Does Street Evangelism Work?

Posted on: 04/10/09 2:22 PM | by Jonathan McKee

A few weeks ago I read an amazing article from written by a non Christian college student who went undercover as a believer on a missions trip with Liberty University, reaching out to the “lost” people partying during spring break at Daytona Beach, FL . This guy actually enrolled at Liberty (as in “Jerry Falwell’s” Liberty) to learn the inside scoop about evangelicals first hand.

After a few paragraphs I was hooked. I read every word of the lengthy testimonial. This amazing article not only provided amazing insight into the mind of an unbeliever, it proposed glaring questions about the success of this kind of evangelism methodology.

Here’s just a snippet of the article:

When we get to Daytona, Scott guides us through an all-morning training session on the whys and hows of evangelism. We sit on folding chairs in the Sunday School room of First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, our makeshift headquarters, and eat snack-size bags of pretzels while Scott recites the “Great Commission,” the verse that serves as the architectural frame for all missionary work. It’s found in Matthew 28:19, when Jesus says to his disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

“The first thing you should think when you meet anyone,” Scott says, “is ‘Are they saved?'” It’s safe to assume that almost everyone coming to Daytona for Spring Break is unsaved, he says, adding, “It’s a very dark place out there.”

Before we take our evangelical Delta Force to the beach, though, we need to learn how to witness.

There are several words for what, exactly, will be transpiring here. “Spreading the gospel,” “sharing the faith,” and “evangelizing” are all common terms for the act of attempting to convert non-believers, but “witnessing” seems to be the most all-purpose. (I should say, also, that what we’re doing would strike many Christians as odd. Proselytizing to strangers, which one Christian I know calls “cold-turkey evangelism,” is a dying art, and many evangelicals prefer less confrontational methods of proselytizing. But on this trip, it’s all strangers, all confrontation, all day.)

Fascinating stuff! Well worth the 10 to 15 minutes it could take you to read the whole thing.

When I finished the article, I immediately sent it to my friend Greg Stier from Dare2Share, calling him a few minutes later. Greg is passionate about evangelism and I respect his opinion on the subject (many of you have heard our recent podcast together where we talked about evangelism vs. social justice). After a short conversation about the article I told Greg, “You have to write an article responding to this article, because this article demands answers.”

A few days later I had an 8-page response from Greg in my inbox.

I’ll post Greg’s response next week. But I wanted to give you a head start with the Salon article linked above… I encourage you to read it.

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America Becoming Less Christian

Posted on: 03/10/09 10:03 AM | by Jonathan McKee

America is becoming less “Christian” according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Really? I would have never guessed. (sarcasm implied)

75% of Americans call themselves Christian, according to the survey, where in 1990, the figure was 86%. (CNN, March 3, 2009)

I’ve been looking at these stats for years, and they always seemed to land around 80%. Newsweek did a survey a few years ago and 81% of believers called themselves Christian. About 5 years ago I posted an article on our website about reaching out to the “unchurched” and quoted a stat from 1999 when 82% said they were Christian. But as I stated in that article, many of these proclaimed Christians have no idea what this word means. It seems to mean a lot more about the religion that was handed down to them, rather than being a follower of Christ and his beliefs.

I found it fascinating that the CNN article sited a difference between “evangelicals” and others:

The survey also found that “born-again” or “evangelical” Christianity is on the rise, while the percentage who belong to “mainline” congregations such as the Episcopal or Lutheran churches has fallen.

One in three Americans consider themselves evangelical, and the number of people associated with mega-churches has skyrocketed from less than 200,000 in 1990 to more than 8 million in the latest survey.

The article goes on to note an increasing divide between evangelicals and those turning away from “religion” as a whole. fascinating stuff. I encourage you to read it.

It’s interesting to watch religious (and anti-religious) trends. Last year I blogged about Americans treating religion like a salad bar where they take what they want, and leave what doesn’t match their lifestyle.

This is the time of “what’s in it for me?” This mindset creates a huge divide between true followers of Christ and the rest of the world. Christ’s actual followers believe in love, harmony and self sacrifice, where the world believes in lust, “my rights,” and self preservation.

This divide is not a rebellious divide where Christians make a bunch of noise. It’s a divide where people will see hope in the lives of Christ’s followers and notice something different. These Christians will be ready to answer when people ask about the hope that they have (I Peter 3:15-18)

If the people of Christ continue to grow, then the divide will only become larger.


(ht to KJ)

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Greg Stier on Embracing Real Conversations

Posted on: 01/21/09 10:20 AM | by Jonathan McKee

If you haven’t been following the new FOUR MINUTE videos that we’ve been putting up on our front page, we’ve been featuring a new one every three weeks or so.

I love the one we just put up there. Dare to Share’s Greg Stier talks about the need for youth workers to embrace real conversations about theology that matters. In this quick little video, he challenges us to be ready for questions that might even be uncomfortable. He also talks about a tool that will help us initiate these conversations, a brand new reality TV DVD series they offer called The Gospel Journey Maui. We have an exclusive free download of one of the episodes of this cool little show for you on their web site here.

Here’s the FOUR MINUTE video. 

(Click here to see the video if you receive this blog as a feed or email.)

Good stuff!

An Inconvenient Compassion

Posted on: 01/8/09 8:57 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Compassion is so inconvenient.

I flew back from the midwest Monday, I fly out again tomorrow morning for another speaking weekend… this has been a crazy three days. Add to that… “Jack.” That’s what the kids have named the stray that wandered into our life yesterday.

Lori and Alyssa  went on a run yesterday and happened upon “Jack.” He’s a medium sized dog, probably six months old, a little too skinny, unrecognizable as any breed… a mutt by all standards. He ran up to them with no collar, no tags and no worries- tongue out and ready to play. Unfortunately that meant dodging in and out of traffic along the roads.

Lori tried to get him to stop running in the street… but he didn’t always respond when she called to him. Enjoying the freedom, he would run a block ahead, stop, turn, then dart out across the road again, oblivious to the fast moving cars.

“Jack” followed Lori and Alyssa for a mile. Finally Lori burst in our front door and brought me into the loop. “Jonathan, a stray has been following us for a mile. He’s totally stupid. He’s gonna get killed.” (No time for tact.)

My first thought was, “A stray? Today? Isn’t that someone else’s problem?”
Apparently not, because even as I had that thought, we heard tires screech to a halt and a horn blare. Lori said, “See. That’s probably him again. He keeps running into traffic.”

We ran a block, following the sounds of horns and cars slamming on their brakes. As we rounded a corner we saw him- standing in the middle of the street like, ‘anyone want to play?’

He apparently liked Lori, so I told her to call him. She got down in a squat, “Here pup. Here boy.” He cocked his head to the side, paused, then ran full sprint to Lori and enjoyed a good scratching behind the ears. I ran and got a leash from the house and we brought him to our side yard.

Immediately the kids started in with, “How cute.” And “We’ll call him Jack.” And “What if he doesn’t have a home?” All loaded statements!!!

I quickly told them. “Kids. We have two dogs. We can’t keep Jack.” (Dang… I called him Jack!)

The kids were silent. I looked at his stupid little happy face and his brown little eyes. I couldn’t just let him run free in the street. I knew it was a matter of moments before he was gonna be hit.

“We will do our best to find ‘Jack’ his home… or a home.” I added.

So ‘Jack’ is now in our yard. He’s a digger, so we had to moves some rocks around and reinforce some fences. He spent the night in a kennel in our garage, with regular visits from my three kids and Jethro, one of our dogs.

Today now entails taking him to a nearby vet to have him scanned for a chip (Now most dogs have chips implanted in their coat in case they are lost. We’ll check to see if he has one since he has no collar and no tags). My wife called county animal care this morning and left a description of the dog in case someone calls missing him. The next step, if there is no chip… DOG FOUND signs with our phone number and his picture.

Compassion is very inconvenient. We’re hours into this dog already. Why? He was in danger. And no one else cared.

Such is ministry for many of us. Plenty of kids roam our community that would be very inconvenient to reach out to. They don’t have a faith, they don’t have a church home, and in all honesty, they seem content with their freedom.

Some people just ignore them and drive by them. After all… we don’t have much time.

Others might stop and try to make contact. But these strays aren’t always easy to connect with. It takes time and effort.


Compassion is so inconvenient.

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UPDATE: Lori just took “Jack” to the vet to get him scanned. He is chipped. (Whew!) His name is Trooper and he lives about a mile from us. They’ve been looking for him. Heading there now.

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UPDATE: We just dropped him off. His owners were really greatful. They have a collar and tag for him, but had it off. He slipped out yesterday while the owner was working in the yard. It was good to see he had a home.

A Positive Evangelism Experience from an Atheist

Posted on: 12/31/08 2:02 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Greg Stier over at Dare 2 Share just emailed me about a YouTube video he just saw… fascinating!

I don’t know if you are familiar with the comedian Penn, of “Penn and Teller.” They are quite popular. Penn is an atheist and is always quick to point out phonies. In this particular video… he surprised me. He had an experience with a guy in his audience who kindly gave him a Gideon Bible. Penn was very complementary of this guy’s attitude and methodology. That’s huge!

Penn, a self-proclaimed atheist, goes on to argue that if we think someone is going to Hell, we should definitely warn them. He argues that we shouldn’t keep our religion to ourselves. We SHOULD prosthelytize. After all, he says, “If I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it. There’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

Yeah. Very cool.

It takes him a couple minutes to set up his story (he’s very artsy)… but it’s worth the wait. Watch what he says. Good stuff.

(Click here to see the video if you received this via email)

Wow! Good job Mr. Gideon Bible dude! Very cool.

Greg blogged about it as well on his blog today:

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“We” and “Them” at “See You at the Pole”

Posted on: 09/25/08 2:33 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Yesterday morning was an event called “See You at the Pole” (SYATP). Thousands of Christian kids around the country gathered around the flagpoles at their schools to pray… or… to take a stand… it really depends on the group.

Sorry, I just can’t get behind it.

I didn’t even mention the event in our EZINE or in my blogging the past few weeks. I’ve received emails asking me about the event and asking me to publicize it. I haven’t.

Why? Am I a SYATP hater?

I’ve never really verbalized my feelings about the event. My mom taught me… if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all. So for the last couple years I just kept silent. But people are beginning to ask questions. I even was forwarded this blog –SYATP is Stupid! – written from a guy who really doesn’t like the event.

Is this guy a hater?

I hate to admit it… (and I wouldn’t probably title my article like this guy’s), but I can’t disagree with this guy.

Here’s what I have noticed year after year at SYATP. Adults tell Christian kids to go stand at the flagpole and pray for their school. “It’s their right!” The event is “adult driven.”

Now fast forward to the actual Wednesday morning where a kid is standing next to the pole… struggling with one overwhelming thought. “What is everyone thinking of me right now?” Is that what we’re trying to accomplish?

A practice that is supposed to be our communication with God has just turned into a giant struggle with pride. Temptation while standing at the pole is, “Look at me!” not, “Look at God!”

The question I have is simple. Where is the Biblical basis for this event? Because if we look at what the Bible says about prayer, I only find passages talking about how we should NOT pray to be seen by others. Jesus himself said that we should go and close the door to pray.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that anyone who has done SYATP has bad motives. A ton of us have tried SYATP with good motives. I’ve tried it for years. I’ve made videos, spoken at rallies, and encouraged my kids to attend. I think my motives were good. I think many of my kids motives were good. But after observing it for years, I’ve taken a step back and tried to take an honest look at the results. I encourage you to do the same. What did this event accomplish? Did it help my kids learn to pray? Was it helping them be an effective witness for Him? More importantly… ask yourself a bigger question. Why are we encouraging our kids to go do this public display of prayer when the Bible not only doesn’t support it, it seems to speak against it?

What the heck is SYATP? It’s more like SOKUF. Set Our Kids Up for Failure.

A couple years ago my friend KJ went to a local campus to watch it all go down. A handful of Christian students gathered around the flagpole staring at the ground. One of the kid’s friends came up and looked at the ground to see what his friend was staring at. Finally, confused he spoke up. “What are you doing man?”

The Christian kid looked up and said, “Are you a Christian?”

The friend said, “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

The Christian said, “Then get out of here!”

I’ve written articles about SYATP before, trying to not stop the moving train, but maybe guide it to safer tracks. But I’m tired of trying to put icing on the turd. I’m just not pumping it anymore. SYATP breeds a mentality of “us” vs. “them.” It’s not in the literature, but it reeks of, We Christians need to stand up for what we believe… amongst these dirty pagans! Nice. That attitude will bring a ton of people to Christ! (sarcasm intended).

Sorry guys, but I just don’t think Jesus was in the Bible Club at his high school. I think he was in metal shop.

Jesus went away to pray a ton… I just don’t remember it being in front of everyone.

Am I wrong?

Political Evangelism

Posted on: 08/19/08 10:54 AM | by Jonathan McKee

My dad just sent me this from our local Sacramento Bee, a fascinating article about how political campaigns are learning from person to person evangelism models.

This is timely for me. I’m actually pounding hard right now finishing up writing my book on relational ministry with an emphasis on the power of “one-on-one” relationships (just like the Connect seminar we offer).

A little snippet from the article:

When supplicants answering the Rev. Billy Graham’s altar call streamed to the foot of the stage, each would be met by one of the evangelist’s helpers. The pairings weren’t random.

Graham insisted that young women meet young women. Older men greeted older men. Graham understood that the best way to cement the conversion was to show new believers a reflection of themselves within the church.

And then a little further down… (emphasis mine)

The Democrats learned their lesson – they used paid workers who obviously were “not from around here” to do their canvassing – and so this year the Obama campaign is recruiting an “army of persuasion” based on the Bush neighbor-to-neighbor model. At training sessions, “Obama Organizing Fellows” are taught to develop short, personal narratives that will explain to their neighbors how they came to support the Democrat.

It may spoil some of the fun for the newly minted Obama fellows to learn that their device is taken directly from the megachurch. Evangelicals have long known that people come to faith most easily through contact with friends and neighbors, and that one of the most powerful ways to draw converts is for believers to “witness” their faith (Acts 1:8) with personal stories of salvation.  (Click here for the entire article from the Sacramento Bee, 8/18/08)


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What Would it Be Like to Be…

Posted on: 07/4/08 9:24 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I’m not big on forwards… but this video was passed to me and caught my eye.

At first I thought this video was pretty goofy (Okay… it is pretty goofy. It’s pure “Saturday Morning Special” quality… so don’t have high expectations at all)… but I love this subject matter.


Maybe I just liked this because I spent a whole chapter in my “Do They Run…” book talking about this kind of compassion mindset that asks, “What is it like to be….?”

This also reminds me of the subject matter of the Nickelback “Saving Me” video (which we provide a MUSIC DISCUSSION write up on our web site)… a guy who can see people’s “mortality clocks” ticking away above their heads.

Good stuff.

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