For me, buying a car is both exhilarating and frustrating. I’ve written before how I enjoy getting the best deal when buying a car. But I also enjoy looking at the “For Sale” signs, the back and forth with salespersons, and negotiating discounts on car purchases. I’m a lawyer. It’s what I do.
On the other hand, my wife hates it. When we got married, she gladly handed me certain responsibilities. Among those was replacing her snazzy Nissan 350Z—yeah she was so selfish with her two-seater lifestyle BJ a/k/a Before John—with a sedan. With the birth of our son imminent, I had to find something. And fast. After eight hours at the car dealership, I proudly came home with an economical sedan at a great discount.
My wife likes stores she can explore without pushy salespeople. She wants time to browse and think through purchasing decisions without a commission-driven salesperson breathing down her neck.
If we aren’t careful, we can offer others our faith like a car lot salesman, rather than a guide with a roadmap. Look at this shiny Bible verse. You can’t go wrong with this church. It has an amusement park inside. Though I am being facetious, I think we approach evangelism asking the wrong questions.
As author Donald Johnson points out, “The most important question we must ask when considering a religion is not ‘What can it do for me?’ or ‘Do I like it?’ but ‘Is it true?’”1
You are Not a Car Salesman
For many, the main method of evangelism is selling our faith to others.2 They talk about the benefits that come with becoming a Christian like they are recruiting new employees or health club members. I have heard people use this pitch. “The least Christianity can do for you is make you a better person.”3 Yeah, well so can an Oprah Book Club, volunteering a local shelter, or joining a monastic Buddhist community.
Christianity is not primarily interested in offering temporal benefits. Christianity is not primarily interested in making anyone a better person. That’s the car salesman approach to sharing our faith with others. The gospel is not for sale. Never was and never will be. There is a better way.
In sharing our faith we should look more like a gospel guide with a roadmap. I love Lon Allison’s words when it comes to sharing our faith with others. He says, “Evangelism is cooperating with God and others to bring a person at least one step closer to God.
I think Allison’s words mirror what Paul recalls in 1 Corinthians where he discusses his own cooperation with God and others in evangelism. He says, “Look guys, Apollos and I are just agents, God’s the one who is at work in you.”4 Paul saw him and Apollos as co-laborers who cooperated with God to bring people one step closer to God. They were spiritual guides offering men and women a roadmap toward gospel truth.
Stop Selling, Start Guiding
Are you selling the gospel to others? What do your conversations sound like when people ask about the Christian faith? Do you start with the benefits package? If so, you are no better than the car salesman looking to meet a quota.
Audit your language the past six months. What have you told others about your faith? About how much God has blessed you? About how becoming a Christian has given you immense amounts of favor? If you answered yes, stop selling your faith.
Start guiding people steps closer to Jesus. I love that picture. That means that you can have a gospel conversation without a conversion. And it’s okay. Because you are moving a person further down the road of gospel truth. Plant the gospel in someone’s life. Water the gospel in someone’s life. Remember, the gospel is good news to proclaim, not a consumer good to sell.
- Donald J. Johnson, How to talk to a skeptic: an easy-to-follow guide for natural conversations and effective apologetics(Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2013), 26. ↩
- That is, if they are actively sharing their faith with others. A Lifeway survey found that nearly 61 percent of churchgoers have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months. ↩
- Full disclosure, at one time I was one of these people. The quote sounded good and it helped “disarm” the offense of the Christian message. I have since learned that you can’t remove the offense of the Cross from the gospel message. ↩
- “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6, ESV) ↩