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Bruce, I Want to Be Your Friend — Part Two

cant we be friends
Cartoon by Paco

If you have not done so, please read the previous post on this subject here.

After posting Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part One, I read a perfect illustration of what I was talking about in this post.

Writing for A Clear Lens — an Evangelical apologetics blog — Nate Sala wrote:

A lot of people in the Church seem to be asking the same question more and more these days: How do I talk to people about my faith in Christ? This is an excellent question to ask! Particularly considering the current climate of tribalism, whataboutism, and the outrage culture, how are Christians supposed to navigate often difficult conversations in order to get to the Gospel in the 21st century?

I’ve spent the last nine years formulating an effective method of communicating why Christianity is true; and a lot of this has been through trial and error. And I do mean, a lot of error! But now I see that the difficulty in sharing our faith with folks is not rooted in whatever is happening in the news or academia or political correctness or even atheist websites. I am convinced that the difficulty in sharing our faith stems from our having forgotten how to be in relationship with each other.


We need to stop making speeches and start making friends. Evangelism and apologetics is only as effective as the authentic relationship you have with folks. Let speeches be for political venues or TED Talks or even the pulpit. But for us, when we want to communicate to people about our faith, we need to begin with real relationship. That means asking questions to get to know people. In other words, treat your interactions with folks like you would a first date.

We all know (at least I hope we all do) the dos and donts of dating. Don’t dominate the conversation with long-winded speeches about yourself or your views. If you do that there won’t be a second date! Instead ask questions about your date in order to discover who they are and show them that you are genuinely interested in them. And then just listen carefully to what they say. This is no different when it comes to evangelistic or apologetic conversations. Don’t begin with an agenda where three steps later you’re asking someone to say the sinner’s prayer with you. Just start off by getting to know the person you’re talking to. Treat your interactions like a first date with an important person. And, when the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, ask them about their faith. Let me say that again: When the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, then ask them about their faith. As a matter of fact, J Warner Wallace has a great question you can ask them: What do you think happens after we die?

Friends, if you try to treat people like a checkmark on your agenda, you will come across as an inauthentic used-car salesman. Instead, if you treat your conversations like a first date with an important person, you will find the path to evangelism and apologetics so much easier!

Read carefully what Sala says: friendship is a tool to be used in evangelizing non-Christians. In other words, it’s friendship based on deception, not honesty. Imagine if Evangelical zealots were honest and said, look I want to be your friend, but I only want to do so because I see you as a hell-bound, sin-laden, enemy of the Evangelical God, who is headed for Hell unless you buy what I am selling. Why, I suspect most people would say fuck off. Few of us want friends who can’t love and accept us as we are, where we are. And don’t tell me Evangelicals love everyone, loving them so much that they just have to tell them the truth — JESUS SAVES! Who wants friends who see them as defective in some way; friends who view them as broken; friends who see them as purposeless and empty; friends who cannot and will not love them as is, without conditions?

Evangelicals feign friendship so they can evangelize. True friends, on the other hand, enjoy your company and accept that differences are what make each of us special. Evangelicals look to convert, adding more minds to the Borg collective. Conformity, not diversity, is the goal. Doubt that this is so? Ask your new Evangelical “friend” if, after you get saved, you can continue having gay sex and continue working for Planned Parenthood. Ask him or her if you and your significant other can have your same-sex wedding at their church.  Ask if you, as a gay man, can teach Sunday school or work in the nursery. Absurd, right?

I have no doubt Sala and other Evangelicals will object to my characterizations of their intent. However, I spent a lifetime in Evangelicalism. I know how Evangelicals operate. I know what lurks behind their “friendliness.” I know that they use friendship as a means to an end, much like foreplay before sexual intercourse. Evangelicals fondle and caress your emotions, hoping that you will spread your legs wide so they can penetrate you with their slick gospel presentations. No thanks.

For all I know, Nate Sala is a nice guy, as are many Evangelicals. I just wish they would all be honest about their intent when they lurk in the shadows hoping to befriend unwary “sinners.” While this might not generate as many club members, there will be no regrets come morning.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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    MJ Lisbeth

    I find it fascinating—and disturbing—that Sala compares evangelizing to dating. He sounds like the sort of cunning sociopath who leaves people saying “oh shit!” the following morning.

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      Exactly! What I heard was that manipulative guy, out on a date, who says and does all the right things, patiently waiting and acting so charming, until he gets what he wants. Then ghosts you the following morning as he moves to the next victim.

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    John S.

    Sela’s “strategy” isn’t new, at least from my perspective growing up in the Assemblies of God. Later in adult life I experienced the same fake friend-interest from acquaintances involved in Amway-like multi-level marketing. Funny, a lot of them were also evangelical Christians too. I watched the documentary about Scientology, and it reminded me about my childhood experiences- what do you believe? Why do you watch those movies? When are you getting baptized? Have you spoken in tongues yet? It wasn’t all the time to be fair and I had a lot of positive experiences in their boys camping group (Royal Rangers), but the audit-like religious pressure from adults you otherwise trusted as friends (I never experienced physical abuse) got to be old. It was the reason I ultimately left evangelism.

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    Love bombing. A difficult one for me. In retrospect, hubby and I were often the first to greet any newcomer who attended a Sunday service – we were both extroverts, not shy and reticent about introducing ourselves to a stranger – as some brits can be. I think we just didn’t want any newcomer to go home and never return cos no one had spoken to them or made them feel welcome. Love bombing? Guess to some extent….but who returns to a store or a service provider who didn’t communicate pleasantly to them? We loved to invite newcomers round for a meal and set an example of how friendly our church was….and then I guess we could boast that we had a growing membership cos we looked after people…, yeah, love bombing to a degree, IDK.

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    Sala just said the silent part out loud. The case isn’t that convincing, but if you just work it, you can hook the fish. And sadly, it works on many people. Many have become Christians, not because they found the case overwhelming, but because there was this cute girl in the youth group.

    For instance, Richard Carrier writes about Justin Brierley, “What Brierley doesn’t know, or refuses to admit, is the very thing that keeps him a Christian. He doesn’t know how to test a hypothesis reliably. He doesn’t know how to vet the logic of an argument. He doesn’t know that so many of his beliefs—about history, science, the world, even his own Bible—essential premises in nearly all his arguments—are factually false… And so far I have found this holds for any Christian… (inordinately often, the story starts with a cute girl—I’m not joking: this is weirdly common in Christian conversion stories, from Josh McDowell to William Lane Craig, all the way to Brieley himself; her name was Lucy: p. 3).”


    See also .

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    Let me get this straight, it took this guy nine whole years to come up with the same tried and (un)true technique christians have been using since almost the beginning. It does not matter how long it takes his method but if he is only befriending people to save them, still doesn’t change the fact that he is deceptive. At least the cringey street preachers and westboro baptist church’s of the world are upfront with their intentions. I am in no way condoning the things street preachers and the Westboro Baptist Church says, but at least I don’t have to waste time and energy with having any sort of relationship with them beyond saying fuck you under my breath and maybe flipping them off and rolling my eyes. I would prefer the honest and up front rather than the fake friendship evangelism.

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    I have several genuine friends who are Evangelical. If they had ever tried to evangelize at me, that would have ended the friendship before it even started. Sala is clearly a manipulative creep, and I hope his “friends” know that.

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    Sala’s message just felt gross and manipulative. People are viewed as marks or objects to be won over carefully, trapped into a conversation of the evangelizer’s design, with the goal of converting. Gross. It feels like a predatory person trying to lure a date into submission so the predator can get what they want from the other person – and then leave for the next mark.

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Bruce Gerencser