Theology

Why targeted evangelism is a bad idea

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For every post I write that encourages Christians to stop targeting Jews with evangelism, someone always comments, But don’t you want the Jews to be saved?

I understand what the comment is asking — supposedly it’s a Christian’s duty to make sure that everyone hears the Gospel, so they can have fire insurance before they die.

But is that really the point?

It saddens me how some people have such little faith that they have to focus on the punishment part of not believing, instead of all the good things Jesus has to offer in this life.

Do I want everyone to experience the same hope and joy that I have found? Of course.

Do I want people to walk into the Episcopal church and say, “Where’s this been all my life?!” You betcha.

But I don’t make targeted, manipulative evangelism part of my “method” when it comes to sharing my faith. It’s just the absolute worst way to go.

I dislike even talking about “methods” when it comes to sharing something so important. I got lucky, though — talking about religion is literally part of my job, so every new person I meet gets to hear about it in some form when they ask what I do for a living.

I will get heat for saying this, but I highly advise against arguing the Bible with anyone in order to convert them, unless you have a degree in biblical studies and fluent understanding of ancient Hebrew. These debates have their place, but consider the insanity of arguing with the group that literally wrote the Hebrew Scriptures, and telling them why they’re wrong. That just doesn’t end well.

I’ve found personal stories to be the most effective way of sharing your faith. Your “testimony” is your own, therefore no one can refute it. But sharing your faith this way only works if you ask the other person to share their story as well. And only if you’re actually sincere about it — listening to someone else talk so you can find a space to insert some line of apologetics isn’t really listening, isn’t really loving.

My strong feelings on this have earned me some enemies in the Messianic Jewish denomination. But I’ll tell you this: the reason I am able to still have Jewish friends is because I don’t have any “approach” or “method.” I’m just honest about what I believe, and what my journey has been like, if anyone asks (and because I’m a weird spiritual mutt, people always ask).

When I first started attending the Hillel Jewish Student Center at my alma mater, I introduced myself saying, “I grew up Jewish, and am now Episcopalian, but I’m here because I really miss the holidays and Shabbat dinners.” That went over so much better than “Hey, did you know that Isaiah 53 is actually about Jesus?” The director and his family became good friends of mine, and I was even offered a job there.

We still have lively discussions about the intersection of Judaism and Christianity, which have never gone sour because everyone is equal in the conversation. No one has the upper hand. No one has a hidden agenda.

And I’ll tell you, the Christians in my life when I was growing up who shared their beliefs this way had a much greater impact on my faith than the people who left Jews for Jesus pamphlets on the windshields of every car parked outside the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah (true story).

The history behind the expression “get saved” might be worth its own separate post. It just begs the question, is avoiding hell the only reason to believe in Jesus? My answer is a hard no.

For more on my views about the afterlife, read this post.

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash
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