Samantha and I recently were in a situation where we had to buy a car. Having no experience buying a car, we looked online, found a few we liked, and as we had time, went and looked at them in person. While the quality and price of the car were the ultimate deciding factors, we couldn’t help but factor the salesman into our decision at least a little bit. And it just so happened that we went with the car that had the most honest and hands off salesman.
After the first automobile we went to look at, we were almost convinced that it was the one. After looking at the others we were thinking of, we had pretty much decided it, in fact, wasn’t the one. I guess it was just the magic of the first vehicle we looked at. But at any rate, we wanted to go back and see it one more time before we counted it out. This was where it was confirmed by the quality and the salesman, that this was not the vehicle we wanted to throw our money at.
The thing was, we were still in the shopping phase. We were still just looking and were not going to make a decision to buy a car that day. We knew we wanted another day or two to think about it. But this guy would not let up. He kept repeating phrases making it seem like it was up to him to convince us that we needed to walk off the lot that day with the van we test drove. This was after the test drive where he desperately tried to flatter us into taking his word that this was the best van out there. So after the insincere complementing session and the forceful persuasion tactics, we were sure. This was not our van, and he was not our guy.
The thing that turned both Samantha and me off the most about this guy, was the fact that he didn’t care to know us, only to relate to us to make us feel some variation of comfortable. He asked us questions, so that he could point us to the fact that this van would be great for us. I was so frustrated, and then I realized that we do that with the gospel all the time. We see them accepting the gospel as the ultimate goal, so in order to convince them that they need it, we ask them questions that attempt to back them into a corner to get them to admit that they are a sinner.
And while I do believe that it is important and crucial to share our faith and to let people know that we all are sinners in need of Jesus, we (when I say we, I really mean I) can’t turn the work of Jesus into a sales pitch. That won’t reach people that so desperately want to connect with something bigger than themselves, because it feels fake. If we as a church want to reach people for the sake of them understanding their need for and accepting the love, redemption, and salvation of Jesus, we need to be real about it.
We need to connect with and get to know people that we are trying to witness to, because they are people. Like the old expression, “People won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. That is so true when we share our faith. If we present prepackaged cliché sound bites, people in my generation aren’t going to care, because they feel like you are just doing it for your sake. They may listen but the whole time, they are writing you off.
When we reduce the gospel to a clean cut sentence, and the accepting of the gospel into a verbal game of follow the leader, we completely miss what Jesus did for humanity. It should be our desire, like it is God’s, that none will perish. But in order for us to reach people on a real level, we have to have broken hearts for the lost and actually love them while we tell them of a God that loves them more than they can ever know. So be real, and get to know people as people who need Jesus, not someone to hear your spiel.