Are we just a bunch of phonies? That’s what many people out there think. Christians are fakes and hypocrites, self-righteous phonies.

There are “Christians” who are phonies – and famous Christians who publicly fall don’t help this reputation.

And then of course, there’s the reality that we all mess up. We all sin. We all will let others down. But this isn’t hypocrisy – this is actually part of our message. We rely on Christ’s grace. This isn’t the kind of perceived phoniness I’m musing about this morning.

Twice in my Christian life I’ve been taught — and encouraged — to be a phony. Both times it was by ministry organizations that I, for the most part, highly respect.

Once was as a youth ministry intern when I took a bunch of high school students to an evangelism conference. Another was as a college student myself when I went to a weekend conference focused on outreach.

In both cases, we received powerful teaching about evangelism. We were challenged, convicted, and truly inspired to share our faith. To step out beyond our fears and be honest and bold. To speak the truth.

And then we were told to lie.

Well, not to “lie” exactly, but to be deceptive.

In both cases, we were given “surveys” to use as we approached people. These were surveys about religious belief. So in Chicago’s Grant park one day and on Ball State’s campus another, I went along with it. We used these “survey” questions to open up conversations. The goal was to lead into meaningful spiritual conversations. And, in some cases, this “worked” and led to great opportunities to talk about Jesus.

But I felt very, very uncomfortable. And it wasn’t because I was chicken when it came to sharing my faith. It just felt wrong. It seemed so different than the bold, truth-telling evangelism we see in the book of Acts.

See, these “surveys” were phony. They were never tallied. The data was never compiled. They were a front. They were a “strategy.” Ultimately, they were a lie.

I just can’t see Peter or Paul using deception to open doors.

In both cases when I participated in these phony-evangelism projects, I was not only uncomfortable, but also young and confused. I trusted these organizations, and much of their teaching inspired me. I wondered if my hesitation was purely a lack of boldness. But I also knew there was something deeper bothering me about the whole thing.

But now as an adult, I have a real problem with it. A real problem with it.

So I guess this posting is about what evangelism is not. It is not about strategizing or trickery or some polished presentation.

Ultimately it must be about something very different. Or it purely IS just phony.

What do you think? What isn’t evangelism? What is? Leave a comment to share your own thoughts and experiences.

(Ironically, as I sit here writing at Starbucks, two guys have just sat at the table next to me. One is obviously a Christian, the other is obviously not. And right now, right next to me, they’re just talking. They’re being real. They’re discussing questions, sharing experiences, listening to each other, truly caring and empathizing. Maybe right now God is sending me an answer to these questions!)


2 responses to “Phonies

  1. I love, love, love this post. You have hit it right on the head. Jesus commands us to LOVE one another. We do no justice to the Kingdom of God when we use props that are really designed to manipulate people.

  2. Aimee said it so well. As well as your comment at the end about the guys at Starbucks. I also think you have to develop a relationship with the people before you can work on changing their lives–they have to see something in you that makes them want it as well. I think the “phoniness” comes in when we go in with a fake smile, pretending our life is perfect and then start telling others how they are flawed and need to change (or so it comes across). (I wish I had other great ideas or comments but too many nights of a baby waking me up again means my brain is fried tonight. Just keepin’ it real! 😉

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