First, want to let you know that I take my Christian faith seriously. I believe that Jesus has made a significant positive difference in my life to the extent that I would want that for anyone and everyone that I know and meet. That being said, I think that there are ways that we Christians share our faith that are completely ineffective. Sometimes we use the language of our faith that is completely alien to the person we are speaking to. Maybe they’ve never been to a church. Maybe they are a member of another faith. Maybe their experience in church is negative and our choice of words reminds them of the things they don’t like about Christianity. Sometimes our approach is more about focusing on how “bad” they are and using scare tactics. There are lots of ways that our approaches make assumptions about these people that doom our efforts to failure even before the first word leaves our mouth.
I have a Christian friend that had an encounter with another Christian and told about it on Facebook. His story made me think about ineffective evangelism. Here is the content of his original post:
Cashier: "You know why your life is so bad? You haven't invited Jesus into your heart." Usually, I can ignore such things. But not today. First, it's poor theology. Second, all I did was bring a box of toaster strudels to her register. Third, how can anybody think this is effective?
Here is his follow-up post:
It's terrible evangelism, especially for those who aren't a person of faith. And that doesn't even begin to touch on the idea of a petty God. That said, I did talk to her. My biggest issue though is how aggressive, dismissive, and arrogant that kind of statement is.
When I hear about stories like this, I have a couple of reactions. I think my first is to ask myself “How could I have fun with this situation?” And when my better Christian instincts kick in, I think about what would be the best way to engage this lady to let her know that she might want to reconsider her approach. This was my initial reaction:
Great that you talked to her. She assumed many things about you. The best thing you could do is to share your faith with her and try to guide her to a better way of evangelism. The most fun this to do would be to treat her the way she treated you, like a godless heretic that needs to be baptized on checkout lane 4.
My first follow-up took this in another direction:
You could have also told her that you had Jesus in your heart and then asked her why your life was still so bad. So many ways to have fun with this. I'm also reminded of the almost cliché way that everyone that has ever been on a mission trip says they were expecting to be a minister to people but ended up being ministered to. You had a chance to give her one of those experiences and I hope you did. Jesus wasn't condescending when he spoke to the poor and unfortunate. We as Christians shouldn't either.
I stepped away from the post for a while. But while I was away, a little story formed in my head taking this encounter to an extreme. Here is the fictional series of responses I came up with:
“Thanks ma’am. You know, I was about to go home and kill myself with this delicious box of toaster strudels but now I’m gonna go home and feed them to my kids instead. I know I can’t leave here without Jesus in my heart and I know can’t do that without saying that magical sinner’s prayer. I don’t know that sinner’s prayer. You know why? “CAUSE I DON’T GOT JESUS IN MY HEART! Can you say that sinner’s prayer with me?”
“Ma’am? Can you baptize me? Right here and now! I NEED TO BE BAPTIZED! You’ve got some bottles of Dasani over there they should be ok. I’M NOT LEAVING THIS CHECKOUT LANE UNTIL I’M BAPTIZED! HOW CAN I HAVE JESUS IN MY HEART UNTIL I’M BAPTIZED? What if it DIE on the way home? Would you want my blood on your hands?”
“Do you believe in foot washing? I do. I don’t believe I can really have Jesus in my heart until my feet are washed. Would you wash my feet? There are more bottles of Dasani over in the drink aisle.”
“Can I bring my kids back up here and have you baptized them? They are really unhappy. They say it’s because they don’t have an X-Box but I think it’s because they don’t have Jesus in their heart. And my wife too. She really doesn’t have Jesus in her heart. I think she has the DEVIL in her heart. Can you perform an exorcism?"
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