A church in Maryland has given away five cars last weekend to celebrate the grand opening of its new location in a Columbia strip mall.
Destiny Church, a congregation based in Columbia, had given away five used cars to mark its first official Sunday at its new permanent location in a building that the church recently moved into after several years meeting in a high school auditorium.
According to The Christian Post, the church had given one car to a needy family on Saturday and gave away four vehicles at the end of each worship services on Sunday.
"One of our founding values as a church is that 'We Are Outrageously Generous,' and we strive to live that out in everything we do," said Destiny Senior Pastor Stephen Chandler.
"We wanted to mark the celebration with an act of generosity that overshadowed the great blessing of the building we received. Acts 20:35 says that it is better to give than to receive and that has truly turned out to be the case," he added.
The church had purchased a Chevy Cruze, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Ford Escape and a Dodge Journey from a used car dealership with congregational tithe money from the last year.
As many as 2,250 tickets were given away in advance of the worship services for the raffle that determined the recipients of the vehicles.
The church had asked people to write why they needed a car, and it received more than 60 submissions that Chandler described as "heartbreaking." One of the cars was given away to a couple raising four children, who needed the vehicle to drive their 20-year-old daughter to Pennsylvania for medical treatments for her liver and kidney failure.
The predominantly African-American church usually draws up to 1,100 people each week, but more than 2,100 attended the Sunday service for the grand opening of the new location.
Chandler had argued that the Bible teaches that giveaways are a reliable method to draw a crowd, citing the Biblical account of Jesus attracting large audiences when he distributed free loaves and fish.
Some critics, however, accused the church of engaging in bribery and materialism. But Chandler insisted that the giveaway was an "act of generosity" meant to "let our community know that we at Destiny Church loved them and more importantly, that God loved them."
"The greatest satisfaction at the end of each service was watching people leave, and them realizing that whether they won a car or not, there truly were no strings attached," he added.
Chandler noted that the church sets aside 10 percent of the tithes each year and give it to missions, outreach and nonprofit organizations. This year, the church decided to give back to its own congregation and even considered the idea of buying out a Chick-Fil-A and passing out free food.