Dickhead Evangelism

Posted on February 16, 2008. Filed under: Spiritual Musings |

Dickhead Evangelism:  Is it “Jesus” or “Geez, Ass”!

Evangelism is the word for the tool which Christians use to reach out and make disciples of the world.  There are many techniques used in evangelization and about as many styles as there are evangelizers.  For those not accustomed to using the word in their daily vernacular it can at times mean something negative.  It can invoke feelings of unease and anxiety while some may feel as if it has at times put them on the spot, never a comfortable situation. 

For those doing the evangelizing, for the most part, it is not something that is to be meted out in a negative way.  After all, you’re looking for a positive outcome:  the creation of a new disciple of Christ.  You’re looking to bring someone into the peace and love of the Kingdom of God and to do this they put in to practice that very same peace and love. 

However, there are those that don’t realize how they are coming across or poorly judge what they are saying.  I’ve come to call this “Dickhead Evangelism”.  There are a couple of examples of which I can recall that exemplify this.  The first is from a church I once belonged to.  They’ve adopted a more confrontational sales type approach to spreading the gospel.  Now many of the people in this rather large faith community own their own businesses or are executives in different corporations where these kinds of tactics are commonplace.  This may work in the business world but it doesn’t necessarily translate well in the spiritual realm.

One particular instance of this happening was some friends of mine had invited a couple(who were living together in what would be considered a sinful relationship) over for what appeared to be a friendly dinner.  As it turned out, it was a calculated sales pitch for Jesus.  Tracks were passed out, the gospel was shared and the couple was told that they were living in sin.  WOW!  Where can I sign up to be subjected to that?

The second example was when I was eating lunch at a work cafeteria one cool spring afternoon.  He came up to me and asked me where I was going to church now and I told him the name of a Catholic Church that I was attending.  Well, he exploded, his whole face changed as he pointed his finger at me picked up the theology book I was reading and said, “It’s because you’re reading crap like this!”  It was a copy of N.T. Wright’s The Climax of the Covenant.  Aside from the fact that most people wouldn’t call anything that Wright’s written crap, I was taken a bit aback by the way he came off to me.  I thought that perhaps he was just a little angry at not knowing that I had become a Catholic so I agreed to go to lunch with him later in the week.

I show up and he’s got copies of the bible and The Catechism of the Catholic Church lying open in front of him as he’s furiously writing away and flipping pages.  Upon seeing what was awaiting me, I knew how this was going to go.  He’s a Reformed guy and I know many folks of that ilk have no tolerance or appreciation of anything remotely Catholic.  After a brief hello he started in on me.  The questions he asked didn’t want an answer.  It seemed that he was only asking to confirm his suspicions.  The leading of the questioning was along the lines of the tactics of Jehovah’s Witnesses yet they were also extremely hostile.  The nastier he got, the more I smiled and nodded until I was forced to say, “You know what?  I really don’t care.”  There just comes a point where no answer would ever be good enough.  He kind of smirked and said that over the years he’d become even more Reformed than before.  I figured he’d had to have broken every metaphysical law and become a Reformed black hole where not even common sense can escape. 

In situations like these, there is no intention on the part of the evangelizer to develop a relationship or for the possibility of mutual learning.  I give and you give, you take and I take, we both walk away having grown in appreciation for the other’s belief system.  If you listen while you evangelize you may actually become edified by the person you are trying to talk to.  Who knows, they may even have some spiritual insights you would never have dreamed of. 

Sometimes people just aren’t given enough credit for how smart they are.  Your average person can spot a fake and see right through what they’re trying to do from over a mile away.  There’s nothing genuine in what is being peddled to them so of course they’re not going to buy it.  You pretend to give a crap for the twenty minutes it takes to talk to someone but have no intention of ever actually caring about this person.  But that’s one thing.  Being confrontational and superior is never the way to go.

 I once heard a martial artist say that the western fighting styles are about imposing your will on your opponent, whereas in the east it’s about helping take someone to the ground who’s already on his way down.  Hostile evangelization techniques are all about imposing your will on someone else (although some who have only ever used those styles may see it as God’s will being imposed).   Being someone’s traveling  companion through their spiritual journey is more of the eastern method of just helping someone who’s already moving. 

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