Lollipop Evangelism?

lollipopsLast week I received a church planting email that was talking about servant evangelism.  I think both service and evangelism are great things, so I figured I’d be able to glean something from the lines of type before me.  As I began reading I sensed trouble coming when I saw this…

The connection card is the difference between Community Service and Servant Evangelism.  Community Service is simply loving your community in the name of Jesus.  Servant Evangelism is earning the right to extend an invitation through a connection card.  On one side you tell people they are loved and on the other side you tell them who you are by giving information on your church or an upcoming special worship service.

Reading that made something inside me tighten up like (let me know if you think of a good analogy, I couldn’t come up with an appropriate one).  It sounded mysteriously like the Christian pamphlets of old that you handed to someone with little to no relational context telling them the gospel (or at least part of it).  Only these sounded like papers trying to convert people to their church instead of Christ.  Well, I thought, at least if they’re giving these to people in the context of doing things to really serve them it’s better than just handing them out.  Then I read on and found out what they meant by service…

Remember, you are sowing evangelistic seeds, the more seeds you sow the more opportunities you will have to find receptive hearts.   If you were to do a free car wash how many cars could you wash in 4 hours…maybe 35-50?  If you were to give people free coffee and hot chocolate how many cups could you give out in a couple of hours…50-100?  Here are some of the high volume SE projects that will enable you to touch 1000 people or more in 3-4 hours.  [The ideas include things like passing out lollipops with the “connection card” attached, moist towelettes with the church info printed on them, and handing out packets of flower seeds with the church’s info on them.]

So it’s not so much about serving anyone as it is trying to give something trite away that will get people into church.  I can even see passing out candy as something nice to do, but service?  That just really seems to stretch the definition to me.  It’s not meeting even a minor need anyone has and it seems clear that the only real purpose is to get people into church.  It just seems like a mass mailing with a little extra zing.  That’s reinforced by this final quotation from the article.

Sow these evangelistic seeds the Saturday before a high impact outreach service.  This will create more buzz in your community for your new church.

Anyone have thoughts on this?  Disagree?  I’d love to dialogue about it.

About Big Tasty

Be better today than yesterday.

Posted on May 8, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It was interesting reading this after having listened to your “Agendaless” podcast. In Missiological terms this type of evangelism sounds too much like strategy and not enough like genuine caring. I can’t know the heart of those who do this sort of “outreach” but it reminds me of an early method in the Tanzanian church that has left it’s mark over 50 years later. The early missionaries spent much of their time getting people to go to their services by handing out meat and clothing. It created a begging mentality, paternalism, and dependence. People came to church for what they could get materially rather than to worship. We’re still battling it today. In cross-cultural ministry terms we call it “rice Christians.” It’s one thing to be generous, but I think you have to be careful not to be manipulative. I’m not saying this kind of outreach means the evangelists don’t care about people, it just makes me wonder if there is a genuine desire to love and care for people, or if it is an effort to see numbers and increase positive statistics. Having seen the negative effects, it’s hard not to be a little cynical.

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