How Not to Be a Christian Pest


Dana Carvey as The Church LadyMy Cerulean Sanctum email inbox fills daily with “helpful” notes from Christian PR companies telling me about another Christian book I’m not going to read. Or a Christian movie I’m not going to see. Or some other Christian “event” that threatens to shake the pillars of heaven because of its importance in human history but which I won’t attend.

I can almost guarantee that no one sending me those emails is asking, If it were me, would I want to be on the receiving end of this spam? Is this how I want someone else to treat my inbox?

The sad truth is that those folks would probably find a way to justify a response of yes—and find Bible verses to support their position.

But they’ve simply forgotten the Golden Rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I think a lot about the Golden Rule of Jesus when I interact with other people. Anymore, I keep it ever before me. I try always to put myself in the other person’s shoes.

I wish more people did that.

And I wish more Christians did that not only in their emailing me but also in how they evangelize others.

We know that the Gospel message is the difference between life and death. Eternal death. We know.

But most people don’t get it. To them, our insistence on pressing that message only turns them off. To them, the message is spam. And we’re spamming them.

We’re not thinking the Golden Rule when it comes to evangelism.

Some people are ready to hear, and some people aren’t. The reason we’re not as effective in evangelizing as we should be is that we’re practically deaf to the Spirit. The Spirit knows which people are ready to hear. We should be listening to the Spirit. By not listening to the Spirit’s leading on who is ready and who is not, we only make the unready think we’re spamming them with the Gospel. Then they close down. Perhaps forever.

When the Spirit does alert us to someone who is ready to hear, are we remembering the Golden Rule? Are we presenting the Gospel in a way that we would want to hear it? Do we want to feel manipulated by someone else’s words or their delivery? Don’t we hate it when salesmen pull sales techniques out their bag of tricks and use them on us? Don’t we hate it when we’re made to feel like little more than one more number closer to the monthly quota?

We don’t have to come off as pests. The way to keep from being a Christian pest is to always remember the Golden Rule. In all things, how do we wish to be treated? We should then treat others the same way.

That not only applies to spammy PR emails, it applies to all interactions we have with lost people. It even applies to evangelism.

Are we pests? Or are we Spirit-attuned, empathetic bearers of the best possible news?

One Golden Rule for a Better World


Love thy neighborBeen slammed lately with work, which is a good thing for the bank account but not for the blog. So I want to offer a simple thought for today.

Maybe I’m just getting old, but the angry young prophet part of me just doesn’t have the fight to be angry about everything anymore. I think it’s because I’ve tired of anger being the predominant emotion in America 2011.

As a Christian, my task in this life is to love other people, love God, and tell those people I’m supposed to love about the God I’m supposed to love. Seems pretty simple, actually.

But we make it all so complex. And in the midst of that complexity arises a bunch of misunderstandings, inevitable arguments, and way too much anger.

More and more, though, one simple truth from the lips of Jesus resonates with me. We are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Can we get our brains around that one and try it out for a few days?

What if you and I interacted with our fellow human beings in the way in which we would like to be treated? Wouldn’t that go a long way toward defusing the powderkeg of emotions so many people carry around with them daily?

Seriously, for all our talk of ministry, how often do we truly think about the condition of someone else’s life?

When I’m hacked off about the new gadget I purchased that broke after 15 minutes of use, am I thinking about the customer service rep on the other end of the phone? Do I ask myself what kind of day she has had, whether her marriage is happy and her kids are avoiding jail? Before I unload my ire on her because my doodad disintegrated, do I pause to think how that person, who may not know Jesus, would like to be treated by someone who does?

I’m convinced that most Christians never ask those questions. We do an atrocious job of imagining ourselves in the shoes of the person we’re abusing. In those moments, our self-centeredness becomes the defining characteristic of our lives and nothing of Jesus shines through.

No one is unredeemable until that last breath is drawn. For that reason, the Golden Rule must always apply whenever we deal with others.

No, this isn’t a heavy evangelism message. Still, it strikes me that the best way to find that opening to talk about Jesus is if we learn to treat other people with the same level of love and care we reserve for ourselves. If we put ourselves on the other side of the table. If we learn to think beyond ourselves.

Jesus did.

Rethinking Evangelicalism’s Tropes #2: Fixing the Other Guy


Sometimes it seems like we Evangelicals aren’t happy with anyone. Our perceived human foes are always in need of a good fixing by us, especially by our standard means of yelling at them, wrangling politicians to our side in opposition to them, manipulating media against them, and stewing about them to anyone who will listen. While the track record of positive results employing that process is somewhat abysmal, yet we press on.

In our favor, it’s hard not to think that the wheels are coming off the world. Really, a quick glance around seems to confirm as much.

I’ve written a lot of words to Christians in America over the years. I’m really no one, though. And I mean that. There’s no expectation that anyone will listen or change. Most days are shouting into the wind—like everyone else. I know that. Everyone’s got an opinion, and in America, everyone needs to express it.

But it still bothers me that with people in the American Church pointing fingers at this heretic and that sinner, we tend to forget the Golden Rule of  “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or as Jesus Himself phrased it:

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
—Matthew 7:12

I can’t help but think that applying that one simple rule would change everything. And that one simple rule can be applied to EVERY aspect of life.

Such truth asks that we consider the other guy, that we think of him as ourself. Where we give ourselves grace, we should offer him the same grace in the same situations. And where we would want to be gently and lovingly corrected, we would offer the same to him.

But too often we excuse our sins and live to punish the other guy for his—even when his sin is the same as ours.

I’m increasingly peeved at the hubris that most of us operate under. Nor do I understand how it is that we’re always seeking to fix the other guy when we won’t fix ourselves first. We Evangelicals are constantly in a huff about the condition of the other guy’s eye speck and not so concerned about our own log.

The answer, of course, is a simple one. Jesus notes it in the Gospel of John:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
—John 21:15-22

Here, Jesus is trying to restore Peter after Peter’s betrayal. But what very human trait does Peter exhibit? He points to John and says (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Yeah, I hear what you’re trying to say about me, but what about this other guy?”

If that doesn’t sum up Evangelicalism 2011, I don’t know what does. We seem perpetually worried about “the other guy” even as the Lord is trying to restore us to our proper position. (I find it telling that John notes this in the context of his own question about those who would betray Jesus, almost as if Peter were trying to get back at John for bringing up the issue and John includes this passage—and its answer—as a deflection back to Peter.)

Jesus’ response is so fitting, it almost makes me weep:

“…what is that to you? You follow me!”

Heaven knows that I am a messed up person. Every day I have to remind myself that the only way the Lord is going to work through me is if I’m right with Him. And that’s going to take an enormous amount of work on His part. My part is to be willing and open to receive His fixes. Yet if I’m perpetually trying to hear about someone else’s fixes and trying to fix that other person my way, I’ll neither hear nor receive my fixes.

And if I’m not prepped the way I should be to minister, then I’m wasting my time and the Lord’s.

Evangelicals, please, please, please hear this. If we don’t get our own house right, judgment will fall on it. It’s time to stop worrying about the other guy’s problems first and start asking the Lord to fix our own. We’ve become like Peter, attempting to deflect responsibility, even as the Lord is telling us what we need to be doing and to stop worrying so much about the other guy.

Every day, I hope to live not only by the Golden Rule but also by personalizing the words of Jesus: “…what is that to you, Dan? You follow me!”

What words will you live by?