How to Not Evangelize
by Carolyn Henderson
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I drive a Honda Fit.
It's a great little car, and more than once random strangers have approached me and asked about gas mileage, maneuverability, and cost; I show them how the back seats go up and down to create amazing space in a compact car. We part on friendly terms, with both sides having enjoyed the conversation.
Not once have I accosted an SUV or double-cab pickup driver in the parking lot and said,
"Hey! You! Yeah, you with the gas guzzling vehicle that is wasting your money and the planet's resources -- you need to be driving one of these things!"
And then, after they snarl back at the intrusive middle aged lady inappropriately butting into their business, I would say to myself,
"It's their fault if they spend too much money on gas. I told them about the Fit."
Suffice it to say that the likelihood of their looking twice at a Fit now is low, since they associate the car with the intrusive middle aged lady.
Obviously, if I truly wanted people to see the advantage of the Honda Fit, hammerfisted tactics would not be the way to go about it. And just as obviously, if a person isn't remotely interested in a small car, he is not going to be open to hearing about it. Although my product is good, I won't sell it by making people feel stupid, and I won't get anywhere, fast, with someone who is uninterested. They need to see the need, and when they do, they'll take a second look at my wild orange miracle car.
Many people sell Christianity -- they call it witnessing -- the way you don't want to tell others about the Honda Fit:
"Hey! You! Yeah, you the sinner who is going to burn in hell unless you accept Jesus Christ, right NOW, as your Lord and Savior -- say these words and you'll have eternal life with the God who loves you, but walk away and you're damned forever!"
And then, when the listeners walk away, because this approach isn't particularly engaging, we say,
"Well, their damned soul isn't on my hands. I TOLD them, and they chose not to believe."
This isn't witnessing, it's hocus pocus, the belief that simply saying the words -- no matter how badly and how insensitively -- is enough, because we have been given the Great Commission to "go out and tell the world." We don't do anything else this way, and when we are truly concerned about the result -- the sale of the car, the firmly getting it across to the toddler that he can't cross the street by himself, the potentially dicey confrontation with our immediate boss -- we choose our actions, our words, our place of interaction, carefully, because we want the person listening to be receptive to our message.
Jesus knew this, and the example He set is one we can be free to follow. He took time to get to know people -- not just so that He could add another notch to his rope belt -- but because He truly cared about their thoughts, their fears, their ideas, their experiences, their hopes, and their lives. When He could help them He did, and while admittedly He was more adept at this than most of us are -- I can't put mud in a man's eyes and heal him from blindness, can you? -- all of us can take time to see what we can do, and do it.
Actions. Words. Motivation. Like the Trinity itself, these three elements work in tandem to bring about results.
In order to tell people about your hope in Jesus Christ, live your life, first, walking closely with the Master. Talk to Him. Lean on Him. Love Him. Let Him love you. Experience the joy and trust and hope that you want to tell others about, and you may find that you don't have to use words.
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