Public Evangelism Resources
In Behalf of Some of Us
By Shawn Boonstra
Please indulge me for a moment as I plead with the churches of North America in behalf of men like me. We are a quiet but large group who live in your neighborhood. We are fathers, fishermen and football fanatics. (But not all of us are fond of alliteration.) We look forward to weekends, when we cast off our weekday shackles and reclaim a fraction of our boyhood. There is little to no tofu on our menu and no Oprah on our playlist. We like toys (whether motorized or electronic), we won’t back down from a dare, and you know, if we're willing to go to the hospital, that something pretty bad has happened. (And then when we get there, we vacillate between being stoic and wanting someone to fix our boo-boo and give us a cookie.)
And many of us are intensely private.
We prefer to be strong, quiet trees with deep roots. We are guardians. Our bark is thick, and we feel satisfied when we provide shelter for those closest to us. We will shelter you, too, but be careful that you do not try to peel our bark.
It will take you a very long time to breach our rather wide privacy perimeter and gain access to the personal areas of our lives. We do not open up easily. We loathe situations when people are asked to bare their souls or share their feelings - not because we are incapable of doing so, or because we are emotionally stunted, but because we do not know you well enough. You have not earned the right to go there. We only have a few keys to our private lives, and we hand them out sparingly.
That’s also why we will may not show up for your church’s social event or small group Bible study, and if we do, there’s a good chance we’ve been dragged there by someone else. It is our business to prevent vulnerability and protect our families.
There are a lot of us, which is why you still need, with some regularity, to present your message in a public hall, or some other neutral environment where we can slip in and listen - without being asked to wear a name badge. (We'll register, because that makes sense - but we want our privacy after that.) If the meeting involves group exercises or discussions, we’ll probably leave early, and feel less inclined to come a second time.
Don’t get me wrong: we will to respond to the gospel. We don’t mind people who talk forthrightly or who lay out our options in black and white. We might even participate in an altar call - after you've given us time to read your intent. But we’re more likely to make a decision man-to-man in our homes after you’ve earned the right to ask. It’s not going to happen in the first night or even the first week. You’re going to have to work a little harder to win our confidence.
And - if I’ve read my audiences right over the last twenty years - I'm not just talking about men. There are many others who answer to the same description. Nor do all males look like this. But it is a large segment of the male population, and to a large extent, they are missing from your church. We will never lose the need to allow people to investigate our claims from a safe distance, without feeling as if they’ve got to commit before they can listen.
We will never lose the need for public proclamation, particularly with a generation raised as accomplished spectators.
By all means, keep up the small group Bible studies, because they are stunningly productive. And personal, one-on-one Bible study? Very effective with a lot of men - if they have a comfortable relationship with the person they’re studying with. But don’t shut down the evangelistic hall any time soon - even though you sense it’s expensive and labor-intensive. And don’t give up on the idea that you can preach through the internet, or television, or the radio. (You know we love our television.) These are the only ways you’re going to reach a lot of us.
And there are a lot of us.
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