Good Idea, Bad Idea: Evangelism

The following post was inspired by the sketch “Good Idea, Bad Idea” from the popular cartoon Animaniacs and my recent trip to Memphis.

There are two ways to approach evangelism: the good way and the bad way.  While there are several sub-categories of what makes your evangelism style good or bad, I will give you two examples of things that I witnessed last week while I was in Memphis.

Bad idea: Shout the Gospel on Beale Street.

Our first night, we ventured down to Beale Street.  I’m sure at one point, Beale Street was the exciting hub of the nightlife and live music scene in Memphis, but I was not impressed.  For instance, the paramedics had to bring out the stretcher to wheel off a drunk guy at 10:30.  For most, the party hadn’t even started yet.

As my wife and I walked along Beale Street dodging street vendors offering jello shots, glow sticks, and 40-ounce beers, I noticed an older man holding a sign on a 10-foot pole.  Curiosity kicked in, so we ventured over to get a closer look.  The 4-foot by 4-foot sign depicted Jesus being flogged by the Romans, and the writing called us to repent of our wickedness and sin.

I thought the guy was just going to stand there holding his sign, but after a few seconds he climbed atop his step stool, waved his Bible, and started shouting about our “demonic practices and Satanic rituals.”  Not only had this guy prepared by making a sign, but he also brought his step stool and memorized a sermon.  This guy was serious.

Naturally, I snapped a picture with my cell phone and sent it to the world via Twitter.  Hundreds of people passed by this guy, and I think that I was the only one who even cared to pay attention to him – not because I wanted to hear the message of salvation that comes through repentance, but because this humored me.

Good idea: Show Jesus to a stranger at Starbucks.

The next morning, while my wife and I were enjoying our breakfast sandwiches and cups of coffee from Starbucks, we noticed a middle-aged lady making the “walk of shame.”  You could tell by her slumped shoulders, glossy eyes, and discontent that the prior night was her enemy.  She crossed the street and settled down beneath an umbrella on the patio (I didn’t blame her, because it was already 90 degrees outside by 9:30 AM).

She was empty-handed.  No purse.  No phone.  No money.  She just sat there and waited for the minutes to pass more quickly.  As she sat, another fellow followed behind her and took a seat on the opposite side of the patio.  It seemed as if the prior night had been rough for him, to0.  Within seconds a Good Samaritan walked up and started talking to the woman for a few seconds.  He turned and began talking to the other man on the patio.  As they conversed, this Good Samaritan pulled out a sizable wad of cash, gave the man $10, and ushered him inside to get some breakfast.

The Good Samaritan then placed an order for two people.  He got his coffee and his breakfast sandwiches and walked outside to sit with the lady on the patio.  Not only did he buy her breakfast, but he also pulled up a chair, sat with her, and talked with her.

Did that guy talk to her about Jesus? Probably not.

Did that guy act like Jesus?  Yes.

Good idea.

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