A couple of years ago, I was in Safeway shopping for some whipped cream. As I took my time peering through the dairy case, a man stopped and casually asked. “So how do you decide which one to buy anyways?”
I Iooked over, sized him up, and was soon pleasantly in conversation regarding the various merits of high fat content vs. hydrogenated oils. Frankly I enjoyed the interaction, it seems all too seldom that strangers in the city will pause to even look at someone else, let alone strike up conversation. Over the few moments, we chatted over food and health, and then he asked me a simple question.
So, you are interested in health, hey?
You know the pulse of recognition that happens as you first realise that what you thought was happening was not truly the case. Your gut speaks to you? I felt it. I cautiously answered “yes …” He went to the point.
“I represent a great line of products that I think that you will be interested in, can I tell you about them?”
As quickly and graciously as I could, I let him know that I was not interested. I left, with that slightly winded feeling. In an instant, the relationship shifted from one that seemed to be based on genuine interest, however brief and casual, to his obvious search for common ground only to try and sell me a product.
Granted, I do not have a high tolerance for salesmanship. Only today, I was interrupted from this brilliant musing to answer the doorbell. There was a guy hawking carpet shampoo. I was rude and shooed him away without even bothering to answer the door. My suspicion may have just lost me the wonder-cure guaranteed to change my life.
Back to the point.
The day following my grocery store encounter, I shared the story with a friend. He was intrigued. He was in the middle of planning for a session on evangelism and he wanted me to share my story with the group. I told the story and finished with a confession I revealed that the violation I felt in Safeway, was as violating an approach as I have taught others to do in the past.
For years, I had teach a session on the F.R.E.D. principle. The method followed a simple acronym and referred to four key words. Favour, Relationship, Evangelism and Discipleship.
- First develop Favour, find like interests with others.
- Allow that Favour to build to Relationship, here you are able to share lives and thoughts.
- Sneak in some Evangelism, let them know that you have the answers to their questions.
- Finally after the sinners prayer – teach them the ways of the church – Discipleship.
In reflection, I find that the method attempted to process people into relationship with God.
A casual deceit.
Deception is a strong word. Even as I type these thoughts, I feel a little queasy. I pride myself on integrity – pride perhaps the operative word. Right here is where I feel like justifying myself and my method. I want to make sure that you know I was dong this out of the best of intentions.
When it comes to evangelism strategies, the simple fact that we would like to hide this “method of evangelism” from others outside our group reveals its soft belly. Truth must out. Real truth must be freed from our shackles of personal religious preference. Truth lives and walks, albeit painfully at times.
If I am ruthless with myself, I must admit that while I may have been complacently following method rather than a master, it was not completely innocently. I may have been naive, but I am responsible for that naivety. However small the ping of doubt was that I ignored, I still ignored it in my desire to find a simplified working method. Method is appealing, it is always easier to rest in a concrete theology than with living God. I can master a theology or method; I cannot master God, he means to master me.
An ulterior motive is always that, ulterior. Underhanded. Dishonest. Unreal. Ungodly. It holds the form of godliness and none of the power.
The message of Jesus is entirely different. True favour can only develop with people whom we like. Honest relationship is for those with whom I love to be with as friends and companions. No underhanded and unravelled truth. Jesus said it best, as he usually does, “I no longer call you servants because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” John 15:15
When have you faced a bait and switch?