Using the traditional, human-spam model of witnessing, you use interruption-marketing techniques to spread the word about your faith. Because you are Christian, and because you are employing techniques that are unwelcome and unwanted, you communicate the following through your actions:Alternatively?
- Christians would rather be correct than listen to differing opinion.
- Christians do not respect the personal space (mentally and physically) of non-believers.
- Christians feel they are superior to non-believers because they have salvation.
- Christians would rather rely on faith as evidence than rely on fact.
Even if the conversation never ensues, it's a universal truth that action speaks louder than words. People DO take notice of those who act in accordance with a respect and love based lifestyle. They feel good when they see a person helping another person - and in fact, it makes them want to help out themselves. One need only look at the total figures of collected donations for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the World Trade Center attacks to see this in action. Deed follows deed. Tell a person what to do, and you may get them to do it... Make them want to do it, and it'll get done, no matter what.This is beginning to sound exactly like Matthew 21:28-31. Because it is. The human spam model, as well as being counterproductive, induces guilt in Christians who feel they ought to do it but don’t quite have the brass neck. All Christians actually have to do is be themselves and walk with an honest heart. It’s easier to reduce discipleship to checkboxes and slogans and be pushy, than to live the life. The fruits of the first approach are frustration, resentment, dissension. The fruits of the second are curiousity, acceptance and joy.
Ultimately, salvation has very little to do with saying the words "I believe Jesus Christ is the son of God and died for my sins." There are many, many people - some of whom hold the highest offices in the American government - who say this, and then go on to live lives that, by any account, are not at all Christ-like. How many people in your church have spent a week engaging in debauchery and other 'sinful' behaviors, only to appear in church on Sunday, ready to ask forgiveness for what they've done? And how many go right back out and do it again? How are these people better than those who live good lives and help their neighbor and further advance brotherhood and unity... But don't believe in God?
Which of these two types of people would you rather point to and say, "I taught them that?"
There’s a good English tradition that translations are for wusses. If talking at a non-English speaker who doesn’t understand you, all you do is speak louder. Joe points out that this is not, in fact, the case. All I would want to add is a rider that as well as applying to attempts to convert people to Evangelical Christianity, this applies to communication among Christians. Given a band of enthusiasts, you need to discern their methods, attitudes to community and processes, not just their ideas. The acid test remains that set by Jesus himself: By their fruits ye shall know them...
Really interesting link to this post with a communication theory dimension by John Griffiths, here. Thanks, John.