There are so many things I look back on from my Christian life that make me cringe: Homeschooling, “The Excellent Wife” Bible study, “Growing Kids God’s Way,” Harvest Festivals, Pro life rallies, and, of course, all the ways to evangelize the lost. Just the other day, I was reminded of the most deceptive, deceitful and crafty evangelistic tools : “Relationship Evangelism.”
The idea behind Relationship Evangelism is that you seek out unsaved people and befriend them, with the sole purpose of bringing them to Jesus—“saving” them. There is an entire program designed for Relationship Evangelism, with flow charts and everything; I’m not kidding. It’s all laid out in steps. First you make a list of “prospects,” find ways to involve yourself in their lives (there are lists of ideas to choose from). Then you invite them out to dinner, or to a sporting event, or a movie, and even invite them to church, but you do all this without directly sharing the gospel with them (There are lists of ideas for that too). You never hide you are a Christian, but you just mention it “casually.” As time goes on—and this does take patience—they will become so impressed with who you are, your marriage, your kids, your other friends, that they start asking questions and then BAM! You get to share the gospel with them. If you are lucky they will have some crisis in their lives, which helps move things along.
Although I went through the study, I never really practiced R.E., but, I had friends who did and they always had a non-believing couple in tow, and we all knew they were the “unsaved friends.” We would get progress reports and, of course, would pray for them to come to Christ. Looking back on that now, I wonder how those friends would have felt if they had known all of that. How would they have felt if they had known their new “friends” had targeted them, not because they genuinely liked them, or they were interested in their lives, but they met the criteria: They were not Christians? How would they have felt if they had known that we all looked at them as lost and talked about them behind their backs, I mean, prayed for them. It just all feels so horrible to me now.
Of course, Christians don’t see it that way and many would wonder what the big deal is. I mean, you meet new people, make new friends, and even win souls for Christ. What is the harm in that? Jesus did it, right? He ate with sinners. Right. The truth is, when people are lied to and used as a means to an end it is extremely harmful. One of the biggest flaws in R.E. is there is no chapter on maintaining the friendships if a couple says “no thank you” to Christianity and that is because the unspoken reality is you move on. The Christian couple goes looking for fresh meat…er…I mean new unsaved friends and the friends that opted out get left in the dust. Most Christians I knew that were involved in RE would say that it didn’t matter that their new friends were resistant to the gospel, they would still remain friends but, it never worked out that way, at least not in my experience. The old couple would be gone and a new couple would emerge. I saw it happen time and time again. I just didn’t see how fake and phony it all was at the time. Now, I find it disgusting, but you see, all things are fair in love and evangelism.
I wonder how many Christians that I meet now see me as a prospect. I really look forward to the day when a Christian tries to practice Relationship Evangelism on me…it will be epic :-).