It’s that time of year again, drag queens strolling down main street, the activists groups chanting their slogans, and gogo dancers causing parade float designers nightmares (they just won’t stand still!) Then there is the other 90% of parade people like your neighbor Sarah or cousin Bill and his partner walking along hand in hand. They commit to completing a long parade route to show solidarity with the LGBT community and/or cause represented within that sphere of influence. Common + Unity = Community. Everyone belongs to one (a community), or several (communities ), because we are wired that way.
As I mentioned the other day, I like taking phone calls (when I can) at Exodus and especially like answering questions sent to me via Facebook, privately via email, or through the contact form here on the blog. I would never arrogantly to presume to know everything but I am highly verbal and relational.
I love the idea of exploring answers that people are actually looking for. I want to converse *with* folks, not just talk *at* people. It’s an honor to go on a journey with people. Plus, I always need to learn more along the way.
So a couple of weeks ago I took a phone call at the Exodus office. It was from a man, and for the purpose of this post we will call him Sam. Sam wanted to know what was the best Christian tract or “ex-gay” testimony to hand out at his local gay pride event last weekend. He definitely was well-intentioned. He loves Jesus. He seemed to genuinely love the gay community. And while he was exuberant about “witnessing to the gays” I could tell he was frustrated with his options only being to hand out pieces of paper.
I told Sam that I respected his care and concern. That we were honored that he called. I also shared that as I attempted to answer his question, that I was simply offering brotherly in Christ advice. So I began …
In a nutshell: Leave the little tracts and testimonies on brightly colored paper at home. Don’t make any signs quoting the Old Testament and look to do acts of service instead of bullhorn evangelism.
There was dead silence on the other end of the phone. Then, “Well, what do we do then?”
I said, “Get creative!” I then shared with him two scenarios I had really appreciated over the years. One was several groups have gotten water bottles and either had special labels printed for the bottles or put a little square of a note on a rubber band around the bottle. Those labels or little notes might have had a short blessing on them, the name of the church, and their website on it. All these folks did was hand out water to thirsty gogo dancers and parade walkers for a few hours. They trusted the Lord to inspire parade goers to read that “God Bless you!” and check out their website later. And regardless of who followed up after the parade or not, their only goal was to love and serve.
I also shared that one particular church was downtown and right ON the parade route. I forget which city/town it was (drat!) but they opened their doors and had three signs “Free Water, Free Refreshments (fruit, cookies) and Free Prayer.” They were surprised that a LOT of people not only took the free water and food… they lined up for prayer too! Now, they did have a couple of encounters with parade goers trying to push their buttons. But regardless of what the prayer request was for, they prayed (not preach with their eyes closed) for each person that came to them. They prayed exactly for what was asked (relationships, money, family… everything) and did not presume to manipulate that prayerful moment to impart a personal agenda. They also trusted the Lord to bring whoever He wanted that day and later for follow-up ministry. Their only goal was to serve and bless the people in their community that aren’t used to seeing that, selfless service, from the Church.
Have you ever been to or participated in a parade … any kind of parade … in the summer? You want a nice bottle of water and a light snack at some point. These groups were meeting an actual legitimate need we all can relate to as a benevolent act of service. I don’t think anyone at the parade is shocked that a church handing out water is praying for them and hoping they will visit the website on the label. Yet, I don’t think anyone would be upset that you offered them something they need without any strings or unwelcome sermons. Plus, the Lord is going to do what He is going to do. We can rest and trust Him to work in all of our lives. The reason I LOVE these examples is that it isn’t driven by what has been the religious culture’s expectations that the only way to “witness” to the gay community is to confront and offend them with trite and sometimes mean-spirited tracts and signs. The motivations these groups/churches showed was out of true care and hospitality.
When conservative Christians go to the gay pride parade, with a humble heart and the only expectation is to serve, that’s an amazing opportunity in and of itself. Let’s pour out blessings for the sake of blessing … that’s it. Perhaps the miracle God wants to do that day is in our own hearts. Jesus will save who He intends to save and I can’t think of a more appropriate symbolic and practical act than handing out water to the thirsty.
Sam, was a bit more excited after I shared these stories but he seemed pretty determined that the only way he could successfully evangelize was to hand out a tract or something. I asked him to consider the examples I had mentioned. He said he would.
I really hope he does.