He showed up with a bunch of worms.
He didn’t ask his pastor if it would be a good idea. He just wanted to invite people to church.
He had packaged the worms, plastic worms he’d made as lures for bass fishing, in sandwich-size bags, a half-dozen or more were in each zip-top bag.
On the outside of each bag he put a sticker fashioned with the logo, worship times and address of Anthem Church in Angier, North Carolina, a rural town of south of Raleigh where a Crepe Myrtle Celebration has been held annually for nearly 50 years.
“It made it easier for me to talk to people,” said the Anthem member, an avid fisherman since his early teens. “It’s not about me,” he said, asking that his name not be used. “It was strictly about inviting people to church, giving them something they couldn’t forget if they started looking for a church.”
A man might think, “Some church was giving out fishing worms at the Crepe Myrtle festival. Let me find that one.”
After the initial year, the Anthem member, who is an app developer, added a QR code to the packages. The code connects a cell phone camera to the church’s welcome page, relaying the church’s goals and beliefs and introducing its lead pastor, Rick Gutierrez.
“The mission of Anthem Church is to fill our community and the world with love-filled, faith-filled, hope-filled followers of Jesus Christ,” the web page of the 8-year-old congregation states.
“Rick has taught me a lot about how to care for people,” the Anthem member said in describing his enthusiasm for touting the church and its pastor. “He is one of the most on-mission men I’ve ever seen.
“The whole town may not come to Anthem Church but they know where we’re at and what we stand for and that we’re willing to serve as disciples of Christ.
“Being a guy,” he added, “if I would have been around an Anthem Church when I was younger, I’d be a lot further along in my walk with Christ because I didn’t know you could be a Christian and enjoy it and have fun.”
Gutierrez draws encouragement from the fishing enthusiast’s witness as well as several praise band members who perform individually and as a group in various community settings.
“It shows how God has commissioned the church and believers to operate in their own spheres of life,” Gutierrez explained. “Not everything has to be a program by the church or some event, but it really is, as Matthew 28 says, ‘Go therefore and make disciples.’ As you go about your daily life, just share the good news.”
That will be important, Gutierrez noted, because Angier no longer will be an island unto itself, as Raleigh-Durham’s spiraling growth portends development and diversity for Angier in the next few years.
With each bag of worms the Anthem member and others hand out, they make a point of saying, “We give out the hooks on Sunday.”
He carries a supply of hooks to church, ready to demonstrate how best to rig the lure for catching bass.
The fruit of the fishing enthusiast’s initiative includes a student in the youth group and his parents. This gives Gutierrez joy in “seeing the gospel living and at work and God using people with their own gifts and talents and passions.”
The Anthem member, who credits his wife for getting him to “step through the doors” of a church in the early 1990s, began making lures after watching YouTube videos.
“Once you get set up,” he said, “it’s cheaper to make them yourself than it is to buy them.”
The process involves combining hot plastic with various colors, and a bit of metallic auto paint to enhance their reflection in the water, then injecting the mix into worm-shaped molds.
“I’m doing what I’m supposed to do according to God,” he said, “to let people know there’s a church here in Angier that they’re welcome at.”