Recently I’ve had a few encounters with a local “old time” gospel preacher.
Now there is a lot that completely creeps me out about this dude, not the least of which is his liberal use of Brut aftershave, but perhaps what bothers me the most is his salesmanship of Jesus.
Normally I try not to concern myself with how other Christians go about sharing Jesus. Most of the time, any sharing is good sharing.
But when you start to pimp Jesus to folks the same way you would a used Toyota, it bothers me.
I’ve encountered this a lot over the years, especially when I have moved to new places, and this example popped into my head and kind of evolved into some thoughts on sharing Jesus.
Here’s a conversation, and my accompanying thoughts, that could have happened at any given point during my first month living in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
*Doorbell rings. I answer the door dressed in basketball shorts and a hoodie (this is how you know I’m not at work and/or a wedding.) At the door I find a very dressed up middle-aged lady.
Lady: Hi! My name’s Mary Lou [random southern name to protect this lady I just made up.] I’m from Grace United Baptist Southern Church of Jesus [same with the church name.]
Lady: I’m just going around chatting with folks today. Are you new to the neighborhood?
Lady: That’s great. Our church is just right down the rode here, you’ve probably seen it.
Me: Yeah, I think so. (I know so. The traffic jam there during my weekly Sunday drive to BiLo is killer.)
Lady: Do you have a church here?
Me: Um, no. I just moved here. (But wait. Is she asking if I own a church? Is that even possible? Can I buy a church? How much would a church even be?)
Lady: Well we’d love to have you come worship with us some time. We have services at 10 and 11, you know because we know y’all young folks like to sleep in.
Me: Um, OK.
Lady: Our worship band is just super. I mean, it’s really not what you’d expect at church. It’s really electric and our young people love it.
Me: Um, OK. (What the heck does “electric” mean? Are we talking keyboard guitars?)
Lady: And our pastor, he’s not one of those Hell, fire and brimstone preachers. He’s just tells stories and, well do you like Jeff Foxworthy?
Me: Sometimes. (Those times being pre-1995)
Lady: Well he reminds me Jeff Foxworthy. He’s just hilarious.
Me: That’s, um, neat.
Lady: Are you saved?
Me: Saved from what? (Holy crap, is there a bear loose in the neighborhood!?)
Lady: Haha, oh I just mean are you a Christian? Well it’s OK if you’re not, everyone’s welcome.
Me: That’s good. (You still didn’t tell me what I’m to be saved from. I swear if it is bears, I’m going to trip you as I run away, lady)
Lady: OK, well I’ll get out of your hair now, but come on down and worship with us any time. We’d love to have you.
Lady: Bye-bye, now.
OK, well maybe it didn’t go 100 percent like that, but you get the drift. I had no less than five conversations like this during that first month, each just as cringe worthy.
Now don’t get me wrong, each Mary-Lou always seemed like a great person, and I’ll go ahead and say I’m confident she’ll be in heaven one day, but there was a better chance of me buying a vacuum or some freeze-dried meat that day than joining her, or any of the others, at church.
Heck, most of the folks inviting me to worship didn’t know me nor did they know if I was a believer. How ridiculous is that?
Think about it. If you’re a Christian, when is the last time a Muslim you didn’t know invited you to a mosque and you jumped at the chance? Probably never and why would you? Why would you go to worship something you didn’t believe in with someone you didn’t even know?
These weren’t bad people, they didn’t mean to sound as bad as they did, but the fact is, Jesus just can’t be sold like a box of cookies. While I applaud the effort, he can’t be campaigned for like he’s running for the school board.
I think Jesus has to be introduced to people the same way you would set two people up on a date.
You wouldn’t just knock on some random guy’s door and try to hook him up with a prom date, would you? Of course not. This is real life, not some quirky ’80s comedy.
Instead, you would get to know him and then introduce him to the girl in a casual way. You’d let him get to know this girl, see for himself why you think so highly of her, and then try to provide some opportunities, movies, Dairy Queen runs, group hang outs, for the two of them to cultivate a relationship.
That’s how I think we should introduce people to Jesus. I think we should show them Jesus in a non-threatening environment, let them first-hand see why we love the guy, and then try to create opportunities for them to cultivate their own relationship with him. To do it right takes time and effort. It can’t just be a ring and run.
I’m not trying to completely bash the efforts of the door knockers, most have good hearts and a desire to share Jesus, but I just can’t go that route. I can’t sell Jesus like that.
I’m just saying sharing Jesus should look a lot less like trying to gain a vote and a lot more like trying to start a relationship.