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Selling or Evangelizing?

When I grew up, making friends with people who were not Christians was all about evangelizing them – that is, be friends in order to unload the gospel on them.  Jim Henderson did the same thing for most of his life, and then changed his mind (the entire article is here):

Back in his soul-chasing, church-starting days, he began hearing a grating dissonance between his faith in Jesus and the way he went about winning new converts. Henderson realized he was doing unto others what he would never want done unto him. He was manipulating conversations to set up a pitch. Viewing people as potential notches on his evangelism belt rather than fellow sojourners and prospective friends. Listening only to the extent it could reveal an argumentative opening.

So what did he do?

Here’s what Henderson said to his congregation:

“I told the people in my church, ‘I don’t like evangelizing, and I know you hate it, so I’ve decided that I’m formally resigning from witnessing. You’re all free to do so the same,’ ” Henderson recalls. “I said, ‘I love Jesus, you love Jesus, and we all want to connect people with Jesus. But we’re gonna have to figure out new ways to do it.’ “

I had the same problem.  A long time ago, I realized that a lot of the methods I have been taught for sharing the gospel were roughly the same techniques that I learned selling computers.  Lure someone to my location (fortunately, the retailer took care of that with sale fliers every Sunday), act friendly, convince someone I had what they needed, and close the deal.  Computers or Jesus, it worked roughly the same way.

Like Henderson, I realized it was all wrong.  So I’m working on just being myself, and letting people get to know me.  And if it comes up, then it must be God at work.  If not, I still value the relationships that I build with people.  It’s not that I’m not looking for conversations; I am passionate about my relationship with Jesus Christ, and want everyone to experience that same relationship.  In fact, I’m heartbroken when people reject that relationship.

But now I’m meeting people on their own terms and letting God guide the conversation.  Recently, in a class I was teaching, an atheist made a reasoned, thoughtful defense of his atheism in his final paper.  I disagreed with his reasoning and told him so, but I also gave him an A.  We talked about his atheism and my belief in Christ and we disagreed, but I still call him friend.

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Categories: Evangelism, John's Blogs
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