I remember being forced to evangelize on the streets of downtown Winston-Salem with a bunch of other teens from the apologetics summer camp. After sitting through a few lectures on the right questions to ask, the right answers to give, we were split up into small groups and set loose by the bus station. Our minds were swimming with fear and scripture-based acronyms. My group started wandering around aimlessly, passing people and trying to decide when to make a move.
I was the first person from our group to have the guts to go up to someone. I walked up to an older white woman in a suit, standing in a courtyard. “Excuse me, ma’am? Can I ask you a question?” She nodded, and, as instructed, I asked her what she thought would happen to her when she died. Her face suddenly registered rage. She drew back and screamed in my face. “How DARE you! How dare you ask me that? I don’t want to be preached at! Leave me alone!” I was startled and scared. Tears welled in my eyes but did not fall; adults never screamed at me. We backed away quietly and piously said amongst ourselves that we would pray for her.
After another hour passed, we stopped a young black woman on the street. She was the first person who listened to us long enough to hear our full gospel plea. One of the guys asked her if she’d like to pray to accept Jesus. She said yes and, thrilled, we all prayed the Jesus prayer with her. We went back to camp feeling victorious, glad that it wasn’t a total waste, that we could brag to our other friends that we’d been “successful.” Looking back, I think the woman said yes so we would just leave her alone.
When I got back in my room that night, I remember climbing up in my bunk bed and thinking to myself, “If this is how you’re supposed to tell people about Jesus, I don’t think I want to do it ever again. Surely there’s a better way.”