Do you know Jesus?
I am not against street evangelism. In fact, I’m for about anything that pushes us away from the proverbial “table” and encourages us to share our faith with our world.
A few weeks ago I was sitting on a bench on the Atlantic oceanfront with my computer, taking advantage of some free Wi-Fi that was being beamed onto the boardwalk by a local resort. A homeless man walked past me and sat on the bench next to me. At least I think he was homeless. He had a couple of plastic bags full of what appeared to be his worldly possessions. Within seconds a small group of people passed and a tall man reached out to the man on the bench with a small religious tract. He said, “Here, you might want to read about Jesus tonight.” As the group walked away, the man on the bench stared at the tract, then laid it aside when his friend came to sit with him.
Several thoughts occurred to me. I wondered if I should interrupt the two men, who were now deep in conversation, and in the spirit of the Evangelist Philip in his encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch ask, “Do you understand what you are reading?” It also occurred to me the group has passed me by without giving me a tract. Did I look like I didn’t needed Jesus, already knew Jesus, or was beyond hope? But mostly, what I had just witnessed seemed rather cold.
I checked my self-righteous attitude by acknowledging the fact the group had at least addressed the subject of Jesus while I had done nothing. So who am I to judge?
Then just days ago I was on another bench, borrowing a restaurant’s free Wi-Fi, and working on a sermon when a group of teens approached me. They had a brown paper bag and asked me if I wanted some goodies. I might have had I not just passed through a nearby candy shop and tried every sample in the place (do you see a pattern here?). They invited me to a movie that was showing up the street and I quickly discerned they were a church youth group drawing people to a Christian event. I told them I was a believer preparing a sermon and while I appreciated the offer I didn’t want them wasting their gift on me. I wasn’t being completely honest because a part of me would have liked to have eaten whatever was in the bag. Then, instead of walking away they asked me if there was anything they could pray about for me. Believe me, I had plenty of needs at the time, but I graciously told them I was fine and they told me to have a great evening and walked away.
Again, I checked my self-righteous attitude by acknowledging the fact I had refused an offer of prayer because I preferred to live independently at the moment.
Then I began to analyze my experiences. The second experience was certainly better than the first, but why? Here is what I determined:
In the second experience, I was chosen regardless of how I appeared, or how approachable I seemed. I didn’t feel targeted.
In the second experience, I was offered something I wanted. A goodie in a bag might not have been what I needed, but it sounded good. In some circles this is called a “felt-need.” Regardless of the term used, the second group had thought through how they could gain a hearing.
In the second experience, I was told what to do next. I could go to the movie up the street where I would have undoubtedly heard more about Jesus.
In the second experience, a group of teens stopped to talk to me in person and offered to pray for me, even after they found out I already knew the Lord.
Oh, and I should have mentioned. The group on the boardwalk talked and laughed amongst themselves while one man gave out a tract. In my second experience the whole group of teens stood and listened to my conversation. I was the center of attention.
These are just small frames of time, and a number of factors could have impacted my perception one way or another. But I am still contemplating my second experience as I think about how I can reach out to the “one” God has prepared for me today.
What do you think you can do to gain a hearing from your “one?”