A must-listen…

So I’m out on my regular mid-morning run listening to one of my favorite podcast, This American Life. This episode was called “Bait and Switch.”  I laughed at the story of the hotel room service that disguised itself as a pizza chain, I became concerned about police tactics that caught 2 do-gooders, but the third story almost stopped me dead in my tracks.

It was a 13 minute piece on evangelism tactics.  At first I was annoyed.  They led with a disillusioned evangelical describing the kind of methods he used as a part of his Christian college group, but then the story took a remarkable turn.  They interviewed Jim Peterson.  You may know him as the author of books like, Living Proof, and Lifestyle Discipleship.  Ira Glass asked him probing questions on why Christians do what they do and his alternative to the bait and switch.  It was amazing.  Definitely worth the cost of a download or CD.  For a limited time you can check it the full episode but I also found the just this segment entitled: Act 2. Raw Sex. Don’t worry, there’s nothing inappropriate here.  I guess it’s This American Life’s own little bait and switch.

4 thoughts on “A must-listen…

  1. Interesting and thought proviking discussion. I do feel it left me hanging. I have dithered on both sides of this issue, and I don’t think either the CCC survey approach (which I also was trained in) or the totally passive approach espoused by Peterson provide a good model which reflects the way Jesus approached people.
    I personally find deceptive sales techniques to go against my grain. (Of course, Jesus had a lot of inside information not usually available to us, and his approach was quite different from one person to the next, tailored to each one’s individuals needs, in perfect love. I think it is doubtful that we can really “mimic” Jesus approach — I don’t even like the sound of saying that.) My only answer is that we need direction from the Holy Spirit as to how to approach any individual.
    I have also come to firmly believe, that we cannot claim to be evangelizing if we never get around to actually sharing THE MESSAGE in fairly specific terms. But, I also believe it is only the Holy Spirit that works in a persons heart, to bring them to believe. In one sense, it may be that what we actually say is not terribly important, and I have certainly “messed up the presentation” but seen God overrule and bring the person to Christ anyway.
    One thing that I think works well for me in a casual friendship situation is to share aspects of my faith in Christ as something that has deep meaning and great value for me personally. I guess it is a sort of “take-it or leave it” approach, but it also doesn’t have to end the relationship if your friend rejects it. I can at least do it with total honesty and transparency, which is important.
    The one thing that can put a lot of pressure on, which I don’t like, but which I must accept as reality, is the consequences of rejecting the message. If I truely love the person, I may back off for awhile, but I will not give up trying on the first rejection.
    There are a lot of difficult issues here, and my only comfort is that I do have the Holy Spirit to guide me in any specific situation, if I stay attuned to what He is wanting me to do.

  2. Great insight here. I would agree that the Holy Spirit should be the main guiding force in any spiritual conversation. I imagine Peterson would agree as well, but may have avoided diving too deep into difficult concepts.

    I wouldn’t however, describe his method as passive. Maybe “seeker-oriented” would be a better description. It causes the one sharing to listen first, believing the seeker will share their area of need which will make the gospel presentation much more relevant and relational. Two great examples of Jesus combining this method with the work of the Holy Spirit are in John 3 & 4. Jesus orients the gospel message around both Nicodemus and the woman @ the well’s felt need. Coupled with the work of the Spirit in each instance, it was a life-changing moment for them both.

    One of the things we need to remember with all of Jesus’ encounters is that he was ministering in a fairly homogenous culture with a large store of religious knowledge. That is not the case today. It can require many conversations to bring a seeker to the place where they’re ready to make a decision to become a disciple. Peterson said up to 4 years and I think he may be right.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your summary statement. The Holy Spirit is our guide. He will enable us to listen in love and empower us to act and speak in a way that will show how really good the Good News of Jesus is.

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