My daughters announced to me last week that they were going to downtown Sacramento on Saturday morning with some of their friends to give homeless people coffee and donuts. This wasn’t an official youth group activity; this was just a bunch of kids wanting to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
I asked them, “Are you just feeding them, or are you going to talk with them too?”
This always brings up an interesting response- actually, a polarized response. People, in my opinion are usually ready to do too much or too little. They are either planning on saying nothing, or pelting them with tracts and unsolicited Gospel presentations.
Where’s the answer?
I’m pondering this a little more than usually at the moment, because the last few days I’ve been adding the finishing touches on the participants’ guide to the new Zondervan/Youth Specialties DVD curriculum I’m writing, teaching young people how to share their faith without scaring their friends away.
The curriculum is almost to the production stage. I asked your input on titles a while back, and this week the publisher made the final choice (UPDATE TO THIS BLOG- they changed the title AGAIN! So this now reflects the new title).
Then they’re gonna add the subtitle: Sharing Your Faith Without Being Pushy
(Don’t ask me when the curriculum will be released. I really don’t know. We’re shooting the video in two weeks.)
It’s been a fun process writing this content and trying to find the difference between spirit-led boldness and plain ol’ pushiness. Personally, I tend to be a little less confrontational one-on-one. Knowing that, I sent a copy of this DVD script to my buddy Greg Stier (who I respect greatly) over at Dare 2 Share Ministries (very bold!) and had him take a look at it. He liked it, but encouraged me to make a few tweaks. I agreed on every instance.
Evangelism is one of those bizarre things that so many people do so differently. We’ve all seen the extreme examples: people holding signs that read REPENT THE END IS NEAR, people standing on street corners yelling into bullhorns, people handing out deceptive tracts (a fake $20 bill with a message on the back, “Don’t worry, this is much more valuable than gold or silver…”)
We’ve also seen the polar opposite: sitting and doing nothing, or just feeding people with our lips sealed tightly, except to mutter a questionably accurate quote from St. Francis of Assisi.
Where’s the balance between pushiness and silence?
My wife Lori had a great experience during Easter break earlier this year. She went with our church youth group to the “Tenderloin” in San Francisco to serve with a local rescue mission. This district full of “single room occupancy” residences (dare I say “slums”) has a reputation of drugs, alcohol, and prostitution.
Lori and a bunch of junior higher students went door to door in some of these single room occupancy locations doing “meal delivery.” The concept was simple. They knocked and said, “Meal delivery.” When someone answered the door (usually high, sometimes naked), Lori and the kids would greet the person, shake their hand (these people weren’t used to being touched), then hold out the meal and say, “We have a free meal for you from the local rescue mission.” The people weren’t required to hear a sermon or listen to a pitch—it was just a warm greeting and a free meal, no strings attached.
Most often people were eager to get the free meal and many said thanks. One of the rescue mission workers that Lori was really impressed with—a 18 or 19-year-old kid named Vince—would usually reach out his hand at this point and place it on the shoulder of the person they were visiting and sincerely ask, “Do you have something you’d like me to pray for?”
Lori said that about 80% of the people would share a prayer request. Vince would always say, “Well let me pray for you right now.” And would pray with them in the doorway.
Many of these conversations led to talking about Jesus and his message of love and grace.
Funny, I don’t find it necessary to be pushy with the Gospel message… but I don’t find it Biblical to be silent.
Hmmmmm. That balance again!