One reason I’m not a big fan of traditional evangelism is that it feels phony to me. I know it’s not always that way, but it feels that way to me. It reminds me of a person I knew who was in the business of selling things. They would talk to me for three-point-five minutes about the weather or sports and then the conversation would suddenly shift to their product. After the second time this happened I realized that they didn’t really care about me, they just wanted to sell more. It’s not a very nice feeling.
When you talk to your friends for the sole purpose of finding a way to evangelize them, I imagine it’s the same kind of thing. It’s not a very nice feeling to be demoted from ‘friend’ status to ‘project’ status in the course of three-point-five minutes.
On the other side of things are those friends who genuinely love their jobs. They don’t try to sell stuff to me, but through natural conversation I get to know what they do. Because I like them, and they show real passion for their work, I want to buy something from them. Sometimes I want to buy something to help out a friend, but often it’s because I really like what they’re selling. They didn’t pressure me into buying, they shared their passion and, when I was ready, I chose the make the purchase.
See the difference?
On the surface it’s not very big. Looking at both relationships from a distance, it seems like things started off friendly and then turned to business. But that’s just from a distance, when you get into the middle of the process, the two are drastically different. In the first one, a friend becomes a project; in the second one, though, the friendship never stops. I’m confident that my passionate friends will still be my friends if I don’t buy from them. I’m not so sure about the three-point-five minute friends though.
Traditional sales, like traditional evangelism, is a numbers game. You can expect a certain percentage of people to turn you down (usually a very high percentage), so you just need to talk to a lot of people to get your numbers up. That’s the underlying principle behind the church growth movement and multi-level marketing businesses. More people, more rejection and more closing.
At church I heard someone lamenting that they didn’t know how to share God with their neighbors. The thought struck me that we don’t need to figure out how to share God. We need to share ourselves. If we’re filled with God, if we’re passionate about him and if he’s doing good things in our lives, then we just need to share ourselves.
Maybe people won’t be ready to talk about God right now, but if they see your passion and they know that it’s a part of who you are, they’ll seek you out when they are ready. They know that there’s no pressure; they’re confident that you’ll still be their friend, even if they don’t choose God. From a distance it doesn’t look too different from traditional evangelism, but on the inside if feels drastically different.