Jerry Iamurri
Jerry Iamurri

Why Use Half a Barbecue?


October 2022

One of our Field Directors, Keith, shared with me about an experience he had visiting with a prospective missionary who currently has a thriving street ministry among the homeless in San Diego, California. Twice a week, this evangelist invites the residents of a tent community to come by and enjoy some hot dogs, fellowship, receive care items (clothes, etc.), and participate in a cash raffle.

The day Keith was there, the line stretched on for two hours as people excitedly waited for a chance to enter the raffle, get a bite to eat, and pick out some new clothes. Volunteers mingled in the line to share the truth of God’s amazing and unending love for his people. Keith noticed something interesting, the evangelist and his team only used half of the barbecue for the hot dogs and the other half remained empty. The people preparing the food also worked very slowly. It didn’t seem efficient at all. But, in the midst of the wait, Keith had an opportunity to share the good news of God’s love to an older man who felt so much guilt and shame over his years of drug addiction. The man had disappointed his family and friends, hurt people close to him, and felt crushed over the state of his life. As Keith shared the news that God loved the man with an everlasting love, he began to weep, and a flood of tears streamed down his face. The man confessed his sin and Keith led him to Christ on the spot! There were several more stories of people coming to Christ while waiting in the line. After eating and receiving a free raffle ticket the people would go about their day and return later in the afternoon for the raffle and to hear a short gospel presentation. During the presentation, more people came to Christ.

What was a key to this ministry? Using half of the barbecue. The cooks intentionally prepared the food slowly and carefully so that, in the unhurried atmosphere, genuine conversations could take place. People could tell their stories and be truly heard. Friendships could be formed, and authentic sharing could take place. Why? Because efficiency and hurry can be the surprising and unintentional enemy of evangelism.

One pastor preached that rather than talk about the “steps of Jesus” he wanted to preach about the “stops of Jesus.” The places where Jesus stopped what he was doing and created space and time to minister to someone in need. Think about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment as he was on his way to see a sick child. In Mark 5:34, Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Jesus always knew when to slow down and when to stop to meet the needs of other people. Maybe our lives are too fast? Maybe for the sake of efficiency we sacrifice effectiveness? Maybe there are times when we only need to use half the barbeque.