Evangelism is about spreading the Gospel, being a witness for Christ. However, somewhere along the way we confused evangelism with sandwich board clad street preachers frothing condemnatory fire and the kitschy Jesus Junk so prolific in Christian retail. For instance, Kerusso (maker of this Blood Donor shirt and similar “witnessing tools”) has trademarked the slogan “Change Your Shirt. Change the World”. Yet if it were that easy, our world should have been changed a long time ago.
This notion that slogans, jingles, trinkets, bumper stickers, and Bible thumping can change the world is symptomatic of our soundbite culture. And a serious drift away from personal responsibility. Rather than seeing evangelism as part of a continuum toward discipleship, a slow, sacred process wherein we befriend others, pray, listen, reason with them, and trust God for growth, we’ve reduced it to an ad campaign or marketing ploy, a shirt we change, a keychain we dangle, a billboard we erect or a commercial we air.
There are so many forms of bad evangelism it’s hard to know where to begin.
Getting people’s attention and then sucker-punching them with the Gospel is bad evangelism. Often called “interruption marketing.” This might be okay if we’re selling laundry detergent or Viagra. But eternal life? Attaching a Gospel tract to everything we do reduces us to propagandists.
Not respecting other peoples’ personal space is bad evangelism. Jesus did not get in peoples’ faces too often, so why should we? If someone’s not interested, then back off! Likewise…
Force-feeding the listener, irrespective of their interest or spiritual hunger, is bad evangelism. If we did this to our kids they’d either get fat or throw-up.
Not listening to peoples’ hurts, fears and objections is bad evangelism. If the objective of evangelism is to connect the Gospel with people, then understanding where those people are at spiritually and emotionally, is essential to making that connection. But that means taking time and listening…
Bad evangelism is more about words than works, it relies on saying the right things rather than living the right way. Didn’t Jesus say to “let your light shine before people in such a way that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16)? How is it that we’ve come to see evangelism in terms of what we say, not who we are? Last I checked, “light” was seen and not heard.
Detaching discipleship from conversion is bad evangelism. Getting saved is just the start. Yet too many evangelistic efforts present conversion as the final step. In this way, the evangelist leaves the messy business of helping someone grow in Christ to others.
Bad evangelism employs hype and makes unsubstantiated claims about Christianity. Gosh, hearing some people present Christianity you’d think it was a miracle cure to just about everything. The truth is, getting saved will not necessarily heal your marriage, make you prosperous, eliminate your worries, or control dandruff.
Asserting religious questions into any possible conversation is bad evangelism. Shoe-horning Bible verses into every discussion makes you rude, not righteous.
Hijacking cultural symbols, sayings and icons, and exploiting them for our purposes is bad evangelism. Can’t Christians think up anything new? Must we always use the Nike swoosh, the Gold’s Gym logo, or the Taco Bell Chihuahua to make our point? Egads! We’ve become an industry of copycats. Memo to believers: Be original!
Okay, so it’s a peeve of mine. How about you? Any examples of bad evangelism?