Why targeted evangelism is a bad idea


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 — 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 Anglican 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.

Discussions about the Bible, particularly the prophecies in the Old Testament, 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.

In my experience, few Christians understand that the Jewish idea of the messiah is very different from the Christian one. Jewish beliefs about sin, about the inerrancy of Scripture, and what the prophecies are about, differ from what Christians believe about those things. It’s not enough to convince a Jewish person that Jesus is the Messiah when centuries of Jewish teaching about the nature of God and humanity are quite different from what orthodox Christianity teaches.

I’ve found personal stories to be the most effective way of sharing your faith. Your testimony is your own; 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. 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.

Fun fact: learning how to spot missionary tactics in conversation was part of my Hebrew school education. I learned to become very perceptive about when the tone of the conversation was starting to shift. And that’s not a good feeling.

The reason I am able to still have Jewish friends today is because I don’t have any “approach” or “method” when it comes to evangelism. 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). I’ve also learned that it’s never my job to convert someone — only the Holy Spirit can do that.

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 Anglican, 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.

The Christians in my life 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.

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

Like this post? Please support my writing with a donation via Patreon, leave a tip via Paypal, or check out my books.

Stay in touch via Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter.