The Inverse Bystander Effect
Nov 8, 2019  |  Pastor Rob Fuquay

“…you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35

There is a condition known as The Bystander Effect which says a person is more likely to help a victim when alone than when others are around. The more bystanders, the less likely anyone is to act. I suppose an example might be the story I told in last Sunday’s sermon about Colts player Kenny Moore stopping to help Max Dickson whose dog had been hit by a car. People looked to see what happened but no one stopped to help, except Kenny. He was an exception to the rule, uh, effect.

Which brings up a good point. Is there an inverse principle to the Bystander Effect, where if one acts, others are motivated to do the same? I believe so. One example might be my recent (inaccurate) telling of a story about the Iowa State student who held up a sign on national television asking for beer money and ended up collecting more than $3M to give to a children’s hospital. I reported, based on information I read, that people gave much of that money as a result of the sign. I have learned since that’s not true. Some gave hundreds of dollars which the young man thought was crazy, so when he announced he would buy one case of beer with it and give the rest to the hospital, the big dollars started rolling in. In other words, the generosity of the man inspired the same in others.

Yesterday I read an old email I saved from one of our members. Let me share it with you:

"Maybe because I have been volunteering at the Food Pantry, I have been trying to be more aware of the needs of people around me. So today, I had one of those chance encounters at the grocery store. There were three of us in line with baskets full of food and a man who looked a little down who got in line. When he got ready to pay, he did not have enough money and was going to put one thing back. I told him I would pay for it and the man behind me said that he was getting ready to say the same thing. Then the woman in front of me said she was closer and already had her debit card out. The man refused to let us pay but was profuse in his thanks and actually looked a little stunned. When it was my turn to be checked out the cashier said he had never seen customers arguing over who got to pay for someone else’s food."

This Sunday we will look at a story that gives us a brief glimpse of the spirit in the early church. We will hear how the amazing generosity of people inspired others to do the same and was the reason a man, Barnabas, gave all the proceeds from the sale of personal property to the church. What do you call that? Inverse Bystander Effect? Maybe it's just living the way God means for us to.

See you Sunday,