“Are you a member of a good church?”
In the Bible Belt, this is a common beginning to a conversation with unexpected strangers knocking at your door. Granted, that doesn’t happen so often. A few months ago, two kind ladies from a local Baptist church came by while doing some door-to-door ‘visiting’. I answered ‘yes’ to their first question, and then I described our church’s location. I offered that I served as a deacon, hoping to indicate that I wasn’t the backslidden Southern Baptist they apparently thought I was- gauging from their strained smiles.
Given the tenor of the conversation thus far, the next question was unexpected:
“Sir, if you died today do you know if you would go to be with Jesus in heaven?”
Let’s get right to it, shall we? I hesitated: “Yes… would you like to come inside to talk about that?”
They both said that they were just “passing through” the neighborhood and that they couldn’t stay long. They couldn’t stay. They had the time to ask me about my eternal destiny, but not to hear what I had to say about it?
The lady gave one more attempt at nailing a hard answer from me. She asked if I was sure that there was a “point in time” when I “asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.” I reiterated that I would love to talk with them about that, but since they were in a hurry… The speaker’s companion realized how impertinent they must have seemed because she volunteered that they would love to hear my story.
I invited them inside to meet my wife and children, but I didn’t keep them long. I hoped that they would see that their questions were deeply personal and that they would therefore require personal answers. Again, they were very kind, but I was concerned with the outworking of their sincerely held beliefs. It was as though they thought life’s big questions don’t require contemplation or elaboration. Just answer the question. Bada boom, bada bing- read our tract, pray our prayer, provide the password (a ‘testimony’) so we can move on to the neighbors.
After they left, I wanted to help my kids think through the interview they had seen. I was obviously displeased with what I saw as a flippant representation of evangelism. Besides failing to even ask my name, there was the pervasive sense of mistrust- it didn’t seem possible to them that I was a Christian until I agreed to their- frankly, unbiblical terminology.
However, if I wasn’t careful, I could leave the impression that it is inappropriate to talk to strangers about God. Even now, after months of hesitation, this post feels more bitter than it ought to be. I do believe that talking to everyone about God is one of our highest callings, and I wish more evangelicals were as willing as these women to do so. I wanted my children to appreciate the zeal of these women, while acknowledging with grace that their zeal lacked biblical moorings. I wanted them to learn to go to people where they are, asking hard questions, while also being willing to listen to hard questions in return.
We should aim again and again to do this consistently with the spirit and doctrine of the Apostles. No trick questions, no heuristically chopping the Romans Road into a Few Random Bits of Paving Stones from the Romans Road.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. ~ Paul, 2 Cor.4:2