This was one, among many, odd engagements featuring some rather sketchy evangelism techniques. Now, on the other side of the fence, I appreciate the sincerity but seriously doubt the method. Growing up outside the Church has one major advantage: you know what it feels like to be an outsider. You’ve sat opposite a lot of bad evangelism.
The gospel, served with a side of judgement
The problem I encountered with a lot of evangelism was the dose of judgement that came with it. The attitude was clear – I’ve got it right, you’ve got it wrong. Of course now being a committed Christian I believe that I have something life-giving to share. This, however, doesn’t add up to others having nothing to offer or knowing nothing about God themselves.
Convert yourself a date!
Some evangelism attempts have additional motives beyond the joy of spreading the good news. Yes, I’m talking about the pool of Christian singles drying up and the wandering eye turning to the wayward ones in the corner. The thing is, when someone feels they have to fundamentally change you to consider taking you on a date, it kind of kills the mood.
The pastoral chat
You know it’s happening to you when the person opposite leans forward in their chair, eyebrows furrowed and nods slowly before asking you about your spiritual life midway through a conversation about Mad Men. You’ve unwittingly found yourself in a ministerial practice session. No one likes to be a guinea pig.
The inappropriate setting
You’re in the club, partying like its 1999 and waving your hand in the air like you just don’t care. Someone sidles up to you and before you know it you are ensconced in a booth talking about the origins of the universe. This also applies to the dinner parties killed stone dead by arguments over the legitimacy of the New Testament.
Bad news, very bad news
Sometimes the good news really doesn’t sound that good. Regardless of theological persuasion there are ways of communicating that avoid scaring the living daylights out of someone and giving a thoroughly lopsided view of God. I’m talking about the plea to escape hell where God, it seemed, was poised to send me. Where is the open-armed Father of the prodigal son? It wasn’t deeply appealing.
And good evangelism? I can tell you what worked for me. Someone finally asked me who I thought God was. There were no speeches or furrowed brows. They simply asked me what I thought and encouraged me that perhaps I hadn’t been so wrong after all. They shone a light on where God already was and it set me on the road to discovering a whole new life with Him. Now that is good evangelism!