Want to turn your Evangelical children into annoying fake friends? Just follow the advice of Katie Polski. Katie Polski is the wife of the pastor of a Presbyterian Churches in America (a Fundamentalist denomination) church. Her husband, Chris, pastors Trinity Church in Kirkwood, Missouri. You can read her blog here.
I am sure Polski means well. After all, most Evangelical zealots mean well. Their minds and hearts are on eternity, on the lost state of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Polski feels burdened over the fact that Evangelical teenagers are not well-equipped to evangelize their heathen classmates. Polski gives the following advice to parents who want to turn their teens into subversives for Jesus:
Cultivate an Evangelistic Disposition
There are three important ways we can do this as parents:
By building relationships with unbelievers
In one of my theology classes, we were asked to write a ten-page letter to an unbelieving friend. When I struggled to come up with someone to write to, I had no choice but to confront the glaring problem…I didn’t know many unbelievers. Parents, we can’t share the gospel with our kids but fail to cultivate a disposition toward evangelism, and one of the greatest ways we do this is by encouraging relationships with unbelievers.
As a mom of a sixteen and seventeen-year-old, I understand how grey the line is between embracing those who don’t know Jesus and embracing their sometimes-alluring ways. There is no easy answer, but what is clear is that we are not called to separate ourselves from unbelievers. Scripture is inundated with references that assume we will know and interact with them. In John 17, Jesus Himself prays that His disciples NOT be taken “out of the world, but that you [Father] keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). This should be our prayer as well as we build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus and prudently encourage our children to do the same.
By demonstrating how to build bridges
The key is understanding that our relationships with unbelievers should be developed with the hope of leading them toward the gospel. The foundation is the relationship. The next step is finding a bridge to gospel-sharing, and that bridge will look different for each friendship. Perhaps start by helping your kids to think of what they have in common with their unbelieving friend. Is it a sport? A certain type of music? A love for movies? All of these can be bridges that open up conversations about Jesus.
What is crucial for us as parents is helping our kids discern the difference between the way they as Christians view this common passion, and the way the world views it. If they love theatre, for example, encourage them to consider giving God the glory when they are praised for a performance. When a friend says, “Why do you answer like that?” there is a bridge to explaining Jesus, the One who gives all good gifts. If your child loves a particular sport, encourage them to not skip church to attend a game. When a friend says, “Why did you miss?” there is a bridge to explain why worship matters.
Even more pointed are the bridges built by taking firm stands in the truth. This is harder to do, but it’s good and right to model and encourage deliberate stances for Jesus. Perhaps it’s posting a Bible verse on Social Media or inviting a friend to a youth group retreat. These are all potential bridges to showing an unbeliever who Jesus is.
By assisting them in evangelism
There is something beautiful about engaging in evangelism with a child. One of the ways this can happen is by praying for our child’s unbelieving friend by name. When we do this, we are entering into the process of evangelism with them. Asking about and praying for these friends helps our children to remember to be gospel-minded, and it sets the stage for all to see the miraculous work that God can do. It’s not always immediate, but God works through the prayers of His people, so pray boldly and watch with anticipation at the work He will do!
Encourage your children to bring these friends into your home. Our actions can be one of the greatest forms of evangelism that our children will ever see modeled. Simply offering to invite an unbelieving friend to a family dinner is an example modeled by our Savior and one we should seek to model for our children. Pray for your kids as they learn and grow in their understanding of what it means to share Jesus with others. Trust that the Lord is working on their hearts just as powerfully as He is working in the lives of those they seek to evangelize.
Regular readers might sense a bit of déjà vu, thinking that this sure sounds a lot like Larry Dixon’s and Katy Morgan’s “friendship” evangelism shtick. (Please see Beware of Evangelicals Coming in the Name of Friendship and Larry Dixon’s Followers Dish the Truth about Atheist Bruce Gerencser) And just like Dixon and Morgan, Polski encourages parents to teach their children to be fake friends with their school classmates. Instead of teaching teenagers how to develop real, lasting, authentic relationships with others, Polskiwants parents to teach them to use manipulative, subversive methodologies to “reach” unbelieving schoolmates with the Evangelical gospel.
First, Polski says that evangelizing teenagers need to build relationships with their fellow students with the hope of “leading them toward the gospel.” Polski warns that Evangelical teenagers should build fake relationships without embracing the sinful, worldly ways of their targets. This, of course, requires lots of prayer. According to the Bible, Christians are supposed to be “in the world but not of the world.” In other words, parents should encourage their teenagers to hang out with worldlings but not participate in their worldly ways. Can you imagine, for a moment, how this will work out in real life for Evangelical teenagers? “Hey, let’s be friends, but I can’t do any of the things you do or go any of the places you go.” “Really, all I want to do is tell you about Jesus, invite you to church on Sunday, and hope you don’t think I’m a religious nut job.”
Second, Polski tells parents that it is important for their evangelizing teenagers to build bridges with unsuspecting, unregenerate classmates. Find out what you have in common with a fellow student — say sports, music, movies — and use that as a “bridge” (Greek for the word hook) to evangelize them, Polski says to Christian teens. Of course, due to a rigid, unflinching commitment to a Fundamentalist interpretation of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, parents must make sure that their evangelizing teenagers don’t compromise their beliefs and practices (actually the beliefs of their church, pastor, parents). Sure don’t want a church teenager losing his virginity to a classmate while trying to evangelize them, or some other horrid sin that normal people call a rite of passage.
Third, Polski tells parents they should assist their teens in evangelizing their classmates. This point is the most dangerous one of all. Polski suggests parents have their teenagers invite their friends to their homes — say to a family dinner. That way, parents schooled for years in the art of manipulating people can soften up and manipulate unsuspecting, naïve teenagers for the gospel kill. Polski and her husband, in particular, are likely experts at using this technique. Most Evangelical pastors and his wives likely have the requisite skills necessary to “make” a teenager receptive to their cult’s teachings. I know firsthand how this game is played, so any attempt by Polski to put a kind, friendly face on this feral pig won’t work.
I came of age in the 1970s at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. Saved, baptized, and called the preach at the age of fifteen, I was all in when church pastors Gene Milioni, Ron Johnson, and Bruce Turner (Please see Dear Bruce Turner) suggested that our youth group carry their Bibles to school, hand out gospel tracts, invite classmates to church, and engage in conversations about the gospel when given the opportunity. Out of the hundred or so students in the senior high youth group, I was the only one to heed the call and take the gospel to my hellbound acquaintances — most of my friends attended Trinity — at Findlay High School. I attended one of the largest high schools in the state of Ohio. There were over eight hundred students in my class alone. My mission field was large, and I intended to reach as many of them as I could for Jesus. After all, Jesus was coming soon. By 1976, Jack Van Impe said!
Every day, I would carry my King James Scofield Reference Bible on top of my books. What better way for me to tell my classmates that I was a Christian than to carry my Bible everywhere I went. During lunch, you could find me with a large group of no one sitting at a table reading my Bible. Again, this was my way of saying to my dope-smoking, booze-drinking, fornicating classmates that I was a non-dope-smoking, non-booze-drinking virgin. Did wonders for my social life, both inside and outside of church.
During this time, I was living with one of the church’s matriarchs, Gladys Canterbury. Being the lady who read missionary letters to the church, she approved of my evangelistic efforts. To help pay for my expenses, I work as a busboy at Bill Knapp’s Restaurant. I would get out of school at 11:30 AM and walk or ride my bike to Bill Knapp’s to work the lunch shift. On many days, I would take a several hour break, during which time I would either do my homework or read my Bible, and then I would work the evening shift. Several of my schoolmates worked at Bill Knapp’s too. We had been friends in junior high school, and knew each other from playing baseball and sports at the YMCA. I decided that I would start leaving gospel tracts in their coat pockets, hoping that they would read them, and ask me for more information. Instead, they wondered when I had become a religious fanatic. These same friends one school day took to throwing my Bible around the classroom, mocking my beliefs. I was thoroughly embarrassed by this, and a short time later I quit carrying my Bible to school. I felt guilty, saying to myself, “Bruce, you love the world more than you love God.” Never mind the fact that I was the only church teenager to heed the call to evangelization; the only one to seek lost sinners at Findlay High. I was a failure because I loved having the respect of my fellow classmates more than I did having the approbation of Jesus, my pastors, and the church.
I did have one soulwinning success story. Kinda, anyway. One Wednesday afternoon, I asked one of my classmates who worked with me at Bill Knapp’s if he would like to go to church with me that night. Surprisingly, Deke said yes. Trinity had what they called a “prayer meeting” on Wednesdays, but it was really just a typical Sunday preaching service, complete with an invitation, with a little extra prayer thrown in. So at the appointed time, my friend Deke joined me in the back center pew at Trinity Baptist Church. I think Deke was genuinely curious about what I was up to religiously. Well, he sure got more than he bargained for. The sermon that night was just like every other sermon — come to Jesus lest you burn in Hell for eternity. After my pastor gave his manipulative, coercive “every head bowed, every eye closed, no one looking around” speech, the song leader led the congregation in the singing of Just as I Am. As the singing began, I turned to Deke and asked him if he wanted to go forward and get saved. In no uncertain terms, Deke said no. Several verses into Just as I Am, one of the trained church stalkers, I mean altar workers, came to where Deke and I were standing and began to beat him over the head with Jesus and the importance of getting saved that night. Lo and behold, after a few minutes of what can best be described as tenderizing meat for the gospel grill, Deke went forward, knelt at the altar, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and was gloriously, wonderfully, awesomely, supercalifragilisticexpialidociously saved. Amen right? Amen! Praise Jesus. Another sinner saved from the fiery pit of Hell.
Deke quickly left after the service, so we didn’t have a chance to talk about what took place. The next day, I talked to Deke at Bill Knapp’s. He derisively told me that he would never come to my church again; that he just prayed the sinner’s prayer so “that lady,” as he would call her, would leave him alone. The only thing he got saved from that day was her.
I am sure that much like Larry Dixon, Katie Polski will say that I have misrepresented her intent and beliefs, but I stand by my repudiation and criticism of her weaponizing Evangelical children; of turning them into annoying, irritating religious nut jobs. There will be plenty of time in their adult lives for these teenagers to make fake friends with unsuspecting unbelievers. No need to ruin their high school years. Again, if one of their classmates asks them about their faith, if they are so inclined, they should share it. But, encouraging Evangelical teenagers to make fake friendships so they can evangelize people is not only is a bad idea, it teaches them that subterfuge and manipulation are okay as long as you do it in the name of God.
Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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