They Went Walking
April 12th, 2011 by Sonja

One of LightGirl’s most favorite little girl books was a lesser known book called, I Went Walking. It featured a small child who walked around her world discovering animals of varying colors who were looking at her. LightGirl adored this book and it was in her hands as required reading most days; sometimes two or three times a day. Walking with friends is still one of her favorite pastimes.

So it came as no surprise when I heard from her that a group of her friends had gone walking from their home to a nearby shopping center for dinner lovely spring evening. I was driving the friends and the LightChildren from pillar to post (and a stop at Dairy Queen for sustenance) the next day. They were recounting their adventures on the sleepover (not so much sleep) with dinner (Chinese) and their walk when they told the following story:

“While we were out walking this group of brown-skinned kids came up to us. They said they were new to the area and didn’t know very many kids yet. They seemed to be really cool. They told us their names and we told them ours. And we were talking. I (LightGirl) was thinking that this was really cool that we were going to make new friends right here on the street like that. I thought it was really cool because they seemed genuinely interested in us. And then all of a sudden they started in with this stuff about Jesus loves us too and we should come to their church.

“Yeah, Matt wanted to say something like he’s a Satan worshiper. [giggle giggle] I wanted to say that I love Jesus too, I love listening to those fictional bedtime stories before I go to sleep. [more laughter]

“Did you guys notice how long they waited for us outside the restaurant? Yeah, we stayed there til like 10 and that’s past their bedtime.”

I talked to them all about the event a little bit. If I’m interpreting their responses correctly, and I think I am, they felt a little bit betrayed and used. And sort of angry. These are a really good group of kids who offer their friendship very openly to any who ask. They do not discriminate based on anything. I have seen them open their ranks to all kinds of teens, from all walks of life. Literally … all are welcomed. Then this very openness was turned and used as a tool for sales on them.

I tried to apologize for those in my faith who feel the need to use the openness of others to assuage their own sense of helplessness. But the words died in my throat. After all, the encounters with Jesus or his disciples did not leave people feeling used for someone else’s ends. Why is that so often the case with His 21st century followers?

6 Responses  
  • Peggy writes:
    April 12th, 20111:03 pmat

    Bummer, friend … that is my biggest pet peeve — the classic bait and switch, but with eternal consequences. :^(

  • K.W. Leslie writes:
    April 12th, 20113:25 pmat

    It’s that “friendship evangelism” crap that the youth pastors have been pushing for a while. They teach kids that they need to evangelize, not by just starting with a cold sales pitch, but by making friends with people first. So these young would-be evangelists did exactly that: They came up to your daughter and her group, said, “Wanna be friends?” and once they said yes, offered the cold sales pitch.

    Kinda ham-fisted, but no surprise there. Actual friendship evangelism takes a lot of time, and patience that kids largely don’t have. Pastors teach it because they think kids are more likely to do it, or be comfortable with it. But any relationship that’s pursued for any other reason than the relationship itself, is deception. (As you pointed out.)

    As I recall, when Jesus sent the disciples out in twos, He didn’t tell them to bother with any fake relationships; just announce the Kingdom first, and stay with (and thereby develop a relationship afterward with) whoever accepts it. That’s the proper order.

  • Rick writes:
    April 13th, 20117:19 pmat

    Did your daughter and her friends feel betrayed and used or are they simply mirroring their parent’s judgmental attitudes toward people who think differently than they do?

    Rather than apologize for the projected wrongs of these evangelizing kids and their hearts you presume to know… why not apologize for your use of them as merely another vehicle to communicate more of your own judgment for those who believe not like you do?

    I think that apology would be more sincere and thus more believable.

  • BroKen writes:
    April 14th, 201110:05 amat

    I imagine a similar tale. Some kids meet some really cool other kids at the mall and start talking. Eventually one of the other kids says, “Hey, we’re going to watch the President’s speech tonight. We think it’s really important. Want to come?” The response is, “Ummm, no. Maybe later. We’re going to eat right now.” But behind the response is rolling eyes and thoughts of, “You think we’re some political geeks?” “Our parents taught us to think for ourselves. We’re not Obamatrons!” “Get a life, you dweebs!” So, they go into the restaurant making fun of the “other” kids waiting for them outside.

    What do you think?

  • Patrick O writes:
    April 20th, 20115:47 pmat

    I hate sales approaches. That’s why I couldn’t last working in sales, and that’s why I have a lot of problems with typical evangelism. The trouble is that all they have to offer is yet more sales techniques. I thought of Jesus and the woman at the well. That’s a little bit like your story, in that Jesus turned the interaction to a bit of evangelism. But, he had more. He could tell her about her life. He had something to offer that was more than “come to my meeting.”

    If the entirety of someone’s experience of Jesus requires a sales approach, as though the Gospel were a new fitness club or something, then that’s just a little bit sad. The frustrating thing too is that I know so, so many people who were once those kids out on the streets peddling the Messiah. A whole lot of youth groups do that, after all. And it’s not, I think, a coincidence that so many such kids lose their faith or become mostly nominal once they get into college. The percentage of teens who leave Christianity in and just after college is extraordinary. Probably because we treat them like religious cannon fodder, throwing them into artificial sales modes, rather than deepening their ability to truly know God and know others, really learning how to love their neighbor authentically.

  • Dylan Morrison Author writes:
    April 27th, 20118:31 amat

    I’m afraid your right my dear friend. Relationships within Christianity are often used for ‘sales’. When the chips are down most ‘fellowship’ folk step back and try and sell to someone else. This dishonesty is what non followers of Yeshua smell around religious folk causing them to run a million miles. My own journey highlights my disillusionment with organized religion and my subsequent hijacking by Divine Love.

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