Ahh, the dreaded evangelism training. Since God is, well, God (all confusing and cryptic and all that) – apparently we have to come up with special ways to sell Him to other people. We can’t just let whatever comes out naturally do the job for us… we need special skills to get people to buy into this Jesus fellow.
Kind of reminds me of the “Sullivan Nod.” If you ever worked at a restaurant for a decent length of time, you were probably taught this technique. There are many different names for it, but it is usually always some name combined with “nod” (usually the name of the person that sold the video series to your employer for big bucks). The idea was that if you were to slowly move your head up and down while asking “would you like to order some cheese sticks for an appetizer” people would be so mesmerized by the whole show that they would also start shaking their heads up and down. This would lead to the words “yes, I would like some cheese sticks” rolling out of their mouth before they knew what was happening. Just because you were being soooo smooth.
So the idea is that we have to come up with ways to trick people into accepting Jesus. That personal conviction thing is too slow after all, and doesn’t lead to gripping testimonies to be shared in front of the Church. I mean, no one ever sheds a tear for the whole “I lived a consistent life in front of Henry and one day he slipped in the back of Church and has been coming ever since.”
I have been through my fair share of evangelism training sessions, all of which probably made me more afraid to share my faith than anything else. What if I forget where the bridge goes in the drawing? Or what if I forget what the P stands for in that acronym that will blow away all atheists’ objections? What was the acronym that is supposed to be so easy to remember anyways? I forgot it already…
Or for goodness sake what if I use a church-y term that no one understands?
Yes those evil churchy words we are supposed to avoid with non-Christians (even though we still use them all the time with other Christians… because the Holy Spirit also acts like a secret decoder ring?). Those words that I would have never picked up if I had never set foot inside a Church. Except that I knew what they all meant long before ever going to Church.
Here’s a little outsiders tip: Church culture is a little more widely known than most evangelism experts like to let on (they have to have job security after all). Non-Christians just pretend to not know what you are talking about to try and get you to go away. If they really didn’t know what you mean and they actually care to know, they will ask.
I know – shocking. Non-Christians have manners. Go figure. If you earn the right to speak into their life, they will ask you to clarify what you mean.
Anyway, you are probably wondering why Jesus would chop off heads. See, it all started one day in an evangelism training course.
We were asked to write out our witnessing script using “regular words” that non-Church people would understand (fyi – this is not the same as insider cliches that we use inside church – that is a whole other issue). At one point I used a phrase that stated that the poor person listening to me recite this canned script would need to “ask Jesus to come into your heart.” The instructor read over that part and crossed it out in deep, dark red lines. Above it was scribbled “Too churchy – should say ‘ask Him to become your personal Lord and Savior.’”
Personal Lord? Is this term something people regularly use?
I decided to test this question. I worked as a waiter at the time, and tended to talk openly about my faith with many people. One of the people that was most willing to discuss deeper things in life with me was a guy named Carlos, who we all called “Los” for short. So I went and asked Los what he thought it meant to ask Jesus to come into your heart.
“Oh you mean like in chick flicks where one of the main people decide to open up and let someone into their life and fall in love and all that? That person is then with them all the time, even if just in their heart? So like Jesus wants to be like that?”
Then I asked him what he thought of when I told him he needed to accept Jesus as his own personal Lord and Savior.
“Lord? Isn’t that the word they used in Brave Heart? So Jesus is going to chop my head off like Brave Heart? I don’t know about that.”
Well, hopefully not. Unless you’re Mark Driscoll or John Piper and believe in the ever-elusive SuperManlyMan Jesus®©™. But I have always thought it interesting that a big, burly restaurant cook could understand more about the heart of Jesus than… well… others.
Every evangelism class I have been through that attempts to teach me how to avoid using the “wrong” words or create an argue-proof script or whatever have put more fear into my heart than anything else.
Here is what you really need to know to share your faith:
- Go with your gut. You’re not MacGyver trying to diffuse a bomb, so making some mistakes will not end up being fatal.
- Don’t try to “be real.” Most people trying to “just be real” are the most awkward people in the world. Instead, see point # 1.
- Forget the canned scripts. Instead, see point # 1. And Luke 12:12.
- If you are afraid that someone will ask you a question you don’t know the answer to, the solution is not to get evangelism training. The solution is study your Bible more and not be afraid to ask the hard questions yourself.
- If you get asked a hard question or get stumped, be honest. If you have an answer for everything, then you don’t need faith. But someone without faith needs that faith, and you can’t offer what you don’t have. Oh, and see # 1 if you think you do have a good answer. You just might.
- One last point. If you are still not sure what to do, seriously… go with your gut.