Thursday, March 27, 2008

Silent Witness - Stealth Evangelism

I saw an ad in a Christian magazine once that presented a practical way to share your faith. The product name was “Silent Witness.” It was a line of sunglasses that were distinguished by the tiny decorative crosses and fishes that were affixed to the frame hinges. The ad claimed that, by wearing them, you could share your faith without ever saying a word; the unsaved would recognize you as a believer when they saw your glasses. This gives inspiration to a new twist on an old Christian chorus, "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Shades."

What a bunch of poppycock. The unsaved think a cross is some kind of lucky charm and, as far as I know, the sign of the fish was supposedly meant to be a secret sign among believers. Too many undercover Christians are trying to figure out how to do the work of evangelism by stealth but the problem is, a silent witness is NO WITNESS at all.

Several years ago I received a phone call at the church office from the irate manager of a restaurant in a nearby city. She was complaining about a stupid “evangelistic” stunt that had been repeated several times in her place of business by one of our members. It seems that the perpetrator would meticulously place Gospel tracts (dozens of them) between the disposable toilet seat covers in the rack in her restroom. Whenever anyone would extract a seat cover, out popped a tract. I asked her how she knew it was one of our members. She replied, “Your church’s name and address is stamped on every tract.” She thought the antic did not favorably represent our church or the Gospel. She was right. I do know that we never intended our tracts to be used for toilet evangelism.

Recently I read a news item about a church with a new method of reaching the masses with the good news. About 800 people every day in West Virginia, receive a “robocall” message (probably at dinnertime) on their telephones. The recorded message tells them, “We want to tell you how you can have heaven and know it, and cause true revival in America.” After a quoted Bible verse and an invitation to repeat a prayer, the message concludes, “God bless you is my prayer. Please leave a message after the tone.”

Yes, the Gospel message is offensive to some; our methods should not be. But I suppose these kinds of “outreach” techniques are the obvious results of modern marketing methods of church growth in a technical age.

I guess I’m just old fashioned but I thought we were supposed to “speak” the Word, not “sneak” the Word.

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