This past week, the Arkansas State Fair was here in Little Rock, AR! Exciting, huh. I used to LOVE going to the fair. When I was in high school, one of the elders at my church down in Texarkana was also an agri teacher and FFA sponsor at one of the local high schools. So whenever the fair was in town, he was in charge of the barn that people could walk through and see everything from cows and horses, to pigs and chickens. (My favorite was always the little bitty chickies! They were so cute!) Anyway, our elder would allow us kiddos in the youth group to come help him out. So we would get to volunteer with him...and we would also get free parking and admission to the fair!
Unfortunately, I believe I have since outgrown my excitement. Fairs really don't have much to offer me. There are the games that are rigged...making it extremely difficult to win anything worthwhile. Hardly seems fair, if you ask me. There are some rides that would probably be fun if I weren't afraid of heights. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'll still go on rides; they just make me nervous. Even the ones that are supposed to be nice and relaxing, like a Ferris Wheel. Even those make me nervous, just because of the height. That and the fact that I always seem to be stuck up there w/some jerk (who's supposed to be my friend!) that likes to rock the seat just cause he knows it freaks me out! And forget about the price of everything! Five bucks to park, fifteen to get in and ride, and then another ten for a turkey leg! Does that seem fair to you???
Nevertheless, for the first time in years, I allowed myself to be drug out to the fair this past Friday evening. I did actually find a free parking spot at the church just a few blocks up the road! I also tasted my first fried oreo! It was yummy! But the fun ended there. The second ride I got on was called "The Storm..." something. It was my idea to get on it. It consisted of being strapped into a seat and spun around and around and around and...well, you get the picture. It was a bad idea. It looked like it would be something like a Tilt-a-Whirl...which I absolutely love! Unfortunately, it was nothing like that. It was a constant spin; it spun harder, and faster, and always in the same direction, so as to end up putting alot of pressure on one side of my head/neck. When it finally stopped and I stumbled off, I had an enormous headache, and was even beginning to feel a little sick to my stomach (which is absolutely NOT normal for me--I don't think I've ever felt bad after a ride before!) That concluded my rides for the evening. But before we left, I found a beverage to purchase, and a seat to sit and recover in. While sitting there, I pulled out a tract that I had been handed as I was walking in the gate.
You know what I'm talking about. There was the guy out front by the gate with the megaphone, going "Repent or perish!" and there was another guy (not sure if they were together or not) handing out these little cartoon tracts that try to convince people to give their lives to the Lord. So these people are out in front of the fair on a very crowded Friday evening trying to evangelize; a noble effort, indeed. But I have to say that I take issue with their methods. Not only do I feel that their methods are wrong/ineffective, I believe they are downright unfair.
First of all, trying to 'reach' people in this method presents an unfair picture of us as Christians. The little tract that I was given, which can be viewed in its entirety here, presents some of the reasons one might decide to remain a NON-Christian. One such reason is that they believe that God wouldn't send anyone to hell, and that "churches only use that garbage for scare tactics." I'm sorry, but am I the only one that sees the irony here? This method of evangelism--this method of passing out little cartoon tracts that teach people only about going to hell if they don't know Jesus and telling people only "Repent or perish!"--is this not using "scare tactics"???
I believe this is also unfair to the person to whom one is trying to reach. At the back of the pamphlet, at the end of the cartoon, is a page on what one must do to be saved. It says in bold, capital letters, "NOBODY ELSE CAN SAVE YOU. TRUST JESUS TODAY!" Now, don't get me wrong; I understand the importance of a person believing in Jesus and coming to a saving faith in Him. However, as my minister recently put it, "It's not important in the sense that we rush people through so quickly that they really don't understand what it is they're signing on for...we're not doing them any favors." When we try to push this on people so quickly, they may not really understand or truly believe what this is all about. Thus, their faith in God may not be a true faith that can sustain them for the rest of their lives.
Finally, this is incredibly unfair to Christ and the message that He wants us to tell. Indeed, it only tells HALF of the story! This method of evangelism speaks of Christ as only someone needed to save one from hell. That's as far as it goes. It tells almost nothing of the love God has for His people. It tells nothing of the relationship that I can have with God that will sustain me, not just in the life to come, but in the here and now. I don't just need Jesus to save me in the end; I need Jesus now. I think He wants us to know that as well.
So these are the thoughts that ran through my mind as I sat there with my turkey leg and fried oreos, flipping through this little cartoon pamphlet. But then the thought occurred to me, "Do I really have a place to be judging what these people are trying to do? Am I actively putting forth the effort required to reach people with the good news of Christ???"
And if my answer isn't "yes," is it fair for me to be making a judgement about someone else's method of evangelism???