Dear inhabitants of the entire world,
I’m sorry that Christians have made everything so weird. I’m sorry that we corner you – without warning- into awkward conversations that you don’t want to have at the most inconvenient times possible. I’m sorry that with zero consideration for you as an individual, we shove what information we have down your throat. What we believe, we want to share with you- but we are by and large CLUELESS on how to share that message and somewhere along the way we have lost that message and because of that, we’ve lost something incredibly vital: Love that considers YOU as more important than ourselves. We have taken the gospel, that is so beautiful and full of hope, and we have turned it into a way to make ourselves feel like we are getting shit done for God. I have seen what it is like to be on your side of things. It’s completely awful and awkward, and I promise you, this isn’t what God ever intended and it has nothing to really do with the gospel- which is simply a message of hope to people who know they are broken.
This post can’t undo all that Christians have done, historically, to make “evangelism” into such a train wreck that we can’t be trusted any longer to enter public establishments and not act like crazy people who have lost all touch with reality. However, perhaps you will at least feel understood and maybe, just maybe for once you’ll hear someone cut the crap- and just be honest with you and admit that we have a problem. So without further ado, I’ll share my experience with getting “evangelized” at my place of employment…. ugh….
There I sat, in my little chair, paid for by the tax dollars of the county that I live in, in the great state of Texas. He came walking down towards me, next in line, with a skip and a smile. Older man with white hair. “I saw you down here, just smiling away and I was SO hoping that you would call me over next!” I gave my typical giggle that I give all the men over the age of 65 who make similar comments to me every day. “Is that right? Well, how may I help you today, sir?” He quickly placed some paperwork in front of me, mumbled what he needed me to do for him, and went right into his agenda for how we were going to be passing the time together, while I worked frantically at my computer.
“You know, when you have the JOY OF THE LORD in your heart, you just can’t help but share that joy with others”, he began. I smiled and nodded, “that’s very true, sir.” At first, I was comforted by the realization that I was sharing my small space with another believer, even if only for a brief time. The second that thought entered my mind, he broke through it with a booming voice, “you know, I used to SMOKE and DRINK all of the time….back before Jesus came into my life… and now I don’t do those things anymore. He saved me from all of those shenanigans!!“ I raised my eyebrows and a knot began to form in my stomach. “funny, because Jesus saved me from fundamentalism to drinking…” I thought, sarcastically to myself.
I didn’t say anything, just kept working away, and so he continued, “you know, when Jesus saved me from smoking and drinking, and that evil life, he made me a PREACHER! Isn’t that something?” I smiled and nodded politely at my computer, feeling our small space getting smaller by the second. ”DO YOU KNOW JESUS?!?!” He was practically shouting by this point. “Is it hot in here? Is he getting louder?” I felt myself getting flush because by this time it felt as if the entire office had completely stopped whatever they were doing to stare at the two of us. “Yes, sir, actually I do.” I made sure that I responded with absolute certainty because surely now that he knew I was a christian, he would back off and just let me do my job. I was wrong….
“Oh, that is WONDERFUL news! Did you know that when you know Jesus you have a triumphant WHALE deep down inside of you and he just can’t HELP but shout that good news to everyone you meet!?”
I have no idea what I even responded externally to that because internally I was just freaking out. “Dear. God. I liked this guy better when he thought I was a heathen…” My mind frantically began trying to recall some scripture that he was maybe taking out of context…and all I could picture was this big ass fish that had just barfed up Jonah onto the shore… for the life of me I had no idea what on earth he was talking about. So I just stared at him, I think.
When he asked what church I went to, I immediately thought, Oh, here we go… I’m dead. “Sir, I don’t currently attend any specific church.” He countered my confession by asking which denomination I was…”I don’t really identify with any one denomination, honestly. I’m sort of a mixed bag.” He asked if I had children and what ages they were, and then came the mother of all guilt trips. “You don’t take your children to church?!!”
He went on to invite me down to his “little church over there off of Cude Cemetery road”, had I heard of it? “Oh, you mean The institute for moralistic reform and inner marine animal life conservation?? No, I haven’t heard of it….”
As he walked away from my desk, smiling as big as when he first approached, I lay my head down on my desk and just whispered loudly, “noooooooo.” into it’s formica surface. I was sweating profusely by this point and I just wanted to hide. Could this panic button here under my desk actually make it open up and swallow me whole? I sat there for a moment pretending that it could.
I had already pretty much decided before this day that cold turkey evangelism is not effective in most cases, but now I knew what it felt like to be on the receiving end of such a social barrage. Countless times I have taken “evangelism training courses” and have heard hundreds of sermons encouraging this very thing. Almost always, the scenarios given are to speak to people as you go about your day- which means- talking to people who are at their job, trying to just, you know- do their job. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that we stop this insanity. Honestly, who has ever come to hear and understand the love of Jesus when we approach them and shove the gospel down their throats? I mean, make NO MISTAKE, this man did NOT share the gospel with me one time. Whether or not you smoke or drink has nothing to do with the gospel nor does it make you a believer. It’s not an indicator of any belief system in particular. I guess my main point is that interrogating people at their place of employment is just not loving nor is it a time where people can even process what you are saying to them. What IS loving, is walking into an establishment where people are there to serve you and making their job as easy as possible. You want to be Christ to someone? How about being considerate and friendly? How about being cooperative and acknowledge that people are trying to do the best job possible to serve you well or at least not screw it up too bad?
Cold turkey evangelism isn’t helpful or effective simply because we have not earned the right to be heard- and frankly, it just comes off to those people that they are nothing more than another notch in our spiritual belts. “Just shut up and let me force you into hearing about Jesus so that I can rush back to Sunday school and tell everyone how brave I was for the cause of Christ. I told that little girl down there at the tax office all about all that Jesus has done for me…and I even introduced her to my whale…I’m pretty sure her family will pay us a visit soon…..”