Ugly Evangelism

I chose the word "ugly" for my title because it was less offensive then the word I really wanted to use. That word was "condescending". Up front this is going to be a strange blog, and I'm not sure what I want you all to get from it which is always a dangerous thing. But I do want to explore what goes on in evangelism so that hopefully we can be better at it.

You see, about two weeks ago I was evangelized to for the first time. It was right before my trip to Mexico, and so I had part of the day off from work. A couple of guys came by from a city-wide prayer breakfast that I had attended, and so I gladly let them into my home.

We small-talked for awhile, which was expected. Then the conversation abruptly switched tones, also slightly expected. They started asking me questions about my faith. They first asked me how my relationship was with God, and I told them it was pretty good. They then asked if I daily read His word and prayed, and I said "Yep, I've got a prayer journal and everything that I daily use." The next question they asked was, "If you died today, do you think you would go to heaven?" And I exclaimed with perhaps a bit too much gusto, "Heck yeah I would!" That's not an issue I struggle with, so why try to act all concerned that I'm not going? Then they said, "Well why do you think that?" By this point I'm starting to get a bit wary, and knew they were trying to figure out my angle on religion. Was it because I was baptized? Predestined? I was a good person? Knowing all the possible answers I tried to answer with one I thought worked pretty well and said, "Well I don't think its anything I've done really, and really its God's grace and mercy that He has given me."

Ok, till this point I'm having a perfectly uncomfortable conversation with two guys I don't know about God. I'm ok with this, although I do realize that this model is quirky and that if I ever do such a thing I think I'd slow things down a bit and not make everything awkard in only five minutes time.

But then they broke out the dreaded tract! You know the ones. They then preceded to show me some nice pictures how I'm on one plateau and God is on another, and there is this big abyss between us because of sin. And so, all in picture form, they then tell me we need a bridge to cross and...turn the page...there is the cross so I can walk over it and be with God. How nice.

Ok, my sarcasm may be seeping through but for good reason. By this point I felt insulted and had become extremely quiet. For one thing, I had told them I thought I had a strong faith, and even that I was going on a mission trip the next day. But rather than listening to what I had said, they instead insisted on listening to their version of the gospel story. But, to make matters worse, they then boil my intelligence down to a sixth grade level and show me lovely pictures about how I'm separated from God. Is this how we really want to reach programmers, lawyers, doctors, and anybody else with an education?

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate their efforts. But had I been an atheist or agnostic I would have been turned off. In fact, I probably wouldn't have had the patience to sit through it and would have really told them how I felt. So how do we evangelize? I'm not sure. I think part of the answer starts by believing that people are deep, real people who can't change everything in a matter of moments by us knocking on their doors. Perhaps by each of us reaching out to those we already have relationship with instead of sending people out creating uncomfortable situations. Perhaps by embracing people's intelligence, and realizing that we may have to deepen our faith to answer their tough questions.

Thoughts? Ideas?


kteachjoy said...

So were they under the impression that your sins were not "bridged" by the cross?

Kari said...

Interesting points you raise, Blake. I often feel the same way when I visit churches considered "seeker" churches. I feel like things have been dumbed down and, much like you mentioned about pictures, I wonder if people think that Christianity can be accomplished by neverending moments of a spiritual high. But yet these churches have people coming by the thousands to hear something that I would consider just a shallow glimmer of God and his Word. But they still come.

It's hard to go backwards from being so far into God. On some level, those men may have turned you off by their evangilism, but think how many people need those charts and graphs to get to the level on which you are in order for your personal evangilizing to even make an impact.

I'm learning my own version of this daily when my kids don't understand some math concept that I've known like the back of my hand for years. I have to go backward beyond the level of insulting, and even then do I only get a few light bulbs coming on.

ann said...

I become skeptical at the 2 on 1 method. It's normal for a person to go on the defense if they feel they're being ganged up on.

And I love the key question there-- "If you die tonight...". It's totally a set up; you can't give the "right" answer. You're either admitting you're unsure of your salvation or over-confident in your spirituality. I wish I could have heard your "heck yeah", because I'm sure it was accompanied with your trademark laugh. :)

It seems like "friendship" with an agenda, ya know? How can you trust that?

Blakewell said...

I'm not really sure what they were under the impression of. And I understand Kari's point in that often we need to start people off with milk, but perhaps I wasn't quite clear in what I was trying to say. Part of what I was after was that they didn't try to reach me where I was at. I wanted to grow and find ways to be more spiritually disciplined. They didn't seem to hear anything I had said and continued on with their tried spiel about the simple message of the gospel. While I appreciate that message, I had already indicated that I had traveled down that path many years ago. Perhaps it just shouldn't feel like a door-to-door sales pitch?