The Bait and Switch Evangelistic Methods of Evangelicals

bait and switch

On a previous iteration of this blog, a fundamentalist Christian by the name of Harold commented on The Jonathan Nichols Story:Growing up Gay in the IFB Church  post. This post is an excerpt of Jonathan’s story about being raised in the Newark Baptist Temple, the church pastored for many years by my wife’s uncle Jim Dennis, and how the church and its pastor responded to him when he said he was gay. Harold left this comment:

Jonathan, I am a Baptist who views on homosexuality being sin have never changed. I can say however that my views of homosexuals have changed from judgmental condemnation to compassion. You can Google C.S. Lewis views on homosexuals which are compassionate. I think anyone can be delivered from homosexual sin ( pornography, masturbation, the actual sex act ) and same sex attraction can be overcome but I think for many it is a battle and perhaps a life long battle although I’m not sure about it being life long. For a compassionate view of homosexuality I would recommend to anyone: Christian, gay, family of one who is gay, a book titled ” Love Into Light” by Peter Hubbard. Also for anyone wanting free from homosexuality I recommend http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com

Harold wanted to present himself as a compassionate, loving Christian, but I wasn’t going to let him get by with his subterfuge, so I left this comment:

I know you mean well, but cut the bullshit. Bottom line, no homosexual will inherit the kingdom of God, right? Unless they repent of their sodomy they will be tortured by God in the lake of fire for all eternity, right? Quit hiding behind claims of love and compassion. Jonathan is fine how he is. He is free to love who he wants, and have consensual sex with who he wants. Why should you have these freedoms but not Jonathan? Answer, the Bible says…right?

Subterfuge. This word accurately describes the evangelistic methods used by many Evangelicals. Subterfuge is defined as:

Something intended to misrepresent the true nature of an activity.

Evangelicals rarely tell non-Christians what their true motives are. They come bearing gifts, speaking of love and compassion, but their real goal is to convert them, baptize them, and make them members of the Evangelical church. I’ve come to the conclusion that most Evangelicals are incapable of loving for love’s sake and having compassion for others without having an unstated agenda.

A few years ago, an Evangelical wrote a post about his church going from door to door handing out flower pots. He said they just wanted to show the community that they loved them. I asked, did the flowerpots have the name of the church on them and did you give them literature from the church? Of course they did. So the goal wasn’t showing the community they loved them; it was advertising their church in hopes that people would come to it.

Evangelicals are experts at subterfuge and I think it is important to force them to declare their true intentions. In my comment to Harold I also wrote:

Harold, what is your end game here? Put in a good word for Jesus? Evangelize? Preach the truth?

When Evangelicals want to befriend you, help you, or to get all cozy with you, you need to consider what their real motive is for doing so. In an article on The Gospel Coalition website, Jeff Cavanaugh wrote:

Yet churches still have a tremendous evangelistic opportunity in the people who live near the church building. After all, these neighbors walk and drive past the church building every day. They may wonder about what goes on when the church gathers. For non-Christians who don’t know any believers personally, the church down the street may be the biggest reminder of Christianity they see on a regular basis.

So how can a church be faithful in evangelizing the neighborhood when the members don’t live there? Some evangelical traditions have made a practice of “visitation,” knocking on doors and trying to engage people in spiritual conversations. Sometimes this effort bears good gospel fruit, though cultural changes in recent decades have made this more difficult as many North Americans have become suspicious of strangers at the front door.

I serve my local church as deacon of community outreach, and our strategy for reaching the neighborhood around us is mainly one of long-term, patient faithfulness. Our goal is to build relationships with our neighbors that, over time, will make it easier for us to have spiritual conversations with them. These relationships also make our neighbors more willing to attend services and other events aimed specifically at engaging unbelievers with the gospel.

The basic principle behind this strategy is simple, and it’s one any church can follow: engage your neighbors by taking an interest in what they care about. Building common ground is easy when you participate side-by-side in community organizations, service projects, family events, block parties, yard sales, and the like. Common interests are one of the most powerful tools for building friendships that can enable spiritual conversations to take place.

My church is located in a historic urban neighborhood that has a well-defined identity, and many of our neighbors have common interests. Neighborhood associations are popular and prominent in the life of the community, and events like street fairs, art shows, music festivals, park cleanups, and community yard sales are common. We engage our neighbors by having church members volunteer for these events, host booths, and attend neighborhood association meetings. We also invite the community to a couple of evangelistic events at Christmas: a service of lessons and carols with a brief evangelistic sermon, and a sing-along production of Handel’s Messiah…

..If your church is in a lower-income area, your neighbors’ biggest concerns are likely to be some of their most basic needs: food, shelter, jobs, transportation, education. Your members might help meet some of these needs, and thereby gain neighbors’ trust and attention, through soup kitchens, clothes closets, literacy programs, and such..

My father pastors a church in Ohio in a middle-class suburb with a lot of families, and many of these neighbors’ lives revolve around their kids. So the church hosts some events throughout the year that provide activities for the kids and expose neighbors to the gospel. The church puts on a vacation Bible school every summer. They host a big Easter egg hunt for the kids of the neighborhood, and someone tells the resurrection story with a clear gospel presentation for the whole crowd…

Here’s the money quote:

The basic principle behind this strategy is simple, and it’s one any church can follow: engage your neighbors by taking an interest in what they care about. Building common ground is easy when you participate side-by-side in community organizations, service projects, family events, block parties, yard sales, and the like. Common interests are one of the most powerful tools for building friendships that can enable spiritual conversations to take place.

On one hand there is nothing wrong with having common interests with your neighbors. But, as Cavanaugh makes clear, the REAL reason for Evangelicals to have these common interests is so they can witness to their neighbors. Again, this is subterfuge.

I know the neighbors who live on both sides of me. Last summer I sat on my one neighbor’s porch and he and I talked for an hour. We talked about family, our gardens, our health, and psychology (he is a retired psychologist). In the summer I often talk to my other neighbor, an elderly gent, about woodworking, fishing, and gardening. Every so often he will let me know he saw his educated neighbor’s letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News — that’s me by the way — and we will talk about it for a few minutes. We laugh and say, see ya later.

As a good neighbor, I have no agenda. I don’t want anything from my neighbors. I care about them and I worry when I don’t see them for a while. Both of my neighbors are good people as they are. I have no desire to win them over to my cause or to convert them to atheism. They are part of my community and I want to be friends with them. I have other neighbors in front of our house and in back of our house. While I don’t know them as well, I try to be friendly and talk to them when I see them. Again, no agenda.

Evangelicals can’t do this. They see every person as a sinner in need of salvation. Every person they come in contact with is a prospect for heaven, a potential church member. Remember this the next time an Evangelical wants to be your friend or wants to be a part of your group. Perhaps, the first question to ask him or her is, what do you REALLY want or why are you REALLY here?

Notes

Remember, Evangelicals are also taught that the world is evil and that they are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. They are taught that they must stand apart from the world, its sins, its philosophies, and its inhabitants. They are like the neighbor who only comes into my backyard to steal my watermelons. He is not interested in me, he is only interested in watermelon. The watermelon in the Evangelical world is another sinner saved, baptized, and made a tithing member of a Bible-believing church.

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4 Comments

  1. Michael Mock

    “For non-Christians who don’t know any believers personally, the church down the street may be the biggest reminder of Christianity they see on a regular basis.”

    And there must be absolutely hundreds of them in the United States! I mean, they’re probably as much as 0.000000245% of the population!

    Reply
    1. Edward

      I was thinking the same thing. Where in the United States of America, pray tell, is this magical place where no one knows any “believers” personally? Here in the south, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one.

      Reply
    2. Karen the rock whisperer

      No, that’s a good point. See, many of us don’t know any CHRISTIANS. Oh, we might know plenty of Christians — but they’re not CHRISTIANS. They might go to liberal churches, or accept evolution. or send their kids to public school, or many other heinous unchristly things. Terrible!

      Reply
  2. Brian

    Interesting, the use of the word, subterfuge. It is indeed the basis of interactions between Christian evangelicals and non-Christians. And that subterfuge is very much ‘unknown’ to believers. Your use of the word seems crazy to them in their flagrant denial and yet you are quite correct to use it. It perfectly displays the reality of the exchange. When you are brainwashed to believe that God needs to control your every thought, you are unable to have relationships with normal people without trying to save them, the influence and sway them to your God’s truth. Asking people in denial about their intentions in social interactions is fruitless, of course but it does display their inability to tell the simple truth so very clear to the rest of us.

    Reply

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