This American Life – Bait and Switch

Posted on November 18, 2009

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http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1325

Act 2. “Bait and Switch” for Jesus. Provacatively entitled “Raw Sex”

Jesus says to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and they’re going to hate you, just like they hated me. So, you have this kind of Biblical imperative to spread the word to those who don’t want to hear it. Paul says, “be innocent as doves and wise as serpents.” [VIA: It’s not actually Paul, but Jesus in Matthew 10:16 ] So a little bit of trickery to help the medicine go down, seems like a reasonable thing to do.

Campus Crusade for Christ is famous for doing these things.

There’s a big debate among Evangelicals about how better to reach unbelievers. Jim Henderson is the author of Evangelism Without Additives.

It dawned on me slowly. I was tired of feeling bad; thinking about you as a project rather than you as you as a person. I also noticed that in spite of all the preaching I did, they just wouldn’t do it. Ordinary Christians vote with their feet, and do not evangelize. You can push them for a few days like a diet or something, and then it’s like, ‘are we done with this now and can we think about going back to our normal lives?

So, it doesn’t work. And, it doesn’t work for the same reasons that it doesn’t work for normal humans. We don’t like being pitched. We don’t like being treated that way. We can smell a sell coming. By the way, most of the ways you observe evangelism being done, large rallies, etc., the statistics are abysmal about the number of converts that actually sticks.

Jesus actually didn’t say to go make converts, He said to go and make disciples, which is a completely different project. The founder of our movement did not model this behavior. He never had to lower himself to a bait and switch.

This has been an adoption of American consumerism and is largely based on sales.

Now, I believe that Jesus is God and I want people to come to Jesus. But I’m done with the salesman model; I’m completely done with it.

So, walk me through “Doable Evangelism,” (DE) evangelism that people can do.

DE does not concern itself with converting people. It’s not about sales, it’s about connecting. There are three spiritual practice for connecting.

1. Notice people. Reflect.
2. Pray for people behind their backs. You don’t need their permission.
3. Go to them and actually listen.

Does this work? Or is that the first step?

That’s a question Christians ask. They’re worried about numbers.

Where’s the part that they come to Jesus?

You have to keep in mind that our mission, our goal is not to get converts. Our goal is to get Christians out connecting with non-Christians. Our goal is to get Christians learning how not to be jerks. Our goal is to get Christians to learn how to be normal. And what happens, is that they start befriending people, and they get into people’s social circles, and yes, naturally there’s a connection, through proximity. The way it happens is through relationships. That’s how human beings actually change. When you and I actually like each other; when people like each other the rules change.

Could this all lead to nothing? I have friends that very religious, we hang out, etc., but they’re no influence at all towards pulling us away from our staunch atheism.

This is what my evangelical ideological enemies would accuse me of.

When you describe it, what you’re replacing “bait and switch” with, is it’s all “bait” and then there’s no “switch.”

Yeah. I’m not offended in the least. I admit that I could be wrong, living in a delusion, but this is the way I prefer over the alternatives, and I’m happy with that. Our goal is to get Christians engaged with the process, we’re not concerned about results.

The actual time it takes for one to become a Christian is about 4 years. So I’m much more concerned with the starting line of faith, rather than the finish line.

www.OffTheMap.com, and www.DoableEvangelism.com.

— VIA —

I always enjoy these programs, and this installment had several phrases I appreciated (underlined above). I sense a bit that there’s still a little switch that is expected, it’s just not verbalized or capitalized upon. Ira Glass even caught on to that, saying that there’s still bait, just no switch. Perhaps even this approach still includes the standard traditional definitions of “evangelism,” which, while suppressed, are still there. Augmented forms of “evangelism” cannot fully strip away the traditional definitions that include ideas and consequences like “Heaven,” “Hell” and being “Saved.” I sensed a bit of it in Henderson’s sometimes hesitant response to Ira Glass.

Now, compare that with Jesus, as so poignantly stated the “founder” of this movement, and if I may, ask the question that goes back even further; what does “evangelism” even mean, or rather, what did it mean to Jesus and the first hearers and users of the word ευανγγελιον? While Henderson’s approach is much more tame and palatable, does it perhaps still miss the mark?

How about Justice, Compassion, Shalom, the very Presence of God for Healing, Hope, Restoration, on earth as it is in Heaven? How about the Poor, the Widow, the Suffering, and the Religiously Disenfranchised? How about bringing some good news to them, news that would actually appear to be and feel “good”? How about the condemnation of the overly religiously pious, and the uplifting of the brokenhearted? How about Teaching that is Compelling to their audiences, not condemning to the outsiders? What about bringing people Joy, exemplifying Grace, practicing Mercy? Perhaps we need to revisit the original before we can readjust the contemporary?

Cf. also Brian McLaren’s More Ready Than You Realize.

Posted in: Culture, Religion