In the book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller tells the story of a terrible evangelistic idea that turned out surprisingly well. The setting: Reed University, a private liberal arts college in Portland where Miller and his ragtag band of Christian friends met. One day he jokingly suggested that they build a confession booth to reach the lost on campus—a booth where students would come and confess their sins. His friends took him seriously.
However, instead of taking confessions, they decided to make confessions. They would apologize for the Crusades and televangelists and such. They’d also ask forgiveness for personally setting a poor example of Christ.
The day before they erected the booth, Miller and his friend Tony put on monk suits and invited fellow students to come to the booth. They did this during an annual university-wide drunken festival—not exactly an atmosphere conducive to evangelistic success.
The next day, once they constructed the booth, Miller sat inside waiting for people to enter. He thought no one would. Finally, one by one students began coming in. About thirty people entered the booth that day, and more met with Tony outside.
Many who came felt inspired by the earnest display of humility and love. They wanted to know more about Jesus. The confession booth outreach began a wave of interest in God and the Bible around the campus. Miller and his friends became a major influence for Christ—at a very secular university, of all places.
We learn from this story that evangelistic success consists of three key elements:
We must be willing to put ourselves “out there,” so to speak—to step out of our comfort zones. Not that we have to wear monk suits and build confession booths. But we must make our faith known in some way (Matt. 5:14-16) regardless of whether we feel like it and regardless of the environment.
The world expects Christians to be judgmental. When they find the opposite, they are inspired to look inward and admit their own sins. Humility is infectious (Matt. 11:29), and it causes people to lower their guard. It’s the best approach. As Jesus said, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (Jas. 2:13).
Action trumps inaction every time. If you have an evangelistic impulse, follow it, even if you think it’s a terrible idea. At least you’ll be doing something. God determines evangelistic success in terms of the amount of effort made, not the number of souls saved (Isa. 55:11).
Tou never know, your “terrible” idea could draw many people to Christ. The only way you’ll know is to give it a try!