Are You a Purple Cow?

Are You a Purple Cow?

Is this you? Gayle Nicholson @flickr.com

Well, I’m back from my fabulous East Coast vacation. And, while I did eat a lot of ice cream (and I’m paying for it with burpees), my big takeaway was popcorn.
Going out, we had a one-hour layover at Chicago’s Midway Airport. That’s one hour that eventually turned into five. Now Midway is not a large airport. The food pickings are mighty slim. The first thing I noticed, however, was a place called “Nuts on Clark.” “Great!” I thought – a place to get some almonds or walnuts to keep up my energy. The line was snaking out the door and the smell was to die for. As I got closer, it became clear that “Nuts on Clark” had nothing to do with nuts of any kind. It was, in fact, a place that sold popcorn. Not just any popcorn, mind you – (self-proclaimed?) “World Famous” popcorn.
I bravely ignored “Nuts on Clark” (a brilliantly bizarre name) for the next four and a half hours. But I couldn't help but notice that the line was always long – really, really long. What was the hullabaloo about? That’s when I cracked. I had to have some. The woman in front of me raved. The guy two behind rhapsodized about the popcorn. Both said I should get the mix of caramel and cheese. I listen to the masses, I was ready to order.

As I waited and waited in line, it became clear why I was there. There was one cash register. It was obvious, that they needed at least two, if not three. But – and here’s the genius of their operation – by generating a long line, they created the illusion that everybody was “nuts” for popcorn. And we all fell for it because if the line was that long, well, it must be something special.
Let’s also be clear – overall, I thought the product was less than fabulous. Mind you, the caramel corn was addictive but the cheese popcorn left an awful orange residue on my hands. It was gross. And I won’t even tell you the ridiculous amount I paid for it. Given its “famous” designation and the number of die-hard fans I met in line, I was, and still am, in the minority.

Which brings us to the Purple Cow. While I was gone I read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. The title tells the premise of the book. Godin’s inspiration came from going to France and being “enchanted by the hundreds of storybook cows grazing on picturesque pastures…” But after awhile, everyone stopped noticing the black and white cows because, “what was amazing was now common.” Then he thought, what if his family spotted a Purple Cow? A Purple Cow would stand out. A Purple Cow would be, well, remarkable.
“Nuts on Clark” seems to have figured out how to be a Purple Cow. What is it that can make your church a Purple Cow and stand out from all the other churches that are on every other block?
-  Is yours a space where the “Other” is welcome? (For a challenging read, get Will Willimon’s excellent, Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love.)
-  Do you have a deeply spiritual practice that is offered on a weekly basis?
-  Are you reaching the spiritual needs of people at other times besides Sunday morning?
-  Are you recognized for the significant outreach work you are doing in the community?
How are you remarkable? Do others recognize your remarkableness as well? Again, the Purple Cow is only noticed because it’s standing out in a field of all the other black and white cows. And, somebody notices. Just as Jesus says in Matthew 5 in The Message:
You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.” Your being different and special should be celebrated.
Bottom line: be who you are and be remarkable at something.
Be a Purple Cow for God.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She is swearing off orange cheese popcorn for good but feel free to ply her with the caramel stuff. She was the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.