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BB King on the Pew study showing the decline of religion in America

June 2, 2015

OK, sure, the late blues guitarist did not actually comment on the Pew study, I know that.  The poor man was on his death bed when it was released.

I saw BB King in concert in the late 60s when I was in college.  Those were my pre-Christian days and I had seen, and was a big fan of, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin, etc.  Growing up in a northern, largely white, community I had not heard of BB King until some of those people began to refer to him in their concerts.

When I finally saw him in concert I was blown away by both his talent and his ability to evoke emotion with his music.  I remained, and still remain, a big fan of his.  Which is why, after his recent passing, I read a lot of the online obituaries of him.  One that struck me had this quote of his in response to a question as to why he went into blues:

“Growing up on the plantation there in Mississippi, I would work Monday through Saturday noon, I’d go to town on Saturday afternoons, sit on the street corner, and I’d sing and play.

“I’d have me a hat or box or something in front of me. People that would request a gospel song would always be very polite to me, and they’d say: ‘Son, you’re mighty good. Keep it up. You’re going to be great one day.’ But they never put anything in the hat.

“But people that would ask me to sing a blues song would always tip me and maybe give me a beer. They always would do something of that kind. Sometimes I’d make 50 or 60 dollars one Saturday afternoon. Now you know why I’m a blues singer.”

We evangelicals make a big deal about evangelism.  I am in the middle of leading an adult Sunday School discussion on the subject right now.  Yet, somehow in a typical American way we’ve turned evangelism into an enterprise with formal outreach programs, detailed methodological training, and endless exhortations from the pulpits.

I can’t help but think that Mr. King may be right.  Perhaps we should make our evangelism nothing more complicated than meeting people where they really are, taking the time to know and appreciate them as they actually are, and expressing that appreciation in a tangible way.

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