Learning to be an evangelist

I recently availed myself of an amazing educational opportunity. While surfing the ‘net somewhat aimlessly the other day (I think I was looking at other search results for some of the terms that lead people to this blog) I eventually came to the website of a Christian ministry called ACT. Here’s how they describe themselves. Emphasis is original.

ACT is a worldwide evangelism movement that begins with you. The vision behind it is to encourage believers to train, pray and share the gospel as the Holy Spirit leads. We provide free online evangelism training so that the 2 biggest challenges in evangelism – fear and not knowing how – are no longer a factor.

The mission is to enable the communication of the gospel so that more and more people share the gospel in more and more places every day.

The training we provide to individuals, organizations and para-church ministries is based on over 35 years of evangelism experience. Our online evangelism training is a complete learning experience and its FREE. You can trust us to deliver a proven, faith-based gospel message that’s easy to understand and easy to use in any conversation anywhere.

Sharing the gospel with the lost is what we’re about.

ACTS 1:11 tells us that Jesus is returning one day – while we await His return, let’s ACT

Their training was free, so I signed up (using what I thought was a pretty clever pseudonym and my blog email address) and went through the courses. If anyone is going to be giving the really good arguments for Christianity, if those arguments are out there at all, it’s going to be the people telling Christians how to evangelize. They claim their message is “easy to understand.” Almost nothing about Christianity is easy to understand, from my point of view — so okay, I thought, let’s hear it.

What it turned out they meant, I guess, is that the sentences they use have very small words and the grammatical meanings of the sentences are easy to discern. There was a lot of repetition of very basic claims. Essentially, they story they want you to tell has four main parts: we are all sinners; sinners deserve death; Jesus died in our place; faith in Jesus will save you from death. These components of the message are drilled in, over and over. (Click to view larger.)

On the other hand, there wasn’t any kind of reason offered for believing these claims. They were just stated, again and again. Apparently, the key to being a successful evangelist is merely to proclaim your beliefs in a heartfelt and sincere manner! Then, heathens and heretics everywhere will be instantly convinced!

I’m serious. I went through all three of their courses, got 100% on all the review quizzes, and received my certificates — for the basic ACT training, the Seedlings training for evangelizing to children, and the Save the Mother, Save her Child training for pregnancy center employees (really) — and not once did I hear any mention of the slightest suggestion of evidence or logic to back up these claims. I would almost say that they were teaching something like, “Because the Bible says it, it’s true,” but I hesitate to give them credit for going to even that shallow depth with their argumentation. It felt more like they were telling you to say, “Jesus!! Jesus!! Jesus!!!1!! Now do you believe me? Yay, you’re saved!”

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, here is another screenshot from the ACT training. They are discussing the fears that some Christians might face, keeping them from going out and evangelizing, and explaining that those fears are founded on misconceptions. Here, they want to reassure you that by no means does an evangelist need to be prepared to explain why they believe what they believe. They just need to say that they do believe it. (Again, click to enlarge.)

It’s funny, because it seems to me that “why Christianity is true” lessons really should be included in a course intended to help you share the gospel effectively. I realize that people don’t make decisions perfectly rationally, and lessons on how to come across as trustworthy and clear are necessary too (if a little bit sleazy-feeling), but wouldn’t it help to share at least a tiny glimmer of a reason for why you believe what you do? Do they really anticipate that so few people will actually ask?

After a lot of searching, I did finally find two publications for sale in their store that seemed to promise evidence and logic. Unsurprisingly, both are woefully inadequate. One is a tract called How Can I Believe in Christ, When I Don’t Even Believe the Bible? Basically, it suggests that you read the book of John with an open mind and try to believe it — problem solved, right? Then there’s a pamphlet called Evidence for the Resurrection which purports to offer answers to twelve objections from skeptics. All the answers I can see in the preview are chock-full of references to the Bible, as though that’s evidence — although, yes, occasionally they also quote Christians who assert that there’s tons of evidence for the stories in the Bible. Nowhere do we get any actual evidence. Even better, some of their strawmanned objections have nothing to do with evidence at all, like #7, “The resurrection is not important.” What a waste of paper.

The reason that I am not a Christian is that nobody has ever given me a logically sound and convincing reason to suppose that Christianity is the most likely-to-be-accurate description of the reality we live in. If I did hear such a reason, I’d change my mind. There are many other atheists like me out there. When even a worldwide evangelical organization (note: putting a pin on that map is optional, so it doesn’t reflect the total number of trainees) so completely fails to offer Christians a single fact or logical argument to share with nonbelievers to back up their beliefs, well … it’s hard to see Christianity as anything more than a farce.

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13 Comments

  1. Aristarchus

     /  April 11, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Wow…. that last screenshot…. wow. That’s too amazing to be true.

  2. James Thompson

     /  April 11, 2011 at 7:26 am

    When I was in high school, I did not know that sincerely held beliefs — could be sincerely WRONG.

    The fact that SO many people believed something seemed to be an argument in its favor.

    Fortunately, I took a course on the New Testament that covered a bit of textual criticism and other not commonly known facts about the Bible. I felt so betrayed by pastors and others, because I knew that they knew this stuff.

    Anyway that is why they want you to just repeat the claims and seem so sincere.

  3. Questioning

     /  April 11, 2011 at 10:24 am

    What has always been interesting is that no one in the Bible even evangelized like that. Of course it’s ludicrous from a non-Christian perspective, but what’s more troubling is that if I put on my Christian glasses for a minute, it’s still ludicrous. All these people that claim to follow the Bible sure don’t seem to actually read it much.

  4. That last screenshot really is amazing. Especially since it contradicts that oft-quoted-by-Christian-apologists biblical mandate to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

  5. I wish I could say this was amazing and weird to me, but unfortunately I was involved in a few evangelical organizations years ago even though I was a catholic (which I only realized until after I joined them was not considered christian by many people there), when I was in high school yet. It was made abundantly clear to me by the teachers who ran the meetings that you didn’t have to have a full grasp of the faith to spread the “good” news. It was just important that you spread it.

    In fact, reading more than you needed to know or questioning things out of the bible was a good way to be frozen out of the group. Case in point, I gave a presentation about how it was dumb to deny things for which there is tangible evidence, namely evolution, for my fellowship of christian atheletes group. The silence in the room was palpable after my speech and afterwards the three teachers one by one came up to me and told me they were sorry I felt that way and would pray for me. I stopped going shortly afterward.

  6. I used to collect evangelistic pamphlets from street preachers, purely for the kitsch value (not to mention the off-chance that one of them would make good blogging fodder). I still have quite a collection, in fact – including a few Chick tracts, which aren’t easy to find in New York City!

    But my enthusiasm started to cool when I realized how bland and formulaic most of them are. The vast majority of gospel tracts consist of nothing but bible verses (usually the same small set of bible verses) just stated as blunt assertions, without any supporting evidence or argument. It’s as if the publishers don’t understand or don’t care that their intended audience might not already believe everything in the Bible is true.

  7. @Ebonmuse: Ha! I pick up / happily take tracts and pamphlets myself (though I do eventually throw them away), but it’s primarily to keep other (possibly more gullible) people from getting them. There’s a mail drop box that I check whenever I pass it now, because the last few times there’s been a Chick tract curled up and tucked behind the handle.

    But yeah, it’s hard to find even Chick tracts that amusing anymore. They’re all the same, empty garbage.

  8. ISIAIh 41 BRING forth your IDOLS did they PREACH to you see they can’t speak they can’t DO ANYTHING all they do is cause confusion. spalms 115 and spalms 135 thier IDOLS are FALSE cant speak can’t hear cant smell and those that make them shall become like them. Jeremiah 10 they nail their IDOL down like a scarecrow it can’t move can’…t speak can’t move must be carried these are nothing but the WORK of CON men.john 10 jesus christ sais his sheep hear his voice and another voice thy will not follow and if another person tries to preach to them they WILL FLEE from him. jeremiah 5 the priests bear rule on their own authority what will you do when your judged my word is not inside them. Now here is the kicker john 5 son of man voice goes back in time mathew 16 jesus christ claims to be the son of man.‎1 cor2 mind of CHRIST preached internally and john 16 sais the spirit of truth comes in the future. Ezekiel 13 lying prophets of ISRAEL my word is not inside them saying god sais god sais god sais wrote hoping mankind would CONFIRM their WORDS. all of this is EASILY verifiable.

  9. I find most people denies christinity because they just don’t open ther mind up to do any thinking. They are so struborn that their keens want bend. They create a hardness in their heart such as the Pharoes did with Moses. They let the surpent enter their mind to show them the pleasure of life is more rewarding than beleving. I pray for the world and the people of such. May God enter your hearts with LOVE.

  10. Alittlechristiangirl

     /  April 21, 2014 at 4:42 am

    I am laughing at myself. Because I found this blog, in my search for learning something about evangelism. I am a Christian. In addition, not very good at English. Moreover, yes – wants the world to know that God exist, because it is the truth. There is a meaning in this life! (Yes, a exclamationpoint is needed)

    Well, when that is said. Thank you for this text. I believe it has learned me more, than trying that “program”. For logic is important. And fact is, that if Christianity is true – it has to be able to defend itself. – Where did Logic come from?

    I know people that came to Christ, when God showed them that they were sinners – through a bible verse. I know people who came to Christ, when they saw the logic arguments for God (you have to search somewhere else for those, John Lennox is a good start) – and ended up, when the thought it possible that God existed, asking him if he were there. And well, he answered them in weird ways, which can and should be questioned. To believe in God, is not to believe a system in your head. It is to get to know a person, and that is a process. Personally Fact is, that it is a belief. You cannot know it all. You are not God. But you can ask God. My experience is that he answers. Else I would have scipped my faith long ago – for it influences my life way too much, and if it is not true – I would like to find the truth.

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