Last week I visited a church for a work-related purpose. I was still sitting in my car making some notes when the man I was there to meet suddenly appeared next to my window. After introductions he handed me a tract. He told me he knew god had intended for us to meet that day and that nothing else mattered outside of our salvation.

He wasn’t assuming I was an atheist. In real life, no one ever assumes that. I got the impression he had given this same speech a thousand times before. He was a salesman for Jesus, and this was his pitch. It reminded me of all the times I used to feel bad after missing an opportunity to witness, and my subconscious social etiquette found me responding to him with a form of polite encouragement.

Of course I didn’t tell him I’m an atheist. I didn’t tell him I was a believer, either. That isn’t why I was there. I just smiled and asked questions that were relevant to my visit. To do otherwise would have been unprofessional, and definitely the wrong strategy for anyone wanting to change the subject (as much as I wanted to change the subject).

Besides, he wasn’t a jerk and I had no desire to argue. In the end he decided I would make a lovely addition to his church, and I told him where my family used to currently attends church. Problem solved. No big deal.

For Christians, any time is an appropriate time to share faith. I’m so familiar with the concept that I am never surprised or even uncomfortable when confronted about my personal relationship with god. Occasionally I will be in the mood to discuss it the way I do here, but most of the time it’s easier to simply redirect. It all depends on where I am and how offended I feel. After all, I am under no obligation to have god debates every time the opportunity presents itself. And I’m done feeling guilty about failing to force my “good news” on others.

There’s no one to save anymore.

It really is a sales pitch, though. And that part can be annoying, because some Christians are just better at it than others. I’m so tuned in to how people relate to each other that I still get caught up in the technique. If I were on the fence, what would work on me? I would rather rate the performance than criticize the product. I also enjoy the reminders that even in the most confident presentation, there is always evidence of human insecurity.

At one point in the conversation this man asked if I had any children. When I told him I had an eight year old daughter, he began promoting the church’s school. My daughter goes to a specific school that has an Autism program, so that was an easy out for me; but it threw him off for a moment. He fumbled a bit on how to transition from there, telling me about a church member who had been sick and had seizures which left him not quite the same “in the head”…. and how he would definitely be able to empathize with our situation.

Wait. What?

I know after I left he was probably kicking himself for that last part, but sometimes we keep talking and say all the wrong things and we just can’t stop ourselves. I’ve been there.

The best sales pitch is always the one that doesn’t feel like a sales pitch. So he loses points on that. Ideally what he wants is a connection that has nothing to do with what he is selling. If we like and respect someone, we are going to consider what they have to say. A relationship usually isn’t built during one conversation in a parking lot, but first impressions do matter.

Obviously I am not going to attend this guy’s church, but if I had been looking for a church I would certainly consider it. On the other hand, if I had no understanding of god—his approach would have overwhelmed me. Asking about my salvation right up front would have definitely freaked me out. And “God intended for us to meet today” is also startling.

Maybe the best approach is to be genuine and friendly, establish a connection, then end the conversation with an invitation to the Sunday service. And hope there will be a next time to build on what you started. The goal shouldn’t be immediate conversion, but rather a pathway to the next opportunity to connect. But what do I know? I’m an atheist.

 

Closing the Deal

Getting someone to actually accept Jesus as their savior can be incredibly intimidating, or exhilarating—depending on your personality. Churches have found that luring impressionable children and teens to events is an easy shortcut, and they aren’t wrong. They are in the business of saving souls, after all; and it is in their best interest to be effective. If you actually believe in the Christian god of the Bible, saving people is the right thing to do.

When I look back at my time as a missionary in public schools (again, I’m sorry), it almost seemed too easy. Before the last song of our evening concert, one of the singers would pray the prayer…. you know the one. The “let’s all invite Jesus into our heart” prayer. Then the singer would tell the audience that during the last song we wanted everyone who had prayed that prayer to go to some designated place (where I would be waiting).

Sometimes no one came. Other times everyone came. And really, most of them were already church-going Christian kids who just wanted to be part of something. Like me. Once in a while I would get someone who had never been to church. We would pass those names and phone numbers along to whatever local church contact we had and they would put their youth pastor on it right away.

We had introduced the topic and let peer pressure do the rest. If most of the kids were into it, non-Christian kids would join in. I am sure for many it was only for that one night. Do I think there were some kids who then started going to church with friends and are still believers today? Absolutely.

In the world of sales you are going to hear “no” more than you hear “yes,” right? As a missionary there were some nights when we received a very loud “no” in the form of people walking out or attempting to shut down the performance altogether. Good for them. (I would have stayed and watched out of curiosity. You know, write a blog post about it or something.) But hearing “no” a thousand times is worth that one “yes.” Every good Christian knows that.

 

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Many churches put a huge focus on evangelism. The smart ones make it easy by creating events and missions projects. They get their names in the community with outreach and volunteer days. It’s a great marketing plan, and a shy Christian who wants to do their part can feel useful participating in such things.

But inevitably every Christian faces people one on one in their everyday lives, and the pressure to bring up salvation is strong. It’s an opportunity to save someone from eternal hellfire! How can you stand by and do nothing? Well, it’s surprisingly easy.

It’s also another opportunity to fail god.

Some Christians beat themselves up for not having the guts to share Jesus, while others beat others over the head with Jesus like he’s a weapon. There are members of my extended family who form “connections” with others by refusing to associate with them until they change their wicked ways.

At what point are churches going to figure out that maybe not everyone is cut out for sales? In fact, some are hurting business far more than they are helping. Assign them to exclusive prayer duty or something. Please.

Then there are great sales men and women who find god. They are the best at bringing in souls, but they are also the ones to watch out for. Sometimes they stop believing, but they don’t stop selling. Sometimes they never believed at all; they simply found an opportunity. If someone makes their living selling a god they don’t believe in to a group of believers who they do not respect— they might never tell the truth about that. Religion makes it too easy to take advantage of its followers.

I’ve seen it all. So when a nice man meets me at his church and offers me Jesus in a non-threatening and genuine way, I can appreciate it. The irony is that in this particular situation, I was supposed to be the salesperson. And you know what? I suspect we will meet again.

 

6 thoughts on “Jesus: A Limited Time Offer

  1. Interesting read on your understanding of “religious c-hristianity”. As a Christian I do not relate at all to what you’ve written.
    1. There is no person alive that can change or save another human being. Impossible. You may be able to influence someone in modifying a behavior or some behaviors, but that’s about it.

    2. It’s only Christ Jesus that can change a human being; and only Him that can save a soul.

    3. A deep thinker would ask and ponder deeply – If God is all powerful & does not need my help and can reach anyone He wants, why then does He require me to be an ambassador of His truths. Is it about Him or is it about me. Exactly what is an ambassador.

    4. You’re being critical of things that are inconsequential (especially to you):
    4a. You view relationship with your Creator as inconsequential, yet you become “offended” when He’s mentioned to you. Don’t be offended if it means nothing to you.

    4b. You’re a witness for atheism, yet become offended when someone witnesses to you about Christ. Using your analogy, and since atheism is your product, exactly what are you selling to others – a big fat nothing…zero…nada…zilch… talk about a con. You have absolutely nothing to offer someone, yet here you are being critical of those who believe they have a loving relationship with Christ (eternal life is knowing God and His Son) to offer to a dying world. In your world everyone can afford zero, it costs nothing. In Christianity, no one can afford all that Christ so graciously, lovingly and freely gives. It’s free to the receiver, it costs the giver EVERYTHING! Talk about values & worth.

    4c. Using your analogy of sales, it’s amazing you cannot even recognize a product of great value because you’re disgusted and distracted by its wrapping and label and totally offended by its presentation.

    5. It’s important for one to understand what they’re criticizing and ultimately rejecting. All your posts read as criticism of religion, and “religious c-hristianity” in particular, yet somehow you believe that by placing a Christian label over “religious c-hristianity” that somehow you’ve experience and are now critical of the real thing. Think again, madam.
    If you want to be critical of Christianity, write your posts being critical of Christ Jesus and we’ll see how that goes. Don’t believe me – when Saul was persecuting Christians, what did Jesus say: Saul why are you persecuting Christians? NO
    Christ Jesus said: Saul, Saul why are you persecuting ME.
    That’s my challenge to you. You seem to think Christianity is about fallible people and all their awkwardness and imperfections. Well it isn’t.

    Closing the deal: No one needs a sales pitch when they have the Spirit of the Living Christ inside of them. The Word (Christ Jesus) and the Spirit are one, and it is only the Word (not ink and paper. The living Word existed long before anything was ever written down) that possesses the power to change people. Only the Word is sharp enough to divide between the spirit and soul of a man.

    Sales pitch – who needs them. only an atheists perhaps. only they are foolish enough to buy a product of zero value when abundance in every good thing is being offered to them freely.

    1. Reading it again, I can see how you read it the way you did– but you misunderstood this post entirely. The whole point is that I don’t mind. I liked the guy, and I seldom feel offended when people try and save me. In fact, I find it refreshing when it’s genuine. The sales pitch thing isn’t a negative critique of Christianity. It applies to all sorts of communication. Good sales people are gifted in communication, and should be utilized when trying to get any message across effectively. I am just as annoyed with Christians who are poor communicators as anyone else.

      I’m an atheist, so don’t go expecting a full on Christian support message– but this was more support than I typically give. I thought this guy was alright. I was sympathetic about his saying the wrong thing, because I do that all the time, too. I was supportive and was making the point of how I appreciated his kind of evangelism.

      And the saved thing- sure. Yeah. Maybe I worded it wrong. Whatever. Of all things, why would this post make you so angry? I’m sorry if it wasn’t clear, but your comments have left me baffled.

      1. I assure you, I’m not angry. A bit perplexed – yes, and here’s why incase it wasn’t properly reflected in my previous comment. When someone chooses (deliberately or unknowingly) a counterfeit to analyze/critique instead of the real thing then much doubt is cast upon their ability to discern and their ultimate judgments.

        While there is much merit in being able to effectively articulate a message, an equal argument can be made against placing one’s faith in a good sales pitch, as there are con-artists who are equally and more efficient at communicating their counterfeit product. So, to the discerning mind, it’s not the smooth, shiny, eloquently persuasive communication/packaging (or good sales pitch) that one should be fixated on. Instead, you need to begin looking beyond “the good sales pitch” to a person’s heart and actions [not speaking of Christianity, but in all areas of life].

        I don’t expect a ‘full on Christian support message’… I expect you to speak truth and from your heart… without placations or platitudes.

        You say: “Then there are great sales men and women who find [G]od. They are the best at bringing in souls, but they are also the ones to watch out for. Sometimes they stop believing, but they don’t stop selling”

        What you’ve described above is NOT Christianity. Hence my point regarding analyzing a counterfeit label & branding it Christianity.
        Using your terms, the only way a person can “sell” Christ to you, is through the life they live. And when you want what they have, you’ll find out it’s not for sale- no one can afford it; however, it’s totally free to those humble enough to see and know its priceless value and worth.

        The main point of my comment: Christianity is not about having a good sales pitch. There’s nothing to sell. It’s about having a mind/ soul renewed to one’s true identity in Christ and allowing that identity to shine through.
        A good sales pitch will change no one, neither will it save anyone’s life; However a true revelation of the love, mercy, and goodness of God absolutely will.

        1. I can only assume you missed the point I made about how the best sales pitch is the genuine one. And, how at the end when I talk about the sales men and women to look out for– I meant specifically that they are not Christians or genuine at all. The whole reason that guy was effective was because it was real.

          You agreed with my point and presented it as if it were an argument. I’m sorry, you just really don’t get what I meant here. I can apologize for not presenting it clearly enough; based on your responses I can see we are not talking about the word sales in the same sense. But I am hardly interested in defending a position I don’t hold just because you think I do.

          This post had nothing to do with the validity of Christianity. It makes no difference in this context. This post had everything to do with how effectively we communicate with each other, and my thoughts on what it’s like to believe and feel compelled to share faith in relation to communication skills.

          1. There’s no need to apologize. I believe you’ve clarified your position well.
            I agree, we hold differing views on the use of the word “sales” here.

            I miss your point because while you’re referencing a specific situation [i.e. this particular person and what came across to you], I deliberately ignored that because it wasn’t germane to my point. The reality is, it still isn’t, but that’s neither here nor there.

            I still submit, the best sales pitches are not necessarily the most genuine. They can be, I absolutely agree, but not all the time.

            Signing off on an amicable note – this thread was a testament to your post’s objective – ‘how effectively we communicate with each other…’

  2. I found this quite funny: “At what point are churches going to figure out that maybe not everyone is cut out for sales? In fact, some are hurting business far more than they are helping. Assign them to exclusive prayer duty or something. Please.”

    Just thought I’d drop into your world for a while… Yes, I’m still selling…and still believing.

    Cheers, Ufuoma.

Leave a Reply