This year, addressing primarily Christians, I wrote my Top 10 Tips For Reaching Out To Atheists. Then, addressing atheists, I wrote 10 Tips For Reaching Out To Religious Believers.
Now, I just discovered that a couple of years ago Friendly Atheist ran a great list, written by participants in its forums, describing various wince-inducing sales techniques employed by evangelizing Christians, most of which make them inadvertently come off as smarmy, insincere, robotic, crazy, belittling salespeople:
1. Don’t start using the person’s name, as if you are a close personal friend, unless you actually are a close personal friend.
When someone has just met me, asks my name, and begins to talk to me starting their sentences with “Sarah,” it makes me want to back away slowly — certainly not keep listening.
2. Don’t start quoting from the Bible.
Most people will recognize what you’re doing even if they don’t recognize the particular book/verse, and it comes off as robotic and scripted, like a telemarketer’s call. I tune this sort of thing out, because unless someone is discussing the Bible with me on equal terms (we’ve already agreed to discuss the Bible and I already know what the conversation is about), I just assume that the person has run out of things to say and is falling back on their doctrine.
Besides, if I’m not already a Christian, why do they expect me to take their book seriously? It’s a huge turn-off.
3. Don’t bring up a topic, or try to find out what the person is interested in, just so you can bring it back around to how it’s all a metaphor for Jesus or Christianity.
It makes it seem like your interest was only a ploy to keep the attention of the listener, only to be using their cooperation for your own corny game. I don’t want to spend thirty minutes discussing The Killers with someone, only to have them steer the conversation into how all music is a gift from God and this somehow proves that he exists. It leaves the impression that they didn’t care about what I had to say at all — it was just a giant set-up for their waiting punch line.