04 Jul A Criticism of Evangelism Answered
A couple months ago I posted on why I love my church. An Anonymous commenter said this:
I live on the 1700 block of S. Third St. and your “progressive” church has never even tried to reach my building. maybe you should spend less time blogging and more time reaching your community, but wait, isn’t that why you went there in the first place?
While I am disturbed on one level (the attitude and anonymity of the commenter) I am more bothered by the fact that the critique went un-defined and without a positive way we might grow in evangelism. [Sidenote: If you want to comment on this blog, have the integrity to stand behind what you say. In the meantime, read this post.] My hope is that Anonymous will read this response (which is the beginning of my reply to him).
Firstly, what does it mean to “reach” a building or a person? I think I have in mind what he means: doing some kind of outreach that would entail knocking on doors, doing a survey, trying to share some points about how someone might go about becoming a Christian. While this might work (by the way, there was a group of folks that went out in the neighborhood to do some surveys and such a year or so ago), I think we should critique the method. Very seldom does this method work. At least in a biblical sense. People may hear the Gospel and be called to respond, but is there evidence that this person is truly saved (i.e. attending church, fellowshipping with other Christians, having a hunger for the Bible, etc)? If we want to build up our confidence (and sometimes, pride) then it might just work at doing that.
I have been involved in such evangelistic “campaigns” and have to say, there is little lasting fruit. We can give ourselves a pat on the back and claim that we are persecuted for the sake of Christ. But is this actually why people don’t come to church as a result of this method? To some degree, granted, but most of the time it’s due to the method. Imagine your in your apartment vacuuming the carpet and there’s a ring at the door. Turning off the vacuum and going to the door, you see a person (or two or five) standing there with big grins on their faces.
“Hello, my name is Matthew Wireman. I am a member of Third Avenue Baptist Church up the street. We are going door to door and asking people if we can talk to them about the most important thing in our lives. Would you mind if we chatted with you?” How strange! Really. Think about it. How strange is it when a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness does this? How upset do we get (as Christians, mind you, who are supposed to love our neighbor and not ridicule)? I don’t know about you, but my day has been interrupted for the sake of some stranger coming to my door and wanting to talk to me about eternal matters. How surprised should we be when people frown, close the door, and then tell their neighbor how ridiculous the whole ordeal was…how Christians don’t have a clue? This, in my estimation, is not reaching someone.
Secondly, Anonymous recommended that I spend less time blogging and more time reaching my community. It is interesting that he is being reached by reading this blog, isn’t it? Or is just me that sees the irony? Not to mention the other folks I have dialogued with from California to Connecticut via this “trivial tool”? I would be slow to speak about blogging not being a means to reach both your immediate context and one that is thousands of miles away.
I will write some more regarding a critique of the traditional door-to-door model of evangelism. I want to think through some more what it would look like to invest time in relationships and genuinely care about someone’s eternal destiny, rather than the numbers of people I have talked to (and unintentionally turned away).