As it turns out, the FBC Walmart rents space in many Walmarts around the country where banks, EyeCareMax, and H&R Block used to be. For example, the FBC Walmart on the west side of Shreveport Louisiana, is located in space formerly occupied by Fidelity Trust, before being bought out by Bank of Shreveport, before being bought out by Premier Bank, before being bought out by Bank One, before being bought out by Chase. Since Chase already had a bank branch on the main street just off Walmart’s parking lot after buying Sheila’s B-B-Q, they closed operations within Walmart and FBC Walmart rented the space.

“I never remember a time when the Great Provider was not in my life,” said 14 year old Sonja Abney in reference to Walmart. “When I pray at the Walmart Church altar, I’m comforted when I hear the announcements for ‘customer needs assistance.’ It reminds me that someone is watching over me and someone is available to me if I need a friend.”

“We didn’t really know how it would work out,” said Patrick Harris, charter pastor of the very first FBC Walmart located in Turner, Alabama. “We knew moving into the space would provide some benefits and more visibility. So, we formed a church and started meeting and singing in the space.” One day a visitor came who wanted to be saved. Pastor Harris was concerned at first because they didn’t have an aisle for the visitor to walk. “But then I realized we had many aisle! We went looking and noticed the bulk container aisle was empty. I stood at one end while the visitor stood with the rest of the attendee/customers at the other. I gave a signal that the invitation had begun. The visitor was able to satisfy the ‘walk the aisle' requirement for salvation right then and there in Walmart. That’s when the revival started. We’ve now duplicated this style of church in 14% of all Walmarts. Most people don’t even realize we are there.”

“From the financial and accounting side, it’s unbelievably easy,” said Deacon Walter Bowman. “One turnkey rental price covers our water, electricity, property taxes, insurance, security, and maintenance. Not to mention the free parking. The best part has to be never having to leave the church and drive somewhere to get supplies or materials of any kind. We don’t need storage rooms for supplies. Walmart meets all our needs and keeps us supplied according to its vast riches.”

What about services? Well, the congregation never meets together. The pastor preaches a full 20 minute sermon each Sunday and Wednesday into his home computer. It’s recorded to DVD and then piped through a short wave AM radio station transmitting from the FBC Walmart space. A license is not needed because the transmitter transmits up to 0.25 miles, which works well for 97 percent of all Walmarts. As attendee/customers arrive to shop, they pick up a small ear piece to place on the ear of their choosing. The sermon is constantly broadcast in 20 minute cycles followed by 20 minutes of praise choruses. “Since the average shopper shops about 1.08 hours at Walmart per week, there is a really good chance that they will hear a full 40 minute service at least once a week,” said Pastor Harris.

“I really get a lot out of the sermons on the weeks I let Walmart change my oil,” said attendee/customer Michelle Mowen. “On oil changing days I get the opportunity to hear the sermon at least three times.”

“We’ve teamed with Walmart to offer a low-cost way to get saved,” explained Pastor Harris. “This is a non-intimidation environment. Come as you are. Each staff member goes through Walmart training to learn item locations. Each promises to help all Walmart customers, regardless of religion. There is a subtle difference on our nametags which say, ‘Always humble spirits, Always’ rather than the typical ‘Always low prices, Always.’ That may be the only way you can tell us apart. The nametags are a plus because in most churches, members don’t even know who the deacons are, much less, their names.”

“We had problems with some of our members who wanted to read a Bible during the sermon, but we solved that by adapting the new Google Bible with a special strap that allows it to lay comfortably between the hand positions of the cart handles,” said Pastor Harris. You won’t need the child seat for your child, because FBC Walmart will keep children in the “Anyday School” (not just confined to Sundays). Each Monday, a fresh Anyday School lesson begins. You can also register the kids for the at-your-own-pace VBS.

Probably the most amazing fact about the FBC Walmart is the weekly membership attendance rate. Rather than saying the rate is “high” it might better be described as “unbelieveably steller” with an unheard of attendance rate of 99.86% of the membership attending at least 1 service per week. “It’s really not that shocking if you consider the statistics that for a family of 4, somebody drops by Walmart an average of 7.3 times per week,” said Pastor Harris. “Unlike most churches, once a person walks the isle at Walmart, we’ve found that they continue to walk the Walmart isles in the future. At traditional churches, we’d rarely see them again. At FBC Walmart, we’ve assembled a real body of dedicated attendees seeking the will of the Lord on a regular basis.”

“Although they usually only attend traditional church services around Easter, Christmas, and maybe Mother’s Day, we’ve discovered that even the portion of the congregation typically labeled as ‘sickly,’ ‘elderly,’ or ‘shut-in’ still managed to find a way to visit Walmart an average of 1.3 times per week,” said Pastor Harris. “Now, rather than visiting them in their homes, we minister to the elderly by helping them shop at Walmart. It’s a tremendous ministry. Our FBC Walmart staff members and volunteers listen to the concerns of the elderly and share life stories as they assist them with shopping during the sermons.”

“I’m so glad I don’t have to attend another long boring church service,” said member Alan Machan, 87. “Rather than spending two separate mornings on both shopping and then going to church, I can enjoy both at once. FBC Walmart allows me to designate a special time each week to love the Lord while still getting something done. The rest of the week is freed up for just me.”

FBC Walmart did ask Tominthebox representatives to warn shopper/visitors to enter the church immediately across from checkout 14. “If you get to checkout 27, you’ve gone to far. That’s where you’ll find the heretical Second Baptist Church of Walmart that formed in January of 2007 after the split over which direction to walk the aisle.”

Next time you’re in Walmart, listen carefully to loudspeaker announcements. If you hear “customer needs assurance on aisle 11” that’s the cue for the FBC Walmart staff to send a pastor. Someone is ready to walk the aisle.


Timotheus said...

Great post! It would be better if "aisle" wasn't consistently misspelled -- but otherwise very humorous.

Someone you know said...

I don't think the Spelling really matters. The point is well taken. I know a few people who worship the great Walmart God of reatil

very funny, also very sad

Chris said...

the "walk the aisle requirement of salvation." LOL

I've always wondered where that and the "ask Jesus into your heart" salvation requirement is in the Bible.

Religion Roundtable said...

In the early church did they have aisles in their homes? How did anyone get saved?

Well, I guess some questions are better off not asked.

Anonymous said...

also, "alter" shouls be "altar"

A said...

Welch's provides a free sample of the sacrament today, to supplement a buy-one-get-one-free sale.

Jeff said...

WHICH aisle? I've been wandering for hours trying to make sure I walk the right one.... WHICH AISLE DO I NEED TO WALK ?!?!?!? AAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!

Brother Slawson said...

Ok... I think I checked all the mispelings. I'm ocasionaly on the leading edge of vocabic evolution... my people one day will naturally select ourselves. Obviously, this time I was unsucesful in eliminating unnecesary extra letters in a unambigous situation. I do have two things going for me though. 1. Ben Franklin didn't care about spelling.
2. I spent today rereading the KJV version of the Bible and "aisle" never appears. However, "isle" appears 10 times. So there!

Brother Slawson said...

By the way... a funny thing... this is NOT a doctored photo. In ALL seriousness! There is a huge church across the Interstate that has 3 huge crosses in the front. This picture was taken by a friend of mine to make it look like they were part of the Walmart store.

AspiringTheologian said...

Gives a whole new meaning to the term "superchurch".

DT said...

Does that mean that I can now buy NetFinney in the electronics department, or Calvinix in the pharmacy?

Jim from OldTruth.com said...


"If [our megachurch] cannot provide more excitement than Wal Mart then we need to shut our doors! It’s up to the church to provide something worth coming to."


Sewing said...

Another brilliant masterpiece. The "Great Provider"...the church growth-type statistics ("We've managed to replicate this in 14% of all Wal-marts).

I'm a nitpicker when it comes to spelling, but I liked your defense of your spelling, Brother Slawson! ;)

Anonymous said...

I once drove past a "christian" Ace Hardware that actually had a huge cross on its roof. Too bad I didn't have my camera with me. Unfortunately this post is a very good illustration of the attitudes, methods, and heart of American churchianity.