Adventures in Evangelism
By Joseph Ellis
A friend and I were recently reflecting on our evangelistic experiences. He recalled a time as a young adult when he and a Christian friend felt compelled to “witness” to the women who would be attending an upcoming Chippendales event (male strippers). So he and his buddy found suits that looked similar to what these male performers would be wearing, snuck inside the event, and proceeded to hand out witnessing tracks to the women who were waiting for the show to begin. The ladies eagerly took what they were handing out thinking it was all part of the show.
My friend looks back at that with a tinge of embarrassment because he feels he was spreading a message of, “your a sinner,” instead of, “God loves you.” However, there’s another aspect of this story that really sums up 90% of my own experience in evangelism: misrepresenting who you are and what you are doing to spread the message of Jesus.
I don’t have a story as daring as my friend’s, or I would have told it; but my pursuits were no less dishonest. What it typically boiled down to was: I am going to use a normal social interaction to talk with someone, but instead of following the social script he or she is most likely expecting, they’re going to hear about Jesus. Furthermore, because this person engaged in this social contract, I am expecting him to remain polite and listen to what I have to say even though I just hijacked the conversation.
This never felt right, but it was always justifiable because we were trying to lead people to salvation. The only problem is, I don’t see Jesus doing this. Does he break social norms? Yes, all the time; but he never misrepresents who he is or what he is doing to get someone to talk to him. In fact, he never initiates a conversation to tell someone how they can be saved. He was about honest relationship.
On the other hand, I wasn’t about relationship; I was about fulfilling Christian duty, and it wasn’t honest.