Next week, I will be joining 60,000+ in the Indianapolis Convention Center for Gen Con, the best four days in gaming. Gen Con is one of the highlights of the year for me, and I am sure that is true for most of the people who attend it. I am fairly sure a lot of those people will encounter a mild annoyance during the convention that will bring the day down just a bit. He was there last year after all, and I am sure that he will be there this year too.
Last year, when I was outside of the convention center from across the street I heard bullhorn guy. Bullhorn guy is the title given to this style of preacher years ago by Rob Bell in his video entitled Bullhorn. If you have ever been in a place with a mass of people assembled, you have probably heard bullhorn guy. This is the guy who stands on a corner and preaches to the masses about salvation, and usually with a fair amount of condemnation. Bullhorn guy was doing his thing, and as I heard him preach, my first thought was “He’s not very good at this.” He was referencing obscure scriptures, he was actively insulting the people he was trying to reach, and he was rambling.
My second thought was a bit of an impish thought. What came into my mind was “I can do it better. I wonder if he would give me a go?” I wanted to go over there, and ask him if I could have a turn. The only reason why I did not was because I had a ten minute walk to and then back from my car to drop off and pick up some games, I had someplace to be in an hour, and I wanted to make it back before the rain started. I was determined to give this a shot though, but the rest of the con I did not see bullhorn guy. As I walked to my car away from bullhorn guy, I thought about what I would actually say if he gave me a turn on his bullhorn. I think the difference I would take is that he was preaching at the Gen Con attendees, and I would attempt to preach to the Gen Con attendees. I would try to relate the gospel that those at Gen Con could relate to. I would have said things like “The kingdom of God is like a Tardis. It is bigger on the inside” or “The love of God is like the force, it surrounds us and binds us together” or “When life seems out of control, remember that even though you roll the dice, it is God who makes it crit.”
Those analogies would not work in the small church that I regularly preach at, because most of that congregation is not I into Dr. Who, Star Wars, or roleplaying games. Yet, at Gen Con I believe that would have been a more effective presentation of the gospel than bullhorn guy’s standard turn or burn stump speech. I want to believe that the heart of the bullhorn guys is in the right spot, but I also sincerely believe that they are doing it wrong. I will even give him a pass on standing on a street corner and preaching at the crowds. There may be issues with that, but as a Methodist it would be hypocritical of me to get down on the bullhorn guy for pulling a move out of the John Wesley playbook. The reason why I think the bullhorn guy is doing it wrong is because he is not delivering the message effectively.
Jesus was an effective preacher. He was incredible at getting to the heart of the matter and delivering truth in a powerful, life changing way. Jesus was a very effective teacher, not just because he told the truth, but because he was relatable. The parables and analogies that Jesus made were ones that his audience instantly connected with. Even if they did not fully understand the depth and nuance of what Jesus was saying, they had a good starting point because the examples Jesus used were pulled from their everyday experiences and their cultural context. Since we are 2,000 years removed in time and culture, we often have to spend a lot of time unpacking what Jesus said. The analogies and parables that would have been common sense and intuitive in the first century need a lot of explanation today, which is often what preachers tend to do. There is even a fancy word for doing this called exegesis.
Good exegesis, explaining what the scripture says in the proper context, is the backbone of good preaching today. However, when it comes to sharing the gospel and our faith we should also learn from the example of Jesus. When we communicate the eternal truth of forgiveness, grace, and salvation we should do it in a relatable way. We should do it in a way that connects with, speaks to, and is received by the people we wish to share God’s love with. This is the same approach that the Apostle Paul used. He explained this in 1 Corinthians where he wrote: “I have become all things to all people s that by all possible means I might save some.”
As I get ready for next week, I am actually praying for the bullhorn guy who will probably be outside the convention center. I pray that he takes this scripture to heart. May he become a geek to love the geeks. I pray that he is able to communicate the love of God and not the judgement of God to the attendees of Gen Con. Finally I pray that if he does not and the Holy Spirit is leading, that this year I have the courage to ask “can I have a go?”