Many Evangelicals have a pathological need to evangelize others. Born with the salesman gene, these Hucksters for Jesus® use all sorts of evangelistic techniques and psychological manipulation to snare unwary “souls.” One such huckster is Steve Sjogren, pastor emeritus of Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sjogren practices what is commonly called “servant evangelism.” People into servant evangelism seek out people in public places whom they can be kind to, and once the mark’s defenses are lowered, they put in a good word for Jesus.
Recently, Sjorgen crowed on Charisma News about “reaching” a hurting Jewish couple with his version of the Christian gospel:
As I gave the barista my drink order that Sunday morning, I noticed a couple behind me who looked a little haggard. The woman had a legal-sized yellow pad and Bic pen in hand. I asked what they were having and put all three drinks on my card. As we waited in line for the drinks to arrive, all I could think about was that I might be late to speak at my friend’s church there in Columbus, Ohio.
As we waited for our drink to arrive, the man asked, “So what’s up with the coffee? Why’d you buy ours?”
I responded, “I like to buy coffee for people in line behind me—it’s a small way to say, ‘God is in love with you.’ If Jesus were at Starbucks this morning, he’d be showing His love, not just talking about it!”
At that, the woman let out a loud, guttural cry—almost a groan but at high volume. It was loud enough that the dozens of people suddenly got quiet and looked at me as though I had caused this to happen. The woman was so spent from her wailing she was winded—as though she’d finished an aerobic workout. As she quieted down, he put an assuring hand on her back and said, “It’s going to be OK, honey. It’s going to be OK.”
He continued with me. “Last night, our 19-year-old daughter went to a party. She took the drug Ecstasy. For whatever reason, the drug stopped her heart. She fell to the ground and died. We are here to plan her funeral service. As we pulled into the parking spot, my wife said, ‘We are Jewish but aren’t religious. We aren’t faithful to go to temple. Still, I want to know where God is in all of this!’
“Then five minutes later, we stand in line, and you tell us this coffee is on you to show us God’s love in a practical way. Wow! We don’t know what to say. Who are you? What do you believe?”
I directed him to my web site and assured him he could further connect the dots at Kindness.com.
Doing kindness in a practical way opens a door to the heart of not-yet-believers (the ones on their way to personal faith but not there yet). I used to try to engage those folks in a “spiritual conversation” (code for arguing) about the good news of Jesus. The problem was, my approach to engaging actually felt like bad news to people.
At lunch today or tomorrow, drive through Taco Bell during a busy time. Make sure there is a car or two behind you in line. When you go to pay for your order, tell the window person that you are also going to cover the meal of the person behind you. Tell that person what to tell that driver: “This is free as a way to show you God’s love in a practical way.” Often that person will write all of that down and ask if they can repeat it to me. It’s as if they are evangelizing someone else though maybe they don’t get the message themselves quite yet!
Kindness brings encounters. Not only will the person behind you be nudged, your “designated” evangelist at the window might just come toward the Lord as well. To boot, it’s easy to imagine that both the window person and driver end up telling the story of God’s kindness to someone else later the same day. It’s not every day that someone foots the bill for your Mexican food.
Sjorgen is no different from smiling, gift-giving door-to-door salesmen or pedophiles offering candy to unsuspecting children. Instead of being kind to people just because it’s the right thing to do or doing so makes you feel good, Evangelicals such as Sjorgen have ulterior motives for their kindness. Granted, their religion commands them to take the gospel to the whole world, so I understand Sjoegen’s methodology from a theological perspective. However, it’s less than honest to be kind to someone or befriend him using methods and cons that obscure or hide the real reason for the kindness/friendship.
Sjorgen should have told his marks the truth: I bought your coffees because I want an opportunity to preach the Christian gospel to you. I suspect that Sjorgen would have received a far different response had he been upfront and honest about his motivations.
I have long argued that most Evangelicals have ulterior motives for being kind to unbelievers or trying to befriend them. It’s in their theological DNA. Evangelicals believe there is a literal Hell with fire and brimstone; a place of eternal punishment for everyone who refuses to repent of behaviors Evangelicals deem “sins” and who refuses to worship Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Are you a happy, content unbeliever? Sorry, but you can’t be! Only through believing in Jesus can you find “true” happiness and contentment. Do you love your parents, spouse, and children? Sorry, but you have a worldly, superficial love. Only through believing in Jesus can you find “true” love. Do you live a life of meaning, purpose, and direction? Sorry, but only bought-by-the-blood-of-Jesus Christians have lives of meaning, purpose, and direction. Unbelievers are just going through the motions, living lives of emptiness and quiet desperation. Or so Evangelicals think, anyway. And because Evangelicals think this way, they feel justified in using whatever means necessary to evangelize people they deem “lost.”
Just remember these things the next time an Evangelical tries to be “kind” to you. Ask yourself, what is it that they really want?
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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