Friday, October 14, 2011

Fear Tactics: Scaring People Toward Jesus

Several years ago I went to the Christian equivalent of a haunted house. The tagline was that they would “scare the hell out of you.” Literally, or at least they hoped. My wife and I were dating at the time, and we went together. The goal is to haunt you with the real life horrors that can happen to teens in the hopes that you’ll see that you need Jesus. Suicide. Drunk driving. Gang shootouts. Drugs. Domestic violence. And even a journey through the torture chambers of hell itself. One time I was nearly run over by the Grim Reaper (he’s in the Bible, right?), a fake gang member was yelling obscenities in Lindsey’s ears, and another time some creepy rat man (another famous Bible character) tries to put a rat on her shoulder, causing her to freak out. It was all truly disgusting. Finally, they would show you Jesus and everything he did for you.


Then the scariest part of the haunted house came. The time when you walk out of the haunted house into a sea of people, armed with their best, most pushy evangelistic strategy. The courtesy of personal space has been sucked out of the world, and your eternal soul is now the object of a bidding war. No one gets out of there without praying the sinner’s prayer at least three times, whether you want to or not. We put all this over-the-top work into convincing you that you need Jesus, and you’re not leaving until we close the deal.

Lindsey and I were probably holding hands on the way out, but suddenly a group of people grabs Lindsey and pulls her one way while another group pulls me another way. As I watch her get swallowed up by the sea of soul-hungry people, somebody starts asking me a lot of intrusive questions about where I stood with God. I remember telling one guy my whole story of coming to faith, and he’s breathing down my neck as he says, “Well, are you sure that you meant it?” Well, thank you for invalidating me and my relationship with Jesus, Mr. Pushy Evangelistic Guy. I should have turned it around and asked him if he was sure he mPeant it.

It was a fun experience if you loved the thrill of getting scared. The haunted house gets an A plus for creativity, but I know I walked away from that thing my first time (before I had come to faith), having prayed a prayer that I didn’t understand or take seriously. I just wanted out. Sure, I was scared to end up like one of the tragic stories I’d just witnessed, but what sticks out in my mind is that we were given a story of several different people for whom Jesus didn’t save the day. The darkness won. Sure, Jesus shows up in the end, but it’s too late for all the people we just saw. Where’s the hope in that?

I realize the story doesn’t always end well for everyone. Human freedom means that Jesus doesn’t rescue those who refuse to be rescued. But I want to create stories where Jesus does save the day, both on paper and in real life. If Jesus is the rescuer, then people need to encounter stories that clearly reveal Jesus rescuing. So if you’re a storyteller, it’s about creating believable and moving stories of Jesus rescuing people out of darkness. For everyone, it’s about living a life that fully reveals Jesus as the rescuer of your life and getting involved in the lives of people to draw them to the heart of Jesus. This is how we create stories that display a Jesus who saves the day, and people are drawn to him, not based on fear, but love.

What fear tactics have you seen employed to try to convince someone they need Jesus?

Photo Credit: aerodyneebay on Flickr Creative Commons

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