Random Acts of Evangelism

This image came my way on Facebook. I know from experience the look on the faces of people who came to my door and tried to start a conversation with me about their faith by asking if I ever read the Bible, and I responded by mentioning that my PhD was on the Gospel of John.

Rarely do those eager to share their faith have a genuine depth of knowledge about it. And rarely do they respond to a random encounter with a scholar by deciding to listen rather than seek to do most of the talking.

Sharing one’s faith is a great thing. But I think it needs to be approached with a greater openness to listening to and learning from others. Talking about your faith should transform you, and not just the other person. And I think that applies whomever one is talking to, and not only if you happen to find yourself trying to evangelize a Biblical scholar.


Follow Us!
POPULAR AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://www.itsallrandommostly.com/ The Shape

    We’ve had a few Jehovah Witnesses at our door. They don’t like talking with Atheist Bible Scholars that much…

    • JenellYB

      Christian bible scholars even less. Way less.

  • Heather Pechin

    It’s because LDS missionaries are 18 years old (the men) or 19 years old
    (the women), and are trained the the MTC (Missionary Training Center)
    to prosolite in a specific manner. (I’m totally butchering that word.
    Sorry!) The training is for about 6 weeks before they are sent out on their mission.
    They have barely had time to cultivate their own belief
    system and learn for themselves, so, they stick to the way they are
    trained. (To talk about the church the way they know how without really
    answering questions.) (“You have a questions about our church? Read the
    BOM and pray about it, and God will show you the anaswer!”)
    not really different than most churches conversions, aside from the BOM
    (Book of Mormon) Most Christian churches say, “Read the bible and pray
    about it. God will give you an answer!” Well, I think most churches do.
    BUT doctrine specifics are not always give forth right. Some people want
    more specific responses than that. (Like my husband)
    I can only speak/write from an LDS point of view. I don’t know how the training works for a Jehovah Witness.

    • JenellYB

      Heather, raised in and around evangelical, Pentecostal, charismatic community, I’d say that lack of real preparation is pretty much the same there. Not only in personal interactions with them trying to “witness” as they call it, but having attended Sunday School, Bible Study, and Discipleship training classes which are supposed to equip them for witnessing, ie, proselytizing, it is there, too, pretty much just teaching rote standard responses, with proof texts, to common questions people might ask. Having myself has sales training in several employment situations, in which as a sales person I really did not have in depth knowledge or experience with the product, In working phone sales, I generally had a list of FAQ’s, with scripted answers for each. In one phone center job, any of several hundred products might pop up on my screen with any call, many I’d never seen or heard of before, and I just followed the screen script, and referenced a sidebar of FAQ’s, often all the while trying to figure out from what I was reading whet the heck the product they were calling about even was…a kitchen gadget, or something to treat their erectile dysfunction or their acne. I would say that compares very closely to their approach to ‘discipleship training.’

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks for sharing this, Heather! I actually had in mind an experience with Jehovah’s Witnesses when I referred to my own case. But I remember a very different experience talking to a couple of LDS missionaries. They talked about their sense that the Holy Spirit confirmed to them the content of the Book of Mormon, and about a life-changing religious experience. I had been assuming that only the sort of Christian I was at that stage in my life could make such claims. And so that experience was a very provocative one for me!

  • Dan Ortiz

    Haha very funny meme.
    Most (if not all) of the evangelistic shock tactics fail to evangelize because their primary role is to strengthen the religious identity of the missionary. not to convert. In that perspective the tactics are very successful.

    • JenellYB

      Sadly I think you may be right. Ive known a good many in my life, that it seemed the less successful they were in their efforts to convert others they were, the more hard lined and determined they got about their “right beliefs” about god and salvation.

      • JenellYB

        Brw, one of those was my mother. I vaguely remember some ‘traditional church’ before I was 5 or 6 yrs old, then she shifted to radio preachers, settled on one in Lousianna named L.R. Shelton, “Voice of Truth” radio missions. For years, there were steady streams of boxes of message tapes she listened to coming in and going out, and boxes and boxes of tracts that she BOUGHT and proceeded to go about shoving into people’s hands and leaving in stacks in public places. Very Calvinist, fundamentalist awful stuff. She went deeper and deeper of the far end with it, into real madness by the end, and myself and my younger sister grew up with the sound of that angry mean preacher on those tapes virtually any time my dad wasn’t home, as he wouldn’t allow it while he was home. I cared for her in her last few years, or what was left of her, between the craziness of that religion, and senile dementia, it was quite an experience.

  • JenellYB

    Odd to me those commenting here are relating this to J.W.s and LDS. My experiences of this sort have been with Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and charismatics on the one side, and nor atheist bible scholars on the other, but biblically educated Christians. My own experiences of this sort have been been of evangelicals, Pentecostals, and charismatics not only unwilling to listen, but immediately hostile, defensive, and even antagonistic toward CHRISTIANS with any actual education and serious grounding in biblical scholarship and theology. After having some studies in both, I discovered the fastest and easiest way to stop such evangelists aka prosylitizers is to respond to their opening question with a smile, offer them a seat while you reach for your bible, and say, “Why, yes, let’s talk about that!”.

    • Sugarbush43

      I’ve had the same experience. Now, I’m in a heavy LDS area, so I do have this experience with LDS. But, my late boyfriend was from a JW family. They were wonderful about it. If I ever had a questions, they were able to point to the answer. They didn’t tell me how to interpret it – they just showed me in the Bible where I could find those answers. I don’t agree with all of their beliefs, but I respect them. They were also great at being examples. I’m sure there are some bad JW out there, but the ones I’ve known have been amazing, unassuming people.

      • JenellYB

        Generally two problems with the ‘answers’ JWs point to in the ‘bible.’ One, they use their own bible, this is significantly different from mot bible translations, and two, just as Evangelicals etc are prone to do, point to verses that do not ‘say’ at all, when snipped from surrounding text, what they do if read in the whole body of text. If you are going to discuss with a JW, insist on laying out your own bible version next to theirs, AND that whatever being asserted as meaning, be examined within a reading of surrounding text.

  • SteenerToo

    There’s nothing worse than a bible thumper, that doesn’t have a clue as to what their thumping! Would really be a nice change if people would, in the very least, read the collection of books first.

  • http://www.andygill.org/ Andy Gill

    hahah, love this. I’d also love to have coffee with Ehrman… love his stuff.