Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Of Evangelism and Bikini-Clad Beauties

For those who haven't heard, I recently returned from a 2-week mission trip to Uganda. We were there mainly for a series of teaching conferences. However, the local churches that we worked with are very involved with door-to-door evangelism, and our team was invited/encouraged/expected to join the locals each afternoon after the conference to take part in evangelism.

I'll be the first to admit that my own evangelistic efforts, like the efforts of most of the American church, leave much to be desired. But after teaching for three hours or more each day, I wasn't really in the mood to go out knocking on doors for another hour or two in the afternoon.

For a variety of reasons, door-to-door (DTD) evangelism has gone by the wayside here in the U.S., except for the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses - and we certainly don't want to be associated with them, right?

There's a big difference between door-to-door evangelism and what we in the States usually call "friendship evangelism" (make a friend, build a relationship, earn their trust, and THEN share the gospel). DTD feels to me like a "hit and run" approach, with no guarantee of follow-up or discipleship, so I'm less confident that real conversion and transformation takes place. On the other hand, the "friendship" approach has no guarantees either, considering that we often end up with great friendships and deep relationships. . . but, cowards that we are, we somehow never get around to the gospel.

But in Uganda, DTD still a common method. It's a culture where people tend to be more open and receptive to hearing the gospel - at least for now. But some resistance is beginning to be felt. Some of our Ugandan friends explained that not all their countrymen are as willing to listen as they once were. Some have even had confrontations when sharing the gospel. BUT, they said, "when Americans are with us. . .we have a way in. People are willing to meet with us simply because we have an American friend with us."

At some point it dawned on me that we Americans were being used - as an attention-getter, as a hook, as the bait in a bait and switch ad. It made me think of sex in advertising, of the bikini-clad women used in an ad to sell, say, car wax. The bikini babes have nothing whatsoever to do with cars or car wax. They're just there prostituting themselves to get the attention of the most likely customers - young guys who are car fanatics.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Should I be pleased - even honored to be used for the sake of the gospel? Does the importance of the gospel outweigh the methods used by our Ugandan friends? After all, didn't Paul say

"I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. . . .
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
I do it all for the sake of the gospel. . . "
(1 Cor. 9: 19-23 ESV)
Does the end justify the means?

Let the conversation continue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you have had some good thoughts on this issue. Friendship evangelism is a dead end. Either the person will die before you get around to sharing the gospel with them, or they will be upset that you 1) didnt share the good news with them sooner or 2) be upset that you formed a friendship with alterior motives behind it.

Door evangelism is great. It gets the gospel out there among those (from various backgrounds) whom you'd never run into in town anyway. You can leave a great tract with them or just ask if they have any prayer requests. It opens the door for you to come back and have casual conversations with them (and possibly offer them a gift and a cheerful spirit while you're there).

I do street evangelism and its pretty much the same thing as door to door, except you can come back if they are open to speaking with you again. I have reached countless thousands for Christ on the streets and helped them overcome objections and get questions answered about Christianity (wherein they learned more... or the truth) that helped plant seeds to bring them closer to salvation.

Feel free to follow along with some of my evangelism adventures at