Okay, this should be interesting, you’re thinking.
Actually, it’s a true story.
I had lunch with my friend David Harrison today. He is the founder of Bus Stop Bible Studies, a ministry dedicated to getting Biblical messages before the transit-riding public. He was telling me about a conference he attended recently, during which one speaker told the story of having to decide, as the manager of a Christian television station, whether or not to air Jerry Springer. Why was that an issue? Apparently, the investors liked Rush Limbaugh, and the station could only buy Rush if they also bought Jerry. After much prayer and consideration, the manager decided to go ahead.
Because her neighbour at her cottage caught more fish than she did.
Okay, now I’m confused, you think. Read on.
In the state she lived in, it was “the thing to do” to have a cottage, and all the necessities to go fishing. So she purchased all that she needed, and went fishing, but never caught anything. Why? she wondered. She remarked to herself that her neighbour always had loads of fish. So she asked him what was the secret to his success.
“To catch the fish, you’ve got to fish in dark waters, and use smelly bait,” he said, matter-of-factly. And with that, he handed her a mittful of leeches!
As momentarily unpleasant as that probably was, it was just the lesson she needed for her TV station: if you’re going to reach people, you’ve got to meet them where they are. So she agreed to run Jerry Springer, late at night, on her Christian station. She made a deal with the people that ran a local prayer centre to scroll its phone number across the screen during Jerry Springer, so that people needing prayer could call and receive help.
The phone lines were jammed. The calls were too numerous to take. All of a sudden, running Jerry Springer on Christian TV was a ministry. It worked.
David reflected on this with me with these verses: “One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers – Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew – fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!’ And they left their nets at once and went with him” (Matthew 5.18-20, NLT). Where did Jesus go to find his friends, and what was his bait?
Jesus went to where the people were, and he ‘baited’ them with a God-sized vision of the Kingdom. It was so compelling that they dropped the work they were doing and immediately followed.
All followers of Jesus can learn from this. If we truly want to be effective in our desire to reach out with the Good News, we need to be where the people are – sometimes in seedy places. Jesus did this all the time: he was accused of hanging around with tax collectors and women of ill repute and the like. Why? Because sick people are the ones who need a doctor. Folks who are far from God are the ones who need the Gospel.
If Bibles remain only in churches or people’s homes, how will others hear? That’s why Christian Television should air Jerry Springer, and why the Bible should be on the buses.