Monday, August 28, 2006

Used Cars and Evangelism

I went car shopping this weekend but ended up not buying. It never ceases to amaze me how long car salesmen are willing to drag out the negotiation process. I'd like to make an offer and get an answer, but they're willing to spend hours trying to bend me to their way of seeing things.

The reason I bring this up is that today at lunch I happened to overhear a couple of guys at the table behind me "sharing their faith" with a third guy and I was struck hard by the similarity between their presentation and my weekend experience with the used car salesman.

The part of the presentation I heard was focused on Isaiah and how the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrate the accuracy with which the text has been preserved. Later they moved on to the most reasonable explanation of the disciples behavior after the crucifixion. But the thing that it seemed to me they were really focused on was closing the deal. Just like the salesman obviously didn't care if I really thought the car was worth what he wanted me to pay for it so long as I bought it, the thing that these guys were driving for was to manuveur the other man into a position where he would see that they were right.

I've heard that Charles Finney claimed that given an hour alone with anyone he could get a decision for Christ out of them. But what kind of faith is that? This is the reason I put "sharing their faith" in quotes above. While I'm sure their motives were sincere, I don't think the content of their presentation and the content of their faith are the same.


P.S. (an after-thought) said...

I once read about this type of "evangelism." The point is, exactly, to "close the deal." The description was that it was like selling something.

We all know that when the life insurance salesman comes to the house and presents all the wonderful reasons to buy the insurance, he doesn't say, "ok, I'll leave this here. Call me if you want to buy." No, he starts filling out the paperwork and then says, "Can you see any reason not to sign here?"

This goes hand in hand with decision theology. The "decision" is part of the saving work, apparently. There isn't, apparently, room for the HS to just grow the faith little by little. There has to be the Big Step, Leap, of faith.

Decision theology isn't in my background/cultural/denominational comfort zone. But it does work for some people, so who is to say that the HS can't work through it? I would think that it might be most effective for those with no churchy background and for those who are really struggling with personal issues. And some people who are converted in this way are eternally thankful for the presentation of the gospel to them at the right time.

Ross said...

I agree with your question/concern about the quality of faith vs. "closing the deal". I tend to lean more toward the idea of "planting seeds" as opposed to selling a car. Hey, I think that's even biblical!

Anyway, I like your assessment. I wonder what sort of faith someone has after they have taken such a huge plunge. Maybe it works, but I'd rather journey with the person rather than just sell them my faith.

Andy said...

I'm sure a lot of people do come to genuine faith by this route (nothing short of a miracle!). But on the whole, that mindset seems to me to breed fanasticism more so than faith. The thing you're being convinced of is that these people are right and anyone who disagrees with them is wrong. And if that's the entry point, where can you go from there?

I think it was Dallas Willard who said that we're called to make disciples (i.e. fellow learners), not converts.