Monday Challenge

Andrรฉ-Henri Dargelas – Children Going to Church

We haven’t done a Friday challenge in a while so instead here’s a discussion question to get Monday started right.

On the Facebook comments under the last post somebody used a phrase “tender hearts” which in my experience is just code for “easily swayed.” Children are said to have tender hearts (which is why so much focus is put on converting them early). The grieving, the poor, and the uneducated are also seen as having more tender hearts than their more emotionally resilient, affluent, and better educated counterparts.

So here is the question: what are the ethical boundaries on evangelism? Is there a wrong time? A wrong method? At what point does the message stop being an invitation and become instead a manipulation?

152 thoughts on “Monday Challenge”

  1. Love this pic! We are to tell about Jesus, not persuade. Personal testimony means telling what Jesus has done for me – the Lord is capable of the rest. Really.

    1. The Bible never instructs us to tell “what Jesus has done for me.”

      Isaiah 55:11 says that it is the Word that doesn’t return void.

      Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

      1. I would also add that witnessing and soul winning are not commanded anywhere in the NT. Paul had a lot to say to the churches. Soul-winning wasn’t among them.

        1. I would also add that the correct response to Christ’s question of Peter – “Lovest thou me?” – is not “Go soulwinning” or “Get more converts”(contrary to what the Hyles thought process is), it is “Feed my sheep”.

      2. I wonder why you chose me to dispute? Interesting. Anyway, you could try to stop me telling what Jesus has done for me but it won’t happen. Maybe you think the Lord isn’t capable of using my testimony to bring someone to salvation? I have to say the right words or the Holy Spirit hasn’t got a chance?

        1. I suspect it’s more of a reaction to the annoying “testimony” thing that so many fundy churches push. I know for me it’s been a big relief to be able to say yeah, I’m depressed and Jesus hasn’t magically fixed it.

          There’s nothing wrong with honestly sharing with someone else – but I think it very easily becomes having a trite little story to tell and say you’ve done your job.

    2. Actually, Agrippa said to Paul that he almost “persuaded” him. And Paul reasoned with Felix about spiritual matters. Some people need more than a simple wide net proclamation of the gospel. You have to talk to them about their concerns, objections, and questions, and they aren’t always going to ask them if you don’t approach the subject first. Just my opinion.

      1. I think the sharing of the Gospel should be a very personal, individual thing. There is no cookie cutter solution. It is just as much about hearing the other person’s story and finding that God is already working in them as it is telling our story of faith. One might find out they are already followers of Christ–they just didn’t get there through a sinners’ prayer.

  2. I like Fred Clark’s formulation that evangelism is hospitality (formulated explicitly at the end of the “Left Behind” review). If you don’t care about that person as a person — as a friend; if you don’t care about their comfort, and aren’t willing to immediately back off if you see that what you’re sharing is upsetting them for any reason; if you treat the interaction as an argument or debate to be won — then you’re in the wrong.

  3. Darrell, I like your definition of “tender hearts” and think it hits the mark.

    Fundamentalists go after the vulnerable and the weak, those to whom a load of guilt or grief has been imparted. It is such a relief to “let go and let God.”

    When I was younger, visions of hell (reinforced by my parents’ abusive discipline) made it a psychological necessity that I find a place I felt “safe” from God’s Wrath. And of course, I had the zeal of one who didn’t want God’s disciplinary attention, so I strove to be “good.”

    It wasn’t an act. It was all too real. And I was 16 when I got saved.

  4. My denomination is among many who have policies of safe sanctuary which extends beyond the easily defined abuses. All who are vulnerable–and we all are at some point in time–are to be protected, not taken advantage of. I have found the IFB chooses to use fear and guilt as their motivation. When used on those who are vulnerable, that is taking advantage of them. Christ always said do not fear. I do not believe fear is a Christian value or tool.
    I also find the tactic to get the person to the point of decision to be awful. I remember in the classes on witnessing they would teach bringing the conversation to the point of making a decision. That is contrary to the picture Scripture paints. Some sow, some water, some harvest. To rush the harvest is wrong. We don’t know where people are in their journey. To push them to make a decision here and now–when you are simply a sower or a waterer is to overstep your place. And it becomes all about getting the message to the person rather than hear their story. What if we listened and helped them see where God has been in their life all along? And perhaps the “decision” will be organic. They will simply follow Christ.

    1. I’ve been reading here for a long time and this is my first time commenting. I’m reminded of something that happened on teen visitation during my youth group years. I was paired with a teacher from the Christian school to go knocking on doors in an impoverished area of town. After going through the Romans Road with a teenage girl we met, the teacher asked the girl if she wanted to get saved. When the girl said no, the teacher cocked her head to the side and narrowed her eyes and said, “So you’re just going to reject Him?” I was so embarrassed to be standing there! I don’t recall what happened after that, whether she was bullied into making a decision then or not, but this moment sticks in my head as a time when I wanted nothing more to do with the IFB method of operations.

      1. you are so correct to use the term “bully”–when fear is the motivator and one pushes for that moment of decision–it really is bullying.

  5. I have made it a policy, even in my Fundy days, not to share the Gospel or “witness” to anyone who smells of alcohol or is obviously under some chemical influence. I hate to hear of all the “conversions” some “soul-winner” got while working with drunk people. Some evangelist would be telling his war stories and tell about how some slobbering drunk was GLORIOUSLY SAVED—HA-MAN! and I would, even in the young impressionable days, think, “no way he could make a rational decision as drunk as you say he was”.

    On the couple of occasions I saw and stopped at a bad accident, I helped with basic first-aid and sought medical help for the accident victims. (Except the two who died at the scene rather suddenly) I might have been able to use the situation to scare them into a prayer, but humanitarian training took over from my Fundy training. I have no regrets.

  6. In my experience, the last thing anyone who is grieving or traumatized needs is some fat guy in a suit telling them that getting into church will make their problems go away.

  7. The birth of my daughter was actually one of the things that prompted me to really look into my faith. I never thought about it before, but when my daughter was born, I had the realization that I was going to have to tell her about Jesus (of course!) and started thinking about how I would articulate it. Then it hit me… “I’m going to be telling her that she is responsible for the torturous and heinous death of someone who deeply loves her 2000 years ago. If I’m going to tell her this, then I need some questions answered, both for me and because I know she’ll eventually ask them.”

    I don’t know why, but up to that point, I had no problem helping in Sunday School. I had no problem telling some of the cleaned up Biblical stories via flannelgraph, and having the children color drawings of things like Samson toppling the temple that crushed him and several others. I had no problem believing that any baby that was crying because they were hungry were just angry and prey to their sin. I remember thinking that a baby making noise during the service was just being influenced by demons in order to distract people from the message.

    Then my daughter was born, I read up on the psychology of babies, I realized that she had no way to express discomfort except through crying. I learned that children are unable to even understand the concept of death until their later years, but are still able to be led to Christ through fear of pain.

    Sidenote: First time I got saved was when I was 5. I swallowed a penny and thought I was going to die, but I didn’t want to go to hell. Second time, I was as a teenager after reading the salvation plan on the back of Chick tract and crying because I felt bad for what I had done to Jesus.

    Anyway, I never a problem with infant indoctrination until I had my own kid. Selfish? Sure, it was. But my intentions now are to teach my kids to think critically, and if they choose Christianity, or any other religion I’ll absolutely respect that. We’ll have some lively discussions of they become IFB, that I’m certain of, but it’ll be their choice to believe those things. Not mine.

    1. “Infant indoctrination” – love that phrase! I think I’ll change the name of our toddler class to that. Except we only teach fun stuff like about how God is with them, made them, and loves them. I’ll have to switch it up a bit, throw in some Ehud and Jepthah.

  8. Well there are boundaries, we all realize this. After all, you don’t see Christians – even hardcore fundies – breaking into homes and converting people at gunpoint. But this of course leads to the “question behind the question” here; namely the idea that simply agreeing with someone or reciting a magic prayer can hardly be called conversion. The “sinners’ prayer” is especially interesting to me. I would like to learn its provenance.

    1. The “sinner’s prayer” seems at least in part to be based on the prayer of the publican in the temple. As a heart cry to God, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the words themselves. The problem is with the idea that we can somehow manufacture a “glorious salvation” if we can just manage to wring the prayer out of the prospect.

      Thing is, the prayer of the repentant thief on the cross is also a “sinner’s prayer,” and I’ve never heard a “soul winner” try to lead someone in a prayer that began, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

      1. The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics pray that. Before taking communion I believe. But that’s a different tradition. Actually it’s quite moving.

    2. Some base the sinner’s prayer on Rom 10:9 (believing with the heart, confessing with the mouth).

      1. Yet those same people would regard Catholics and Episcopalians reciting either the Apostles’ or Nicene Creeds and the Lord’s prayer as engaging in vain repetition.

        1. Whereas I posted the Apostle’s Creed on the wall for the older Sunday school class to read and recite at prayers every Sunday, because I think memorizing it is a good idea. Spontaneous recitations of faith tend to dwell on our favorite bits.

        2. We didn’t have a problem accusing Catholics of salvation through works (using their recited prayers as examples). Which is ridiculous, considering that saying the sinner’s prayer is still salvation through works. If one is miraculously going to heaven from one moment to the next because they did something, that’s works! Much easier than living decades and decades of doing good, but it’s still works.

  9. When it becomes more about the soulwinner than the soul being won. It amazes me how selfish an act of outreach becomes. When it becomes about numbers and repeating a prayer you are at risk for manipulating people for your gain and not God’s.

  10. I feel that fundies often cross the line into predatory behavior. (I base this on my experience as a fundy PK, Bible College graduate and ten years of full time fundy ministry)

  11. Jesus said to tell every all creation. He said that because we are to tell everyone regardless of race, gender, age, etc. The fact is that we are to use discernment while doing this. I was 4 when I accepted Christ. For me, always being in church, it seemed like the next step for my life. I wasn’t badgered to accept Christ. My parents took me to the pastor (of course, we were hardcore IFB) for him to talk me out of it because they didn’t think I understood. I answered all of his questions about salvation and he baptized me. I only doubted when people said that they had an amazing experience, but I never doubted enough to “get saved again”.
    I think manipulation plays a huge part in these churches because they want to fill up a book with notches.
    I tell my congregation that they are successful when they tell someone about Christ, not when the person accepts Him. They don’t need to “learn how to evangelize” because I don’t want them to manipulate, I want them to share. I stress (in my Calvinism) that God is in control and that He alone can bring someone to repentance. They actually turn out for visitations and participate because they know they aren’t pressured for results.

  12. Great discussion and excellent points so far! Like many others, this is another topic what let to my “Excommunication” from the IFB. I had trouble with 4 yr. olds “getting saved” after repeating a prayer and “asking Jesus into their heart.”

    You ever wonder why most pastors spend more time reviewing/interviewing candidates for baptism than they do for salvation?

    If there is one verse that will cause chills, it is Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

    My question is, how many people has the IFB church coerced into praying a prayer and that person (or “soul” like the IFB says) now believes without a doubt they are saved, when in reality they are children of hell.

    Christ wanted children brought to him, but not once did he lead them in a prayer! Why does the IFB church? I suppose they think Christ dropped the ball?

    I have worked in at least 20 IFB churches all over the US as an evangelist, assistant pastor, etc. (no never made it to the top rank of Senior Pastor), and my recollection of the people there are the poor, uneducated, needy, etc. Not saying these people don’t need Christ, and also not saying that some truly didn’t come to Christ, but I think it speaks volumes to the fact that these are the people who are easy to lure in and manipulate.

    PS – having children of your own really changes things!

    1. I think of the Rich Young Ruler. Jesus did not coerce him into praying The Sinner’s Prayer, or any sort of prayer. He did, however pinpoint what controlled the young man’s life -his wealth. The man did not want to give that up to follow Jesus, and Jesus did not force him to give of his weath or force him to follow, but let him go.

  13. When I was about 12, I heard the gospel clearly for the first time in the Gospel Tent of our local community street fair. I was also a kid who thought deep thoughts, and was trying to figure out my own belief system. I had already read through most of the Bible on my own, part of it in King James.

    The presenter went through the Wordless Book and offered everyone who received Jesus a pencil! I was absolutely horrified that anyone would try to “buy” my belief with a pencil, but I was too well-mannered to walk out. However, my personal integrity did not allow me to raise my hand, All the other kids did, and they all got their pencil (with the colors of the Wordless Book).

    The lady kept me behind to find out what my problem was with receiving Christ. I told her I wasn’t ready. She was not happy with me, but let me go with a warning, and gave me my pencil, anyway (which, I think, I tossed).

    I did come to faith three years later, after much Bible reading, discussion with other believers and non-believers, and exploring different faiths. I understood my need of salvation, and, 42 years later, my faith in my Savior is stronger than ever. I have worked with children all of my adult life, both in and out of church. I promised myself long ago that I would never coerce a child into a confession of faith. Many I have worked with have come to faith, but not because I offered an incentive. I shared the truth of God’s Word, and He did the rest.

  14. “Though our task is not to bring all the world to Christ, our task is unquestionably to bring Christ to all the world.”
    A. J. Gordon

  15. When my brother was. 4, he asked my fundy preacher’s wife grandma if angels have wings. Her reply was, “well since you don’t have Jesus in your heart, you won’t know the answer.” Of course he freaked out, so she had him say the sinners prayer. My mom was pissed. Now he is a Roman Catholic!

        1. That’s the answer, but what is the ultimate question?

          I believe that needs some deep thought.

      1. You know, there’s a lot of Catholicism that actually matches up with fundy thinking. More than the fundies like to admit.

        1. I have noticed this. It appears that the animus fundies feel toward the Church of Rome is not so much an objection to false doctrine as it is to the success of a direct competitor.

  16. It seems to me that at my former church the local soul winning and inviting to the church was for a select few people that seemed to have more money. If you were “saved,” even baptized there but weren’t worth beans they seemed to shun you, by executive order of the Pastors wife. The pastors wife really groomed the owners of certain local businesses or law enforcement, but certainly no bar owners or other unsavories. When they closed their addictions program down they started making meals, but not for the poor, for the ones they approved as good , (I mean big tithers.) They were looking after what donations they could get. I know because my dear spouse was tithing a large amount plus giving away free professional services and he got away with LOTS. They hated to lose us!

    On a side note-They still used pen and paper for accounting, cause computers were “of the Devil”. I really think they were cooking the books.

    They also liked to win kids young and I don’t agree with that. Even at my new church they will take the early soul winning with a grain of salt. If my kids are anything like me they will be questioning all along. They will notice inconsistencies. Hopefully they will make a wiser decision later on in their life. I don’t like brainwashing, and that’s what this heavy pressure get ’em while they’re young business is.

  17. I don’t believe God ever intended His wrath to be used to drive people to Himself. I believe God is fully capable of bestowing His wrath on those who reject Him, but obeying God to avoid hell isn’t what the relationship is all about.

  18. Sure there are inappropriate times to speak to people about the gospel. Is in inappropriate to share it with kids at a VBS? No. Because many people come to Christ as a kid. But using candy and peer pressure to push people to make a decision is more of a groupthink type tactic rather than a rationalized decision. “Why are you getting saved? Well because you did…and you? Because he did…….”

    I don’t think there are wrong people to tell about Jesus or to directly challenge to receive the gospel. But giving the prayer to recite to make sure it takes or using a manipulative tactic is unethical.

    1. Sharing the Good News and Bible stories at VBS is different than the IFB understanding of soul winning through VBS. As a pastor, I know the children in my church go to a variety of church VBS in the summer. They need to hear the Bible stories and Good News but they don’t need to be shamed or made to question whether or not God loves them because they haven’t gone through the hoops that church deems necessary.
      But it comes down to what does the church consider the Gospel? For the Fundies–it is the “you are a sinner. Jesus died for you. You must pray this prayer to accept Jesus as savior or you are going to Hell.”
      But that is not the Gospel according to all denominations. For some the Gospel is God is for us and with us proven by the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The Kingdom of Heaven begins now. You are invited to join God as he restores, redeems and resurrects.

  19. I am glad no one ever tried to lead me to Christ. I was exposed to Christianity, of course, and even attended Sunday school and church a few times in a nonfundy church. I am glad no one did, because I would have intellectualized it and refused it. As it was, I came to Christ at an opportune moment, the details of which I won’t go into at this post, but suffice it to say no one was soulwinning to me. As far as children go, my opinion is that it is imperative that they are exposed to spiritual things at an early age. Just like reading, it is something that is best learned early, is my opinion. Not programmed, and never should any child be browbeaten to receive Christ in the “1,2,3 pray after me” style. Fundy churches are not the way to go with these young ones. A more relaxed program is essential. One that exposes them to these things, but leaves it with them. The less rote the instruction the better. Simple exposure is key in the early years, and by that I mean up until about age 10-12 or so. Seeing the testimony of non-browbeating parents is an important part of that as well. Seeing praying, loving, Christ-honoring parents, not Christ-dictating parents. There’s a difference. I think of “tender heart” as the optimal time to begin exposure to spiritual things. The responsibility is with the parents and the workers at the church to make sure it is exposure and not programming. If the child doesn’t come to Christ and walk with Christ on his own, it’s all in vain.

  20. I just try to follow God’s instructions…”train up a child in the way he should go” Proverbs 22:6

    “Fathers, do not exasperate your children/ instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4

    It appears that God advocates for converting the “tender hearted” so, as I always strive to do, I attempt follow what His word prescribes…..I’m in agreement with converting the “tender hearted.”

  21. Evangelism should start as soon as possible – how you define evangelism will determine the appropriateness.

  22. Vacuum salesmen and fundamentalists share the same methods and the same lack of ethical considerations in their desire for success.
    Ultimately, even more enlightened evangelicals must face the questions of why conversion is focused on those who lack critical reasoning–easy pickings perhaps. Jehovah Witnesses expend huge amounts of effort to win converts but JW’s tend to be poorly educated and earn less than the average American–reflecting the fact that the poorly educated are more open to their message. Evangelical evangelism is more sophisticated but conversion efforts are focused on the intellectually weak or immature.
    Conversion is a common experience for most religions and is not exclusive to evangelicals. Jews, Hindus and Catholics all have fundamentalist wings where people who receive the call gravitate to.

  23. Think of it in terms of any life-changing good news that you want to share so that family, friends, even strangers can experience the amazing things you’ve experienced. Some people see dramatic improvement in their lives with new dietary knowledge/ change, others with the insight that helping others is a cure for depression. Whatever it is, if you believe in it so strongly that you can’t contain yourself and must share it with others, more power to ya. Just understand that some will reject it out-of-hand, some will file it away to maybe think about some other time, and some may convert only to come back later and say ‘It’s not for me.’ You can’t force people to do what’s in their own best interest, and in my experience the pushiest people are the hardest to listen to.

  24. Child Evangelism is one of my pet peeves. I wrote about it in this thread:

    Take a look at the Pioneer movement:

    How much credence would you give a child’s assertion that they are Marxist-Leninist? or Monetarist? or Dispensationalist?

    Children need to be protected from that type of brainwash.
    Here is an example that is easy for us to repudiate:

    1. How about the Pettit team showing an evil looking picture of a lake of fire and then telling the kids to raise their hands to pray if they don’t want to go there….jaw dropped, what on earth!?!?!?

      I know I struggled horribly salvation because of, “Be sorry and mean it.” I COULDN’T feel really sorry which made me even worse. I didn’t FEEL Jesus in my heart (not even a swish). Not when I was around 10 and not when I was a teenager succumbing to a screaming, hellfire evangelist. I think God has always been drawing me to him but I was a married mother getting a dose of life when I read the forward of Bible study that (nutshell) explained salvation as the trust that Christ is sufficient. That’s when I took off and reveled in the mercy and hope of God in this messed up world. We don’t/can’t push our kids….just seek to show them grace and love….and continually pray.

  25. 1 Peter 3:15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

    A few quick points in regard to this passage:

    1. It assumes that we’re living a life that is noticeably different and desirable to those who are not followers of Jesus. C-R-E-D-I-B-I-L-I-T-Y!!!

    2. “Evangelism” is a response; we’re invited to share the basis for our hope. Granted, Paul preached at Mars Hill and such, but I think in our culture today an aggressive approach isn’t well received. It’s certainly a turn off to me and I’m part of the already convinced.

    3. Gee, we actually have to respect someone who isn’t a follower of Jesus and treat them nicely, as a human worthy of dignity.

    4. No mention of using a Chick Tract (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

  26. I have five children. They are currently aged 15, 13, 9, 6, and 4. Only two of them have made professions of faith–the thirteen year old (when she was about nine) and the nine year old (when he was four). With both of them, no one led them in a prayer or coerced them to be saved. As a matter of fact, when they told me they wanted to be saved, I expressed doubt that they really meant business and cautioned them against wanting to be saved to please me or their momma. They both insisted that they really believed in Jesus and wanted to be baptized because they were really saved. I made them explain to me why they thought they needed to be saved and what it even meant. Their answers satisfied me, so I baptized them. (They didn’t do this together, by the way).
    My fifteen year old still hasn’t made a public expression of faith, although she tells me she believes in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, that she is a sinner, and that Jesus is the only way to heaven. I purposely have not tried to talk her into praying a prayer. When she is ready, I believe she will make a verbal/public commitment to Christ. When she does, she will be baptized as part of her confession of Christ.
    My six year old daughter has been wanting to talk about Jesus and salvation frequently in the last few weeks. I have, again, purposely not tried to get her to pray a prayer. I have just told her that if she believes with all her heart that Jesus died for her sins and rose from the dead, she can be saved. I have told her that when she is ready to make a public confession, she can do so, and only then will she be baptized (of course, I use smaller, child-friendly words).
    My four year old son is a “heathen” that show no interest in spiritual things right now. He is more interested in playing with toys and making new friends at school, church, and in our neighborhood.
    My nine year old (who was saved when he was four), on the other hand, is very interested in spiritual things and talks and asks questions about the Bible, heaven, and unsaved people (he has a burden for his unsaved friends) almost incessantly.

    To answer the challenge. I have been in independent Baptist churches (not all would be considered fundamentalist–actually none would be considered fundamentalist by HAC types) all my life. I have witnessed the pressure on kids and adults to “repeat after me.” As a young teenager, I worked in the bus ministry and junior church and saw “mass conversions.” Sometimes they would send ten kids to me to be dealt with and “pray the prayer.” I could never get excited about these “conversions,” even though they would be taken upstairs and introduced to “Big Church” as having been saved. The church members would applaud their “decisions,” and many of them would end up being baptized in the next few weeks. After a time of rebellion and revival in my own life, I repudiated this mentality completely. Because of if, my “numbers” have been paltry by IFB standards. However, I don’t believe I have had converts who could say they were just a “number” to me. Almost everyone I have “led to Christ” still identifies as a Christian and actually tries to live the Christian life.
    When I have a chance, I speak to pastors and church workers about the dangers of the manipulative methods of “quick-prayerism.” Some pastors decide I am a liberal who doesn’t care about souls, but, thankfully, some actually listen. A few have actually taken what I have said to heart and changed their methods.
    I believe it crosses the line into manipulation when you try to push people into making a decision, using horror stories to make them think that this is their last or only chance. I cringe when I hear a preacher using the illustration of a young person choosing not to respond in the invitation years later, on their deathbed, being unable to be saved because they sinned away their day of grace. Until a person is dead, he or she has the chance to convert and be saved (just like the criminal on the cross).
    Sharing the gospel with every creature (regardless of race, age, or socioeconomic status) is not manipulation, until you begin trying, in your own power, to make the person decide to become a Christian.

    1. Your children were not “saved” at age 4 or whatever. Your children were saved about 2,000 years ago.

      They are now in the process of being saved.

      And on the Last Day they will be saved. Deo gratias!

        1. As the people acclaim together in one of the Eucharistic prayers of the Episcopal church:

          Christ has died
          Christ is risen.
          Christ will come again.

          Putting this into American Sign Language makes it even clearer:

          Christ finish died.
          Christ now risen.
          Christ WILL come again.

    2. Sinning away the day of grace, wanting to repent but being unable to, seeking salvation but not finding it — those are horror stories that haunted me more than any Freddie Kreuger or hockey-mask guy.

  27. *When your “church” is your family members plus the residents of a care facility, who you don’t even bother to speak of as individuals.
    *When your “ministry” involves heading into a disaster zone in order to pass out tracts and/or get your well-dressed white self photographed grinning next to some shabby-looking brown people, or even hugging them–then blogging about it.
    *When you try to get people to make a gesture of commitment to your church in return for some trinket or snack. This is bribery.
    *When you offer something people badly need, such as food, but require them to make gestures of commitment/submission to your church in order to get it. This is extortion.
    *When you spend time picking at people in an effort to get them to feel depressed, anxious, inadequate, etc., and then tell them that commitment to your church will fix everything.
    *When you have a quota.
    *When the targets of your commitment pitch are children.

  28. Dear SFL Reader:

    In fundamentalist evangelism, there are no ethical boundaries. There is no wrong time or method to exploit, and there is no distinction between invitation and manipulation. If it works [gets people ‘saved’ (whatever THAT means)], it must be right. You can’t argue with success.

    Christian Socialist

  29. Yep, and the popettes seem oblivious to the fact that they are imitating and even exceeding the worst aspects of Catholicism.

    Are you a former Catholic yourself?

    1. Sigh. I do get so tired of hearing about those alleged worst aspects (always referred to in the vaguest terms).

      If we were really just one notch above the fundies in gawdawfulness, would we have lasted two years, let alone two thousand?

      1. Dear Catholic Gate-Crasher,

        Due in part to a lack of time, the following response will no doubt be inadequate and incomplete. Please accept my apologies in advance.

        What one regards as the worst aspects of Catholicism (or Protestantism for that matter) will largely hinge on whether or not one thinks the Reformation was a good thing. It is also important to remember that the Fundies’ professed doctrines may well differ from those beliefs demonstrated by their behavior.

        While paying lip service to the priesthood of the believer, Fundies have an unofficial yet very real clergy/laity division. Those in the pew may be regarded as biblical illiterates by those who stand behind the pulpit, and teaching only flows in one direction.Beyond that, the laity must exhibit great caution in disagreeing with the pastor’s extrabiblical pronouncements he makes while preaching or risk incurring divine wrath. Instead of being members of the same body, the pastor is the only really indispensible man. In fact if you really want to know what God thinks about something, the person in the pew really ought to talk to Pastor. Jesus may have said that we should call no man our father, but the Fundy rulers have no problem with being called “Pastor” while at the same time calling church members older than themselves by their first names. The fact is, in a lot of ways the Fundy Popes are much less appealing than Pope Francis. For example, the local Fundy Pope is likely to be proud, loud, angry, and ignorant.

        When it comes to sex scandals, covering sin, or clergy behaving as though they were a law unto themselves, the Fundies care also in no position to point fingers at Catholics.

        Forbidden book lists– ask Preacher what he thinks about your reading unfavorable information about him or his church in the newspapers or on the internet. Does the pay part of “pray, pay, and obey” get under your skin a bit? There’s no one who will work harder than a Fundy preacher at prying open your wallet.

        I could continue with one or two examples of what I might see as the Fundy version of “selling relics,” but I’ve probably said enough already.

        At the same time, most Fundies don’t emulate those favorable aspects of Catholicism such as charity, caring for the sick.

      2. CGC,

        The way Catholics operate charities, care for the sick, and value education are all very admirable, by the way.

        I generally try to treat others with dignity and respect, and I hope I wasn’t needlessly offensive. Of course my posts contain my admittedly biased personal opinions which may be overvalued at two cents.

  30. When 9/11 happened/was happening, I was so convinced that worse tragedy was imminent that I began talking to people in the grocery store with me, witnessing to them. It was very different than the usual canned stuff I’d been taught. I was very concerned for everybody around me, and everybody around me was sympathetic and respectful of what I was saying, listened to me, and answered me, sometimes disagreeing, but never with a shade or argumentativeness on either side. All I can conclude is that when my heart was tender, and I was horrified at man’s inhumanity to man, my sincerity and concern were foremost, and that came through. I witnessed to a lot of people that day, but not like I had been taught. I really wanted them to be safe in the dark time to come, and I think they knew that. It changed my view of witnessing. I realized that it’s better to love people first, then witnessing just comes naturally. I would never try to frighten a child to heaven, but I would try to encourage them to love Christ by being a friend to them and trying to live with Christ at my side.

  31. Is there a wrong method? Yes there is. Fundy alter calls.
    My Fundy experiences took place in traditional air-conditioned regular looking church buildings or behind storefronts in old strip malls or off on some secondary road adjacent to Main Street that housed numerous failed business establishments that didn’t make it for one reason or another. They were often dank and stuffy uncomfortable places with lumps under the old green/brown/yellow carpet with water-stained ceiling tiles. Now that I’ve set the ambiance, one thing they had in common were agonizingly l-o-n-g alter calls for every service. Even if it was the same 17 people service after service.
    I often heard the MOG say something like this after singing what seemed like 70 stanzas of “Just As I Am”:
    “The Lord is speaking to me that there is someone here that needs to yield so let’s sing just 150 more stanzas……..”
    Walking the isle (except in the storefront where there are generally no isles) is the statistical performance barometer of the MOG. You walk the isle to get “saved”, to re-dedicate your life, to join the church, to fill in the blank ______________”.
    Trolling for isle walkers gets you what? Answer: ” Down the isles”.
    As much as I respect the author of “Just As I Am”, I still can’t listen to that song today.

    1. That song makes me twitch. Trying not to fall asleep during the slidy drone enough to raise or not raise my hand at the right time. Twitch….

      1. Congrats on everything but the mark. Are you sure it’s an Eagle, not a Falcon?

        All of our tax deductions have flown the coop.

      2. All our best wishes! Sounds like a fine healthy little boy.
        It’s said a baby is the very best kind of minority rule.

        1. Just randomly sprinkling anyone without their permission reminds me of the Spaniards’ mass sprinkling of indigenous peoples when they first came to the New World. Plus, no church should do anything like this without parental permission. It totally cheapens any other faith training the children have had at home.

          Even my fundy church made me get written permission from my parents to be baptized-40 years ago. They didn’t belong to the church, and I was still a minor.

      3. Dear Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist:

        Praise Yahweh from whom all blessings flow!

        The Lord grant you and your beloved the grace and wisdom to raise up this young one in the knowledge of Jesus’ Name!

        Christian Socialist

  32. I too have become a universalist. I believe in the power of God that will reconcile all of us to the love of God.

    I do not believe in hell in a literal sense. Having read Love Wins by Rob Bell and Field of Grasshoppers by Ken Dahl, I have come to learn that those doctrines were church inspired. Did you know that the word HELL is derived from a pagan term for the underworld? Wouldn’t it be important to know that? Wouldn’t it be sort of important to know that the early leaders of the church in the 300-400 AD time period emphasized eternal punishment as a means of control and fear and drew on a term that people understood?

    I cannot believe that a man such as Gandhi is sitting in eternal hellfire right now. Or Anne Frank. Sorry. It doesn’t jive with the love that God has for each human being.

    We can if we are not careful create our own little hells right here. We can also wake up and realize that heaven starts today.

    I attend a Lutheran church and there is much I love about it. The liturgy, connecting, connecting with others. It is progressive enough as a theological body that I feel free to have my own beliefs.

    If I lived closer to one, I believe I would fit in very well at a UU church. So if you must use a label, I guess a UU Lutheran hybrid might fit.

    1. I cannot believe that a man such as Gandhi is sitting in eternal hellfire right now. Or Anne Frank. Sorry. It doesnโ€™t jive with the love that God has for each human being.

      You don’t have to be a universalist to believe that Gandhi and Anne Frank are probably in Heaven. Jesus said that no one comes to the Father except through Him, but He never said, “And that means you must have explicit faith in Me even if you’ve never heard of Me or if you’ve been brought up to mistrust everything about Me.”

      My problem with universalism is that it denies free will. And IMHO when you deny free will, you deny human dignity. As a priest friend remarked to me years ago, universalism is a form of Calvinism; it’s no wonder it became so popular in formerly Calvinist New England.

      1. The reason it became popular in New England was the reaction to the Puritan/Calvinist doctrine that condemned all those without explicit faith in Christ to hell. That included infants. Many mothers went insane believing preachers who told them their deceased infants were burning in hell as unregenerate sinners.

        1. Oh, absolutely! Agree 100%! It was a reaction against the harshness of Calvinism. Yet, as a direct outgrowth of Calvinism, it accepted one of Calvinism’s core tenets: the claim that Grace is utterly irresistible (which effectively negates free will).

      2. I didn’t mean that to sound as combative as it does. It’s so hard to explain one’s convictions within the constraints of a workday lunch hour and a combox!

        I believe that Jesus offers each and every human being the opportunity to accept Him. In fact, I believe He pursues every human being right up to the last nano-second of earthly existence. (I think He even suspends time in that final moment to give the hardened soul a final chance to soften.) As He allegedly told the mystic Saint Faustina Kowalska, “the final hiur abounds in mercy.”

        And yet…some people still reject Him, even then. It’s hard to believe, I know, but…He will not violate our free will. He wants children, not robots, not automata. As C.S. Lewis said, He gives us what we want.

        I sometimes wonder whether there’s even a sense in which the souls in Hell enjoy a certain perverse happiness. After all, they have what they want: rage against God, endless hatred and bitterness. Some people seem to love that stuff. Again: in a perverse kind of way.

        Anyway, that’s my two cents’ worth, FWIW, which ain’t much.

    2. I’m more comfortable with the idea of hell as being separate from God, and is for those who know about Him but still reject Him. And a Godless place would be quite horrific. God IS in this world and it’s still awful much of the time.

  33. I don’t know if I thought of this entirely on my own, but it did cross my mind a while ago…

    How would a fundy parent feel if he sent his kids to an Episcopalian VBS and the priest baptized the kids without a word to the parents?

    1. Well, I’m not a “fundy parent”, although some might classify me that way (since I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, that Christ’s death on the cross was substitutionary atonement, that hell is an actual place, etc.).

      If I found out that the priest had baptized my child, I would simply inform them that being dunked in the water did nothing more for the eternal state of their soul than a fun day at the beach.

      My daughter went to a Catholic VBS last summer. I told her that while I seriously doubted they would get into doctrine and theology (and they didn’t) to just be ‘careful’ of what she absorbed. I know there are many Catholic friends on here, and I am in no way trying to berate your beliefs or anything. Just for myself and how I choose to train my daughter, I don’t believe certain aspects of the “Catholic faith” are correct.

      That’s my two bits on the question petrushka.

      1. When I say “inform them that being dunked….”, I mean I would inform my child, not the priest ๐Ÿ™‚ .

        1. “Baptism now saves you.” That’s somewhere in one of the epistles of Peter. (Don’t expect chapter and verse; I’m a Catholic, LOL.)

          I always wonder how that verse gets explained away.

        2. They don’t explain it away. They ignore it. And if they can’t ignore it, they say it is the Holy Spirit’s baptism gained at the time a person “got saved” by “receiving” Christ.

          In the Catholic traditions (including Episcopalian and Lutheran), salvation is within community, the same as how God dealt with Israel. Protestant traditions tend to emphasize individualism, God dealing with individuals without respect to community.

  34. Episcopalians probably sprinkle instead of dunk anyhow, right? Ha ha!! Oh well, the principle and my response still applies. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Episcopalian evangelistic bus route… I can hear it now, a worker saying, “I had 35 sprinklings this weekend!”

  35. The decision to embrace a religion requires maturity and critical thinking skills. For the embrace to be genuine, it must be done with a clear mind. Manipulating someone’s emotions for the sake of religion troubles me not only because it’s unethical, but because it produces shallow belief.

    In my opinion, proselytizing to people whose are emotionally vulnerable (addicts, disaster victims, grieving people) or whose critical thinking skills are underdeveloped (children) is unethical. We have a moral responsibility to HELP people in need and protect the vulnerable, not take advantage of them for the sake of an agenda.

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