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“Jerky” Evangelism?

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An atheist who frequents this blog took issue with some of the techniques I teach at the Ambassadors’ Academy, the training arm of The Way of the Master. In this post, I explained how attendees learned to preach in elevators, at stop lights and on top of cement trash cans. Students would pass or fail depending on if someone shouted “Shaadaap!” or not. A “Shaadaap!” was a good thing earning a “Pass.”

This is what the atheist, named Perdita, wrote:

“I think you guys get off on being jerks. You’re not happy until someone gets annoyed and then you can cry persecution.”

“Elevator evangelizing – also jerky behavior. Steve, anytime you’re cornering people where they can’t leave (like, oh for example, an elevator) or where it would be difficult to leave (maybe, perhaps in the middle of lunch at a restaurant), then you’re behaving like a jerk.”

How would you answer her, evangelists? Does she make a good point?

Get my answer by clicking here.

44 Comments

  1. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
    – Matthew 6: 5-6:

  2. I have often struggled with the whole cornering method of preaching the Gospel. And though I have struggled with it I have still done it because I realize at the end of the day the Gospel must be preached. Though how we present ourselves too others does either stregthen or weaken the Gospel’s effectiveness when preached. However, I would not in anyway stop a fellow believer from doing what they believe the Lord is calling them to do. I realize that at the end of the day that when the Gospel is preached (biblically) God can use it to plant, water or harvest. The Holy Spirit needs to be our guide to give us wisdom and discernment when doing evangelism. Raise Him & Praise Him!

    -Thomas

  3. How would you answer him, evangelists? Does he make a good point?

    How would you answer, her. And of course I make a good point ;).

    I hope you’ll say something like: only God can change people, not us, and while we are called to preach, we are not called to be jerks — but I’m not holding my breath.

    Some general questions –

    Do you think trapping or cornering people is fair play?
    Do you think there are personal boundaries that should not be crossed? If so, what are these? If not, why not?

  4. I only wish someone had had the courage to share the gospel with me when I was younger. I was nominally raised in a little Reformed church where Jesus loved everyone, but I never knew that I had to be born again. I never knew that there was something I had to do to receive His gift. I guess God gave up on finding someone in my neck of the woods to share this with me, so when I was 39 he connected me with a Christian 1200 miles away – and I was born again on the internet. That was 14 years ago, and I often wonder how different those first 39 years might have been if someone had had the guts to speak out.

    I am also reminded of a video titled One Man Army, where a Christian approached 10 people a day with a tract and a question about where they would spend eternity. He never knew what he’d accomplished for God until he was close to death. http://tinyurl.com/2fena2u

  5. Amen Thomas, here is the wisdom and discernment to go by… “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

    Do something, do something, do somrthing!

    Amen!

  6. I, too, have problems with preaching in situations where people have no choice to leave… such as elevator preaching, preaching while sitting outside at a restaurant, etc. It is one thing to open air preach on a city sidewalk, or public park where people who do not wish to hear the message can simply walk away and leave. It’s different where they have no option to walk away and are “forced” to hear the message.

    Imagine if you were in an elevator and someone just started loudly announcing the scores and statistics of last night’s spanish league football games. I suspect that a reasonable person would be annoyed and, probably, offended… unless they were a spanish league football fan. In this case their offense has nothing to do with the content of the message. The point I’m making is that people will get offended by this method, and it will have nothing to do with the fact that it’s the gospel you’re preaching (which, if it’s the true gospel, is going to be offensive anyway).

    Still……. I could certainly be wrong. The gospel IS being preached after all. It might be that I am personally uncomfortable with it. The bottom line is to search out the Scriptures and see what God says about it. I suspect we would come to the conclusion that we should preach the gospel at all times, but do in a spirit of love.

  7. David,

    I thank you for your first two paragraphs; it appears that you “get” how we feel about this issue.

    It’s not that you’re preaching the gospel or the scriptures; that doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I completely support your right to do so.

    But, as you mentioned, it’s like the guy talking about the spanish league stats, without regard to respecting your privacy or space. That’s what bothers me. It’s just basic social interaction-levels of respect. Stuff we should have learned as children.

    I suspect we would come to the conclusion that we should preach the gospel at all times, but do in a spirit of love.

    I have absolutely no problems with this idea. In fact, I think it’s a great idea, and I appreciate that you presented it, David.

    This assumes that by “a spirit of love” you mean something like “taking their feelings, privacy, and the right to be left alone into consideration”… which I think you do.

  8. @Quasar, i’m confused…what does your reference to Matthew 6: 5-6 about praying have to do with this topic of jerky evangelism?

    i would definately have to combine my agreement with Thomas, Val and David.

    As a Christian who is called by her Lord to Go and preach the Gospel. Personally, i don’t do elevator evangelism via open-air but, i have passed out Gospel tracts in them. I would say that i listen to the call to “Go” rather then worry about who may think i’m being a jerk. i’ve been called worse.

    perdita…God uses our unique personalities to convey His message. If I can use a bad example of evangelism it is the Westboro Baptist clan, that’s not only “jerky” evangelism but they are NOT conveying the Gospel biblically. How would one know they are NOT Christians? A majority of the people who hear them know they are hate-mongers and Jesus, our example is NOT a hate-monger. Again, our mandate is to speak and stand firm on the truth, never in hate (but the Gospel will offend as David above mentioned).

    One last item. As an ambassador of the Gospel (i think you know the message cuz i’ve seen you around Ray Comfort’s blog) you know why we have to do this. Again, we who proclaim aren’t worried about being labled jerks, we are concerned about the state of your soul. Really, when you think about it, it’s the best news you’ll ever hear.

    Chao,

  9. Val- Good point to make! You can never go wrong with Scripture! “Wise as serpents, innocent as doves.”-Matt. 10:16

    David- I agree with what you are saying. Though I think that in every situation there is an alternative that can be chosen. For example instead of maybe preaching in a elevator you hand out tracts to everyone in the elevator. Most of the time there is always an alternative. God bless!

    -Thomas

  10. i apologize for the following error in sentence structure. i didn’t proof read. i meant to say…

    I am a Christian who is called by her Lord to Go and preach the Gospel.

  11. Perdita, I made the corrections. You are no longer a he. 🙂

  12. David, thank you for your thoughtful answer.

    Thomas said: David- I agree with what you are saying. Though I think that in every situation there is an alternative that can be chosen. For example instead of maybe preaching in an elevator you hand out tracts to everyone in the elevator. Most of the time there is always an alternative. God bless!

    Thomas, this is what I’m trying to convey. In every situation there is an alternative. Put the tracts on the window, not in the car. Offer the tracts in the elevator, don’t turn around and preach in a closed elevator. Don’t purposely preach outside the outdoor seating of a restaurant just because you know they’re captive.

    dede said: I would say that i listen to the call to “Go” rather then worry about who may think i’m being a jerk. i’ve been called worse. and One last item. As an ambassador of the Gospel (i think you know the message cuz i’ve seen you around Ray Comfort’s blog) you know why we have to do this. Again, we who proclaim aren’t worried about being labled jerks, we are concerned about the state of your soul. Really, when you think about it, it’s the best news you’ll ever hear.

    Yes, I understand that you are called to preach. And I do support your right to do so. I am calling out only specific behavior. This won’t come out right, but if you’re going to ‘be called worse’, shouldn’t it be for the message and not the behavior of the messenger?

    And I realize that someone, somewhere will be offended no matter what you do. But isn’t it worthwhile to make sure your behavior is without reproach?

    Steve, my husband thanks you for the correction.

  13. There is a news item that the world needs to hear. The tomb where they laid the Christ is empty. He has risen and we are witnesses. You too can have peace with God your maker. Simply repent of your sins and put your complete trust in Jesus. That’s the story. Now go and preach it, as you are lead to do so. Even to those who walk in the shadow of death. Even to those whose house are on fire and are hanging over hell by a spyders web.

  14. perdita, if you hang around long enough here at Steve’s…you’ll come to understand there is never a dull moment on this blog.

    perdita said…
    But isn’t it worthwhile to make sure your behavior is without reproach?

    most definately and that is why i study to be approved and ready with a steadfast answer for the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

    look, sometimes along the way you will just hear Christians with lots of zeal but no knowledge with a blast of jerkism attached to it. and i’m sorry if you’ve ever been in that bad environment. we’re just jerks and wretched by nature yet, we are sooo happy that God saved our soul we just gotta tell somebody! so next time you hear us being jerks, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. and again, when you hear the message that unless there is repentance of your sins and trusting in Jesus Christ alone to save you you will end up in h-e-double hockey sticks!

    don’t let another moment go by. you’ve heard it before. so, what are YOU waiting for perdita?

    i assure you this gal has heard what you had to say and thank you for bringing up this area of concern.
    blessings,

  15. That’s such a good point, dede. I hate it when I’m trying to have a conversation with someone and they suddenly jump into a sales pitch. It’s really lame, unlike Kellog’s Corn Flakes! Yessir, even if someone is being rude to you, don’t let THAT stop you from enjoying whatever golden flakes of delight they may be offering!

  16. The bible says “Preach the word, in season, out of season”. That means even in elevators, if the Holy Spirit places that on your heart. We must follow the Holy Spirit, not men. If we fear what men think or say about us, we could not serve God. What if that is their last opportunity to hear the Gospel, and repent. Besides, what is the tare to the wheat?

  17. dede – thank you for listening. I was afraid that my concern would be ignored because I’m not a believer. Take care.

    Carol: Besides, what is the tare to the wheat?

    lol

    Carol, I think you may be one that uses the gospel to justify your loutish behavior.

  18. I was one of the ones in last week’s Academy that Steve talked about. Here’s my response to Perdita and anyone who agrees with her:

    For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

  19. Carol Nicholson and Glenn Parker, you preach at me in an elevator and I’ll recite The Song of Solomon backatcha, and louder. How d’you like them apples.

  20. You’d recite love poetry at me? I’m blushing. 🙂

  21. Carol, that is correct, HOWEVER, if we invade personal space inside an elevator, I can all but guarantee they will not be very receptive to the message. They need to listen to the message, not just hear it.

  22. I have been yelled and screamed at for just putting a Gospel tract into a persons hand. I Just handed it to a person while walking through the intersection. They chased me down the block to yell and scream at me about how I did not have the right to hand them the tract. I have had dirty looks from saying hello to people in the evavator before I was a Christian. I was just trying to say hello and be nice.

    People are going to offended no matter what you do. Even if you just hand them a tract.

    People are going to go to hell. They should go there with our finger nails in there shins. They should go there mad at me for doing what ever I could so that they could hear that God is going to Judge them and that Jesus paid their fine.

  23. People are going to be offended no matter what you do. Even if you just hand them a tract.

    I happen to agree with you here. Again, I’m not talking about handing out tracts or preaching at crosswalks, etc. I might find that annoying, but it’s not ‘jerky.’

    But if people are going to be mad at you, it should be for your message and not because you’re crossing into personal space. Does that make sense?

    Now, I understand you aren’t out to please “the tares,” but to please your God. I also understand you must follow where the Holy Spirit leads. I understand that I’m a non-believer and everything I say is, therefore, suspect. In fact, just by bringing it up I may have caused some to think “jerky” evangelizing is the way to go. But I would still ask that you look at those few examples and make sure it’s Spirit-led and not ego-led.

    Thanks for the conversation. Hope everyone is having as beautiful a day as I am.

  24. Hey, what happened to my flirty comment? (shrug) Oh well. If you think the Song of Solomon is the sinfullest thing I’ve committed to memory, then you should try cornering me in an elevator. Just sayin’.

  25. Stay tuned for my reasons for doing what I do on Friday!

  26. Steve – We all know why you do what you do. I can’t imagine that there’ll be any surprises in your response. Take care,

  27. So, this whole subject got me thinking about an accusation that is leveled a lot at people like myself and ExPatMatt on this blog, which is that we’re here to scare/dissuade people from evangelizing, and that it’s the message that bothers us, instead of the method.

    See, here’s the thing: If I was here to try to stop people from evangelizing, or have their evangelism attempts go badly, I wouldn’t act like I actually do act.

    Here’s how I would act if that was actually my goal:

    1. I would post comments in the “How are your evangelism attempts going” threads

    Specifically, I’m talking about the ones that Steve sets up for his Ambassador’s Academy classes, where it’s mostly young people posting a comment for each evangelism attempt that they do. I would post in those threads and try to discourage them, through a variety of ways.

    But I don’t do that, and neither does ExPatMatt. In fact, we’ve NEVER posted to those threads, because we think it would be rude to do so.

    2. There’s absolutely no way I would have ever let on that I’m a non-believer.

    In fact, if it was my goal to dissuade evangelism, I would act as if I was a fellow believer. I know that coming on to a blog like this as a non-believer makes everything I say suspect, so I would instead act like one of you. I would then use this ruse to manipulate situations and language to discourage evangelism. I could even say that I was a top graduate of the Living Waters system, and use that fake authority to give bad advice.

    3. I would encourage jerky evangelism at every opportunity.

    This would be combined with #2 above. I would encourage you all to invade the space of others, to act rudely to them, because…

    and here’s the reason why I’m not that bothered by all of this…

    It’s my opinion that Christians do far more damage to theism than I could ever hope to accomplish.

    I try to encourage people to NOT to jerky evangelism because I am very interested in seeing what some good evangelism, targeted at non-believers, would look like! I want people to seriously consider the issues.

    But, if my goal was actually to foil you all, I would constantly encourage such anti-social behavior as described in your comments above.

    I would act as one of you, go to the threads for the young people, and encourage anti-social evangelism techniques.

    I do none of the above.

    Therefore, what you think my goal is, is not what my goal is. You’re wrong.

    And this is what I find the most interesting… just like the conversation I had with Steve where he stated that I knew that God existed, but I didn’t believe in God’s existence… if you have to choose between reality (e.g., anti-social evangelism isn’t successful) and the Bible says, you’ll accept the latter every day.

    Which, of course, is exactly how I would want it if my goal was to confuse and dissuade you all.

    Which it’s not.

    • I really like that response, Nohm. Good reasoning! I’m not being sarcastic, either. I do believe you. By the way, when in elevators, I speak gently and conversationally for the whole of 30 seconds or so. What I think you don’t understand is how we value the Word of God to do the saving, regardless of the individual who preaches, and no matter how inappropiately he preaches. I have a series of articles in mind to explain more fully what I mean about the power of the Word, and how it is God’s way to convert the sinner.

      Another thing: I try to have a smile on my face, add a little humor, and engage the people I preach to in an “organic congregational” setting (others call these “captive audiences”). Again, my purpose is to get the Word out, everywhere, because so few Christians are willing to risk evangelising the lost. Ohhh, and I’ve made a few rude mistakes in my experiences, too.

      I like what A. A. Allen said in the forties: “If you are walking with Jesus, in the Spirit, you need not fear going too far. No believer has gone as far as God wants him to go.”

  28. Richard wrote:

    There is a news item that the world needs to hear. The tomb where they laid the Christ is empty. He has risen and we are witnesses. You too can have peace with God your maker. Simply repent of your sins and put your complete trust in Jesus.

    Hi Richard. Why should I believe what you wrote?

  29. Steve wrote: “Stay tuned for my reasons for doing what I do on Friday!

    I have $20 on “I’m a Herald, not a Negotiator”.

  30. Oh a fantastic example of the ‘jerky’ evangalism is the new Living Waters Good Person Test Ringtone.

    Have you heard that yet Steve?

    If I hadn’t got the link off the Living Waters site itself I honestly would have thought it was some kind of ‘make the Christians look bad’ joke.

    Harsh Beeps, Overly long Synthetic Voice. If that went off my workplace I seriously wonder if the phone would survive to ring again.

  31. What I think you don’t understand is how we value the Word of God to do the saving, regardless of the individual who preaches, and no matter how inappropiately he preaches.

    No, in fact I totally understand that. What I don’t understand is how you all can’t see that such a style not only doesn’t work, but in fact tends to turn people off from dealing with evangelists.

    Remember, I used to be an evangelist. False convert or not, I was actually an evangelist. So I understand, to an extent, why you support “jerky” evangelism.

    I just made an effort, back then, to find ways that would actually work at getting people to take me seriously.

    Another thing: I try to have a smile on my face, add a little humor, and engage the people I preach to in an “organic congregational” setting (others call these “captive audiences”).

    Having watched quite a few of your videos, the anti-social behavior I see you use the most is that you talk at people, and not with them, even in situations where they’re the only person you’re talking to. The interview with the biology professor at USC, during the distribution of the Comfort-style “On the origin of species” book, is a great example of you talking at them instead of with them.

    Again, my purpose is to get the Word out, everywhere, because so few Christians are willing to risk evangelising the lost.

    I get that, although I have mentioned before that you’ve never presented me with the Good Person test.

    I like what A. A. Allen said in the forties: “If you are walking with Jesus, in the Spirit, you need not fear going too far. No believer has gone as far as God wants him to go.”

    Again, if I wanted to dissuade you from evangelizing, then I would totally support this quote; in fact, I would even give rude situations that would support this quote.

    But to a non-believer, such a statement is scary, because “as far as God wants him to go” is equivalent to “as far as he wants himself to go”… combine that with anti-social (or even sociopathic) behavior, and you have a troubling situation.

    The kinda funny thing with all of this is that I, personally, LOVE it when people do “jerky” evangelism to me; I can’t get enough of it. I find it hilarious.

    Unfortunately, it’s not something that happens much in my area at all. As in, it almost never happens.

    But I love it. I puts me in fits of giggles. So, please, corner me and preach at me.

    Because I think it’s incredibly funny.

  32. To clarify, it’s “jerky” evangelism that I find funny, and not evangelism as a whole.

  33. Gah, another clarification: I only find “jerky” evangelism funny when it’s used on me; I get annoyed when it’s used on other people.

    Hence me making an issue out of Thomas putting a tract inside someone’s car.

    • All clarifications are duly noted.

      And I’ll try to do “Jerky Evangelism” on you when I see you, if I knew what you looked like and if I knew where you lived, and if I knew your real name! Heh!

  34. By the way, Nohm, if it isn’t “I’m a Herald, not a Negotiator,” will you really send me the $20.00?

    Not any more, no. The bet is kinda rigged now.

    My fault.

    And I’ll try to do “Jerky Evangelism” on you when I see you, if I knew what you looked like

    Tall, dark, and handsome.

    and if I knew where you lived

    California.

    and if I knew your real name!

    Christopher.

    Happy to help!

    • Ahhh, where’s your faith? I already had it written longhand in my notebook. You can send the twenty w/o a return address with a note: “For Steve’s Jerky evangelism efforts.”

      Thanks Christopher.

  35. Ahhh, where’s your faith?

    Heh. I’m a nullifidian.

  36. Perdita, This is the explanation of the tare and the wheat. The wheat is the ‘born again” Christian. He has been redeemed by God, and has a mansion reserved for him in heaven. God says, eyes have not seen, and ears have not heard what the Lord has reserved for them. Look up
    1Corinthians 2:9

    The tare is the unsaved person. His destination is hell- this is fire and brimstone forever! This is not God’s desire for anyone. Neither is it the desire of Christians. We share God’s compassion for mankind. This is why we give up our comforts, and risk our lives, to share the Gospel. The wicked seek our lives, we seek their souls. Our desire is that they will repent of all their sins, turn to Jesus for their salvation, and practice a life that is pleasing to God: as a result of the work of indwelling Holy
    Spirit.

    Yes, God takes up residence in the heart of a believer. IT IS A MIRACLE THAT HAPPENS! THE WISDOM, AND POWER OF GOD IS SUPER INCREDIBLE!

  37. This is not God’s desire for anyone. Neither is it the desire of Christians. We share God’s compassion for mankind. This is why we give up our comforts, and risk our lives, to share the Gospel.

    Given that, Carol, do you think that “jerky” evangelism helps your cause, hurts your cause, or has any effect on your cause?

    The point I’ve been trying to make is that “jerky” evangelism hurts your cause, because people are much less likely to take you seriously.

    Again, with people like myself, I’m interested in seeing evangelism that’s actually directed at non-believers, but jerky evangelism doesn’t bother me and, as I mentioned before, I find it kind of funny when it’s used on me.

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