The Lemon Gospel

If you want to make a Christian uncomfortable, ask him how he’s been doing with his evangelism. Though I haven’t done any real research on the subject, I think it would be safe to say that this tactic has about a 95% success rate. Maybe it’s just the people I know, or maybe it’s just me, but it seems like most Christians aren’t great evangelists. Because of this, there is no shortage of books, instructional videos, and 12-step programs designed to help make us better at sharing the Gospel.

I participated in one of these programs once. I don’t know how many steps it was, but I do remember spending hours talking to strangers and finding much less success than I would have preferred. The whole process involved stopping people and asking them if they had time to participate in a quick survey. We would start with simple questions about how often they attended church and where they attended, and we would gradually get more and more personal until we were asking if they knew where they would go when they died. If they said no, we had an easy segue into sharing the Gospel.

Somewhere along the line, I started to feel guilty about the whole process, and it wasn’t just because what we were calling a “quick” survey usually took at least an hour. It was because what we were calling a quick survey wasn’t really a survey at all.

We were tricking people into listening to the Gospel.

When I first had the thought that we were being a little deceptive, I told myself it was probably okay to be deceptive in this situation. God gives us rules, but surely we can bend these rules if it means another name will be added to the Lamb’s Book of Life. Surely “Thou shalt not lie,” isn’t nearly as high on the priority list as “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

But the problem with this thought process is that it assumes you can’t obey both commands at the same time. It assumes the only way I’m ever going to go and make disciples is by lying to people. The only way I can get someone to listen to the Gospel is by dressing it up in a cheap gimmick.

What happened to the power of the Gospel? Don’t we believe what we have to share is compelling? Or are we just used car salesmen trying to get a lemon off the lot? If you think the Gospel you follow is a lemon, you may want to stop and think why you’re still following it.

I believe the Gospel is one of the most compelling stories there is. Redemption is a beautiful concept, and and you will not see it displayed more powerfully than in the story of a perfect God who allows his perfect Son to be tortured and murdered in an extravagant gesture to save a broken and imperfect humanity.

I know it’s standard Christian blogger protocol to have an I-struggle-with-this-too paragraph every few posts, but I wouldn’t be writing about this if it were a non-issue for me. It’s easy to forget the power of the story we follow, but if we want to be effective evangelists, it is important that we do not lose sight of that excitement and passion and that we find a way to communicate it when we share this Gospel.

Question of the Week
What are some of the things you’ve done to make your presentation of the Gospel more interesting? How do you draw the line between a compelling presentation and trying too hard to make the Gospel “more interesting?”


6 thoughts on “The Lemon Gospel

  1. I definitely agree with you, that it seems kind of sneaky to do that, but I understand why people do it (not that I want to do it). In ever conversation with a stranger, you need to have some kind of intro, some kind of ice-breaker. You have to have a reason for them to stop and talk to you.
    While I agree that lying isn’t the answer and many of those formulas aren’t so great, I can’t say that I’ve thought of an acceptable alternative. Can I talk to you about God? Do you know God? Do you know the best story in the whole world?
    I don’t know, I can’t think of anything else. Have you?

  2. It’s definitely really tricky…especially when it comes to talking to strangers. I think you definitely need to have some sort of spiritual gift to share the gospel with strangers. Because if I’m going to change my mind about what I believe about the way the world works, I’m usually not going to change it because of a random person who starts talking to me in an elevator. It’s going to be from someone who I’ve gotten to know fairly well. I’m more a fan of friendship evangelism, but whenever I say that I feel like I’m doing a major cop-out.

  3. When you really think about it, as a Christian, the gospel IS the most interesting thing there is. I don’t think it’s appropriate to think that people have been “dressing the gospel up” to make it seem cooler than it is because IT IS cooler that what MOST THINK–which is the barrier that you have to break. People in the dark will never know what they’re missing, with prayer and faith they’re gonna have to be lured out before they can SEE what they need, human nature equals stupidity. They’re not gonna know anytime by themselves that they need the bible because they already have a personal judgement about christianity but if they were to be exposed to it in a way that their prejudice would be shaken, then how could that be bad news? The important thing is they get there.

    If God doesn’t approve your ways, he will not add to your number anyway. The problem is that when it comes to evangelism, people take things into their own hands (and heads). If God compels you or if God was there when your “evangelism methods” were formed, then what’s the problem? In the old testament, God’s people also used a lot of unique schemes…Rehab was instructed to lie to protect God’s people. The thing is, you have to talk to God so you know if what your doing is appropriate or not.

    • I’m not quite sure I understand what you’re getting at here, but I do take offense to your comment about human nature equaling stupidity. Spiritual blindness, sure, but not stupidity. There are plenty of very intelligent atheists out there.

      I’m also not sure how I feel about your statement that God won’t add to your number if you’re not doing something he agrees with. God’s gonna do whatever he dang well pleases whether we participate or not. And it’s not our number he’s adding to. It’s his.

      My point is it’s almost demeaning to God when we try to trick people into listening to the gospel. When we put on a cheap show to attract people to God, it feels to me like getting one of those guys from a used car commercial to sell a diamond ring. You don’t need someone shouting at you and doing crazy things to sell something so beautiful.

  4. Why are you equating a legitimate icebreaker with lying? The point is to start a conversation in the natural realm and then transition to the spiritual realm. It’s exactly what Jesus did in John 4 with the Samaritan woman at the well. Would you say Jesus was being sneaky by asking her for a drink of water? Was He being “tricky” in order to deceive her into listening to the Gospel? He was modeling the method for us.

    I would strongly caution against friendship or relationship evangelism. Approximately 150,000 people die every 24 hours, and not a single one of us are guaranteed tomorrow. That relationship you’re developing in an effort to create a bridge to share the Gospel could end before you get the chance to share.

    I highly recommend Mark Cahill’s book “The One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven.” He tells a story about a student who he’d been meaning to talk to about Christ, and the student asked if they could have dinner. Mark was busy and set the date for the next week. Six hours later the student shot and killed himself. Mark thought he had a week to get around to sharing the Gospel with this kid, but it turns out he had less than six hours. He says that experience forever impacted the way he viewed evangelism, and it’s impacted me as well.

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