I know I have about six different essays (face it, these are essays) about now, but at the moment I feel like blogging about evangelism (which is hilarious coming from me, and potentially frightening). To preface, I don't like the attention. I've scored zero for the spiritual gift of evangelism on those little tests (though the most recent one scored me at about four, so we're making progress). I just never saw the politeness or courtesy in running up to someone and saying "Hi! I'm Kaci. I'm a Christian, and the whole world's going to hell, but Jesus can change that..."
Okay, so I'd never say it quite like that (well, maybe, depending on my mood). Suffice it to say...here comes the dread subject on a topic I avoid with greater fervor than West Nile Virus.
O Peeve of Mine
I hate gospel tracts. I despise door-to-door "witnessing." I tend to flee from street preachers merely to avoid the overwhelming temptation to publicly dress them down. It's my personal opinion that anything that would offend me I should not do to a non-believer. If you walked up to me on the street and started screaming "You're going to hell!" I would, at best, roll my eyes and walk -- and I'm a Christian. At worse, well, my more fleshly side would kick in.
On the contrary, I bleed, sweat, and grunt to the best of my abilities. I've held a bleeding child in my arms and am completely fearless (not to be confused with stupid) visiting juvenile detention facilities (please note I said I'm not stupid in my fearlessness). I'm not a shy person. I can talk for an hour with you and appear to have known you forever, even though when we walk away I'm going to kick myself for knowing your school, political and religious views, family life, loves and hates...but not your name.
Despite all of this, drop me in front of someone and say "Randomly start talking about Jesus and the gospel" and I will, at best, pretend to be a deer in the headlights (wide vacant eyes and all). If it doesn't come up naturally, it's going to be an incredibly awkward moment for all parties involved.
And, to clarify, I -have- seen the occasional tract effectively used -- on me. There was a man at a church I attended for years who had his own methods of street preaching. He would, and invite people such as my dad (and, therefore, my sister and I) to places like downtown Dallas and bring nice hot coffee and donuts to homeless men -- often enough they'd gather in those cold mornings looking to see if he'd come that day. In fact, I very starkly remember this friend asking me if any of us spoke Spanish and I made the 'mistake' of telling him I could speak a little. Between my high school freshman-Spanish vocabulary and the homeless man's entry-level English, Jesus was presented. How, I have no idea.
My friend also had a little dove-shaped tract that he made himself and would simply play with until he had someone's attention. This has been the sum total of tracts I've seen used efficiently. He's since gone to be with his Lord, and left the rest of us enormous shoes to fill.
As for door-to-door, honestly, I've only seen it work when we've come bearing gifts: food, clothes, a hot meal, Christmas presents, a game of tag (yes).
I've attempted the 'bring literature with you' bit before. Tracts simply don't work for me. I've passed out Russian translations of John's Gospel/More than a Carpenter, which only partially counts because I didn't have to actually speak. So the only time that really counts for me personally was when I went with a group of friends to a coffee shop armed with a one-page series of theological/apologetic questions -- some of which made sense to me, others of which I had no idea how to transition into without running off the intended listener. So I wound up walking right up to the barista, greeting him with all the gusto and sincerity I had (which was the easy part, because that's just my thing), and ordering a drink. While we're ordering I place our little list on the counter and all I can think to say is:
"Hey, we're part of a college group at a church up the road and we're doing this survey. Is it okay if I ask you some questions? No pressure."
And that became the night. Split off, use one table as a rally-point, and go off in twos and threes "surveying" people. It wasn't a lie, either. The point was exercise, and that's what we did.
Right and Left Hands
All of that is backdrop. I know little about The Way of the Master. I first heard of them/it (as it's also a book) from the co-leader of a small group I was in (and, arguably, I was having my own issues with bitterness, so that could easily be part of it, but not all) who one night decided to talk about evangelism and cited excerpts from The Way of the Master. I'm not sure which sections she read from, as I'm only four chapters into this thing, but what she read made me mad.
Keep in mind, I've never had a problem with the doctrine of evangelism (other than an extreme case of evangephobia and a tendency to find people utterly exasperating). And I said then as I still believe: If you approached me with a tract on the street and started giving me a "morality test" and/or telling me "you're going to hell" all would not be well with you. I would be sorely angry, not at your words, but your presumption. You can debate this point with me all you like; I never said it was right or wrong, only that I would respond in the negative. I have literally taken the long way back to my dorm just to avoid street preachers. I've written essays blasting Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (hey, I was 17).
So, when one of my friends loaned me The Way of the Master and Thanks A Million (by the same authors), I was very, very, very biased against them. Even the TAM cover was offensive to me. Actually, I still think it needs work, but that's not the point. I read Thanks A Million where I could not be seen publicly. (Yes, I'm a coward. Get over it. I have this phobia about letting people know what I'm doing without forcing them to ask me. Okay, maybe it's just my ego.)
I even complained to Mom about it (and she reads this thing, so she might comment) how aggravating the TAM street conversations were. Hear me out: I agree with the theology. I merely do not find shoving cameras in people's faces and doing a 'morality test' on people good. But hey, I figure if you can pull it off, and do so genuinely (as in, not simply to brag about numbers), and disciple these people -- more power to you. Personally, I'm better with a pen.
Anyway, I finished Thanks a Million and finally made myself start The Way of the Master. It has also been my personal bias that they were simply converting dozens of people and leaving them stranded, the 'starving baby' phenomenon a Bible teacher pounded into my head back in high school.
Per custom, I flipped to see who endorsed it. Imagine my surprise when names of men I either listen to via podcast or read voraciously appear on the list. That's about when I had the sneaky suspicion I was wrong, and didn't like the idea.
In four chapters, though, these men cited:
And more--some I haven't read personally and am leaving off the list simply for that reason. Listed among readership, though, were: Ravi Zacharias (listed in my sidebar) and Josh McDowell (whose ministry I actually interned with). Furthermore, I found myself hearing the same thing several of my well-respected college leaders have said ad nauseam (and loved them for it) and my pastors have said from the pulpit.
This is a bit like the time I told my friend Elizabeth that it was no big deal if Denton Bible Church's college ministry coffee shop moved because "the church is not a building" and not two months later I said something that gave her opportunity to quote me verbatim. Once that happens, there's nothing left but to shut your mouth and listen.
Oh, come on. You do it too; I just got caught.
Like I said, I'm only on chapter four. But my initial findings on the opening chapters seemed worth throwing up there. I know a few of you will likely disagree with me. But that's alright.
Because in the end, my hatred for a particular methodology winds up biasing me against people who are, method or no, correct in their logic (I still disagree with method), throwing out the whole rather than the part, and narrowing my own view to the extent that this becomes my justification for not teaching the gospel of Christ as commanded.