The Bridge Evangelists Build to Make Sales (Refutes Their Own Claims)

The Bridge Evangelists Build to Make Sales (Refutes Their Own Claims) November 29, 2020

Hi and welcome back! Recently, I showed you an interview Madison Cawthorn did for Jewish Insider. This up-and-coming young Republican is a super-duper-fervent fundagelical Christian, of course. As part of his winning-team narrative, he vaguely claims a few evangelistic successes here and there. But he also concedes that one group remains utterly impervious to his Jesus Power: religious Jews. Indeed, many hopeful evangelists just like him (and me, when I was Christian) experience similar difficulties. That’s because there’s nothing divine or even unusual about the practice of evangelism. It’s just salesmanship. Today, I’ll show you the most earthly and human part of this very earthly and human interaction: the absolute need for evangelists to build a bridge between their mark and their product. Then, we’ll check out the way that bridge accidentally destroys their own claims.

goose evangelism
(Scott Van Daalen.) Do you have a moment for me to tell you the Good News about millet seed?

Madison Cawthorn’s Complete Lack of Connection.

Some years back, Madison Cawthorn says he ran into a serious difficulty with his evangelism.

(In this context, we mean personal evangelism, which is person-to-person evangelism conducted by people who are usually amateurs.)

You see, he was trying very hard to sell his tribe’s one and only product: active membership in their particular flavor of Christianity.

Oh, I mean, sure, he claims a few success here and there with targets from his tribe’s stated enemies: Jews and Muslims.

However, every time he tried to pitch his product to Jews who actually practiced their religion, he told Jewish Insider, he ran into a total roadblock. As he put it:

 I have switched a lot of, uh, you know, I guess, culturally Jewish people. But being a practicing Jew, like, people who are religious about it, they are very difficult. I’ve had a hard time connecting with them in that way.

Yeah, I can absolutely relate. I bet a lot of folks reading this quote can, too.

I mean, he’s only describing the most common problem in evangelism as a whole — and one the tribe’s Dear Leaders have never been able to solve.

The Bridge: Creating False Needs and Then Filling Them.

Evangelism is  salesmanship. It’s just very shoddy salesmanship. Very, very few sources of decent sales advice exist in their ranks. (Here’s one that at least tries to offer practical sales advice!)

An effective and successful salesperson seeks to sell products that actually give value to a customer somehow. They sell those products based on their features, advantages, and benefits. They seek out customers who need that product — or at least they can make targets realize they need that product. Sometimes they might make up or exaggerate those qualities, but overall that’s the strategy: offer stuff people need or want at a fair price, and sure, they’ll buy it. Even if the salesperson isn’t really good at selling stuff, as Tom Carvel famously wasn’t, people will buy products under those terms.

I mean, the product that fundagelicals actually offer, membership in their tribe, certainly exists. Yes.

It’s just that nothing they say about it is true.

None of their claimed benefits for that product exist in reality. In fact, membership in fundagelicalism will make most adherents’ lives objectively worse, not better. And hooboy, it is expensive in terms of targets’ time and resources.

In a very real way, nobody reasonable joins fundagelicalism based on its people or its marketing. There’s got to be something goosing them in that direction.

So evangelists really have their work cut out for them!

If their prospect simply doesn’t hold a worldview that lends itself to an evangelist’s manipulation, then there’s just not a way for evangelists to land a sale.

They won’t even be able to begin the process of selling their product to such a person. And no gods at all will help them out there.

Madison Cawthorn’s Poor Sales Training.

Neither will their Dear Leaders.

Fundagelical leaders tend to offer their flocks the most lackluster sales training imaginable. What Madison Cawthorn learned about soulwinning probably exactly mirrors what I learned in my teens, since fundagelical leaders still teach evangelism the same exact way today. (See an example here. And here. Here as well.)

In that training, evangelists know they must create a sort of emotional bridge between themselves and their customer. That bridge functions as common ground. However, it’s not just a place of agreement between a salesperson and a mark. It’s more like a place where the mark perceives the world in the same way the salesperson does — at least for a little while.

That worldview contains the fears and desires that make fundagelicals’ threats and come-ons work. Without the mark at least temporarily adopting that same worldview and at least temporarily experiencing those fears and desires, no sale can possibly be made.

Once they establish that bridge, fundagelicals can move forward with their pitch. They can create artificial needs in their target, and then they can push hard on their product as the literal only way possible for anyone to fulfill those needs.

If they fail to create a bridge, then their subsequent need-creation techniques will fall flat, and then so will their need-fulfillment offer. Membership in fundagelicalism won’t look like a solution unless their mark has a problem that this membership alone can solve.

But Cawthorn could never build his bridge with “religious” Jews. Thus, nothing he offered those targets appealed to them, and thus he never sold a single membership to them.

That’s how it went for me, too, every time I tried to sell my product to pagans. 

The Rice Christians and the Sales Dilemma.

We see the same dynamic in the famous 2013 post “Rice Christians and Fake Conversions.” Its author, Laura Parker, was a missionary to Southeast Asia. In her post, she lays out a common difficulty she struggled with during those years (all links and emphases are hers):

I remember our first year on the field literally thinking, “No one is ever, ever going to come to faith in Christ, no matter how many years I spend here.” 

I thought this because for the first time in my life, I was face-to-face with the realities that the story of Jesus was so completely other to the people I was living among. Buddhism and the East had painted such a vastly different framework than the one I was used to that I was at a loss as to how to even begin to communicate the gospel effectively. [. . .]

Here I was learning from living in the culture, that the leap from following Buddha to following Jesus was seemingly a gigantic one, yet it seemed that every time I turned around Western teams were having wild success in convincing nationals to make it.

We already talked about why those other “teams” were having such apparent success. Now, though, I want to focus on why Parker never made any sales, and why her missionary work in Asia devolved from making actual sales attempts to modeling TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ to the people there.

This wasn’t her only attempt at missionary work. During her college years, she headed for Philadelphia to work as a missionary in a violent, dangerous part of the city. Overall, it went just as poorly as her stint in Asia did. She seems to have had trouble in both places with building a bridge between her culture and that of her respective marks.

Weirdly, Jesus didn’t help her in either location. She might as well have inhabited a different planet as her various marks. She couldn’t convince many of them at all that they needed her product.

Wait. What Does a God Need With a Starship Bridge?

What really gets me about this whole situation is this:

Missionaries should not need to build a bridge to make sales.

If their rhetoric was true, then they’d already inhabit the same emotional and rational space as their targets.

Fundagelicals claim they have a real live god on tap. They claim this god infests them and their entire groups, and that as a result they experience constant miracles and signs-and-wonders from this infestation. In addition, they claim this god’s handiwork is very easily perceived by literally anybody.

Except none of that’s true. Instead, this world and everything in it looks exactly like I’d expect it to look if no gods existed at all.

If what evangelists claim actually described reality, then anybody would be able to perceive that same reality. Evangelists wouldn’t ever need to emotionally manipulate anyone to get people to purchase their product.

Except those evangelists absolutely expect to need to completely gaslight and bamboozle their marks. They know it’s like pulling teeth even to get someone to halfway kinda-sorta agree with their starting premises.

And they also know the gap between their headspace and that of their marks grows wider every year.

A Future That Doesn’t Make Fundagelicals Happy.

To me, this growing failure of evangelists to make a sales bridge is good news. It speaks to an incoming period of great growth in the human mind and spirit. Authoritarian movements like fundagelicalism fit into that future less and less, especially since their only product is so obviously unpleasant and dishonestly-described.

I mean, ultimately that’s why I couldn’t convert any pagans. It’s why Madison Cawthorn couldn’t convert practicing Jews and why Laura Parker never made sales. And it’s why fundagelical missionary groups must fling more and more missionaries at their projects to achieve more and more lackluster results.

For that matter, evangelists’ worldview differs more and more and more from that of their marks. Likewise, evangelists experience more and more trouble crafting a bridge that brings their marks to a place where they can even temporarily share that worldview. As a result, their threats and sales promises sound ridiculous.

Thankfully for them, their Dear Leaders already have set some hand-waving in place to handle any cognitive dissonance erupting out of their indoctrination and their lived reality. But we’ll take up there next time.

NEXT UP: LSP! Then, we’ll check out how fundagelicals conceptualize evangelism as a purely divine process overall — when it is anything but that. See you tomorrow!

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About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a sweet, squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. At any given time, she's running out of bookcase space. You can read more about the author here.

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