This post is from the Putting on the New archives, and dates from a few years ago, right after my family made a big move to a new town.
I just moved to a new town, and I’ve been trying to find a new church, meet my neighbors, and all the rest of the things you do when you relocate. The other day a woman rang my doorbell. I have a barky dog that doesn’t like it when the doorbell rings.
Normally, it’s a pain when the doorbell rings, because I have to ask the person inside, get the dog to calm down, and then talk. This doesn’t take long, but still, it’s not the ideal situation when someone comes over. You normally want to greet the person first and invite them in. But the other day, when this new person came to the door, I was glad I had the dog there to keep the conversation short.
I smiled at her as I opened the door, wondering if this was a new friend… someone that would invite me to lunch and get to know me. I’ve been trying out churches in the area and would welcome any suggestions she would have had. For a moment… I was very excited that I was going to talk to someone new here, to maybe even start a new friendship.
How wrong I was.
The woman wasn’t there to make friends or even to say “welcome.” She was there to pound on my door, shove a piece of “religious literature” in my face, and then scream at me that “All my answers are in there!”
All my answers? All the things I’ve wanted to know about this town and where to meet new friends and where to go to church? Nope. Those things weren’t in that piece of literature. It was a paper telling me to accept Jesus into my heart. Well guess what, I already did that 45 years ago.
Is this what Jesus did? Shove literature in someone’s face and yell at them? Or did he talk with them? Understand their lives? Talk to them in a way they could understand?
One reason this kind of “drive by religion” doesn’t work is because it doesn’t speak to the person. God is firmly rooted in my heart and has been since I was a child. But what if he wasn’t? Would her “here’s a piece of paper you need to read!” attempt at “sharing the good news” have worked with me? Would I have been curious about God’s love? Wondered how I could get it myself?
I probably would have been annoyed at her and “people like her.” As a result, I wouldn’t have been curious to find out more, but ran from others who wanted to talk about God.
Let’s be cautious when we’re spreading the good news, not to use condescension and assumptions before we’ve talked with them. We could be a source of inspiration that helps reach people or we could be someone that gives a bad impression. And wouldn’t it be a shame if we had an opportunity to connect with someone else and instead slammed a piece of paper in front of them and shouted at them to read it.