In July, the Relevant staff and I were pimping our wares at a large Christian retail industry convention in Atlanta. Outside of the convention center, which drew about 12,000 attendees, mostly Christian, there were two men holding large white signs with black lettering.
“PRAY FOR REVIVAL!” the signs said, with a web address underneath.
Normally, when I see street preachers I get this slight twinge of “oh man.” But for some reason, when I saw these guys I decided I wasn’t going to criticize. “Lord, we do need revival,” I silently prayed, drove on, and didn’t think twice about it.
Two days later, I was walking down the sidewalk where these two men still stood, still waving their signs and still motioning at cars as they drove by. As I approached, one of them yelled toward me, “Pray for revival brother!” I sheepishly smiled, avoided eye contact, and picked up the pace in my walk. As I passed by him, he turned toward me and yelled again, “Pray for revival BROTHER!” Scared me to death.
A few days later, Chris, one of the guys on staff, attended a Braves baseball game. During the seventh inning stretch the same guy appeared, but this time running across the field frantically waving a “JESUS LOVES YOU” sign.
Security chased him down, tackled him, and dragged him kicking and fighting off the field.
As Chris told me the story, I shook my head in disbelief. What could go through someone’s mind to make them think doing something like that is in any way positive? Is it really making a difference in eternity? All I can see it doing is giving you a jail record.
Not two days after the Braves game, last Monday, the guys and I were attending the WNBA All-Star Game here in Orlando. Before tip-off, Chris was again telling the story about the Braves game, complete with hand motions. Everyone was dieing laughing – the whole thing was just too bizarre.
As we settled into our seats, hot dogs and sodas in-hand, we were looking at the court noticing just how large these women really are. That’s when the unthinkable happened.
We saw him.
The same guy from Atlanta. The one who yelled at me. The one who got arrested at the Braves game. Somehow, he had gotten down on the floor of the arena, and sure enough he had a large “JESUS LOVES YOU” sign.
He wandered around for a few minutes and found an empty seat behind the basket. As the game started, he held the sign up. Security promptly came and asked him to put it away. He complied. But we all knew he was really there to run.
About four minutes into the first period, there was a foul. As the teams walked down to the opposite end of the court for the ensuing free throws, he crouched. With a shiver of excitement, we knew this was it.
In one swift motion, he was out there, sign fully raised, feet swiftly moving. He bee-lined it for center court, where he stood waving the sign around until a security guard ran out and ushered him off the court.
We were so disappointed! If only the security guard had left him alone, I’m sure he would have shared the Gospel, given an altar call, and people’s lives would have been forever changed. We could have seen a great revival happen in that basketball arena that night. The guy’s sign did say “JESUS LOVES YOU,” after all.
The whole episode, though still somewhat surreal, reminds me of the street evangelists that hang out downtown on Friday and Saturday nights. They stand there, megaphones blazing, holding signs telling every passer by that they’re going to hell if they don’t repent. While this is true, I’ve never once seen these people actually in a conversation. They mainly just stand there and yell through their megaphones.
These people come across as crazy. Why would a non-Christian want to be like them? If this is a life sold out to Christ, they think, count me out.
I don’t recall the passage where Jesus broke the law by running out on the field during sporting events waving stupid signs. I don’t recall Him kicking and fighting when the security guards tackled him. I don’t recall Him screaming at people on the sidewalk to pray for revival.
No, Jesus engaged the lives of people around Him. He spoke truth in love. He dined with sinners and formed relationships with them. He won them through His love, through His forgiveness and mercy. He shared truth, and it drew people. He confronted Pharisees and demons, but loved sinners.
As a Christian I was embarrassed Monday night. No wonder mainstream society treats us as second-class citizens. It’s not because of anything we believe – it’s because the only Christians they see are yelling in megaphones, asking for money on TV, or bombing abortion clinics.
It’s basic marketing, people. We have the best product ever invented – hope, eternal life, and salvation from hell through Christ. It should be the easiest thing to let people know about. There must be a reason Ford employees don’t stand on sidewalks screaming at people about how horrible they are for not driving Fords.
Basic marketing teaches you don’t want your audience to be put off by you. You want them to trust you and trust your message. You’re not trying to push something down their throats; you’re simply letting them know about something they actually want.
I say it’s time we, the Church, the largest and best corporation in the world, start investing a little more thought into our marketing strategy. We have the very thing that everyone on the planet is looking for, whether they know it or not. It’s just a matter of effectively reaching them with our message.
How did Christ do it?
How is He calling you to do it? Just please don’t say it involves megaphones or sporting events.