As a woman, I cannot express the frustration I feel when I am waiting in a mile-long line to use the restroom at some event. I watch the men walk straight into their restroom and back out again before I’ve even moved a foot forward. Most women chalk up our extra lineage to the added work of “up-down-turn-around” to use the facilities, our need to travel in packs or our decision to actually wash our hands. In recent travels to the ladies room though, I have noticed a pattern that may hold the truth about why women’s restroom lines are so much longer than men’s! Women get tunnel vision- literally. Restroom stalls typically face each other and women wait until the previous occupant is completely removed from their stall and down the hallway before they even approach the open stall. This creates a situation of numerous open stalls that women simply don’t see from around the corner of the waiting line. There are open stalls and no communication as to which ones are free, thereby creating a situation of inefficient teamwork and communication. Wait for it…this really does relate to our sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others!
As Christians we seem to get into this rut of waiting for God to reveal this one person to us. We wait for the right timing, the right feel to the moment, the right words to say and before you know it we’ve done nothing more than wait and miss door after door that has been opened to us. We get tunnel vision around wanting the details of sharing our faith to be perfect and end up missing the opportunities right in front of us.
In college, one of my psychology professors taught about the Bystander Effect. The Bystander Effect is the phenomenon in which the larger the group of people the less likely those individuals are to respond to an emergency that occurs directly in front of them. With others present there is what is called “diffusion of responsibility.” This occurs because people feel less pressure to take action and believe that any response should be shared among all the bystanders. When others around us do not respond, we follow suit and also do not respond.
Women in the restroom wait around the corner from the tunnel of stalls for others to move forward. Bystanders at the crosswalk wait for someone else to help the elderly woman in need across the street. Christians at the moment of opportunity wait for someone else to tell the story of Christ taking our sins and providing us instead new life through faith. You see, when we start this trend of waiting for the perfect circumstance to share our faith, we set ourselves up for failure.
Think about the last time you had to wait for an event to occur. I recently ran a 5K- I had been training all summer, getting pumped up talking with my team of friends, picking out the perfect outfit, breaking in my new shoes…and then the 5K was over. I walked away from the finish line and my next thought was “what is for lunch.” Really- all of that training and waiting and planning and that was my first thought? I had prepared for the event, not the transformation. Sometimes when we teach about evangelism with our students we teach them what to say in a certain type of conversation, but what happens after the conversation? What’s the goal of the conversation? Are we training our students to wait for the event or to live a life of training?
There are times for being patient and waiting, but sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is NOT one of them! When we wait for something we build ourselves up for what will be a fleeting moment…a moment we will move forward from quickly. God calls us to share the Gospel without pause, without perfection, and without prodding.
Instead of waiting in line for the restroom…anticipate the next open door.
Instead of waiting for a perfect moment to share the Good News…anticipate the next open door.
Instead of assuming another person will help in the midst of an emergency……commit to respond as best you can.
Instead of assuming another person will tell that person about Jesus Christ giving his life for theirs…commit to respond as best you can.
Instead of waiting for the event to start…dream about how you will be changed and change others.
Instead of waiting for the moment of sharing the Gospel…dream about how you will be changed and change others.
What are you waiting for? God’s message of grace, love and redemption is worth sharing without the wait! Look up the Bystander Effect and try it out with your students. Ask them what they are waiting for!
Challenge: When have you fallen into the Bystander Effect in sharing the Gospel? What plan do you have to know your response before the opportunity to share the Gospel is even presented to you?
Have you seen the phenomena of the Bystander Effect? How about when it comes to sharing your faith? What ways have you overcome or helped others overcome this tendency?