Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stealth Evangelism

Disclaimer: I'm a Christian foster parent. If you don't want to read about my struggles with some aspects of my faith, skip this one. If you do read and feel compelled to comment, please be kind. :)

I've always had a difficult time with evangelism in the sense of converting others to Christianity. I know the scripture verses -- "Go and make all disciples", "No one may enter the kingdom of God, except through (Jesus)" -- but when it comes to actually approaching someone who is not a believer and attempting to convince them to change their minds about that? Really not comfortable with doing anything along those lines.

Part of this I blame on the Southern Baptists of my childhood, whose idea of evangelism was to passionately proclaim that those of us who did not attend their church were all doomed to eternal torment. (I wasn't Baptist, but I was raised Christian. I thought the evangelical Christians of my high school were misguided and offensive....especially when I saw how they interacted with friends of mine who were Jewish or Muslim.) Another part if it is simply me shrinking from the logical result of the whole process, since that might require me to attempt to convert several of my own close family members. Family members who have always treated our difference of opinion when it comes to faith with tolerance and respect. Family members who have never attempted to convince me that I am wrong and should agree with them. I struggle to believe that I am called to be the one to shatter that family harmony.

So, I don't evangelize. I rationalize this pretty well and, on a certain level, I believe that my rationalizations have merit. It is not "honoring my father and mother" to treat them with less tolerance and respect than they treat me. I spread the gospel by living what I believe, not by talking about it. I behave in ways that I hope puts a positive light on "what Christians do." I raise my children in the church... and I mean, really, in the church. We are involved in all sorts of small groups and mission projects and fellowship activities and Bible studies. And our children are aware that our motivation for becoming a foster family is rooted in a belief that we are called by God to do so.

I realized recently, however, that foster care has led me into a type of evangelism that would never occur to me otherwise. As a foster parent, I am raising other people's children. And I am raising them in the church as well. (Aside: We foster through a faith-based agency. When counties place children in my home, they know they are getting a Christian family that is actively involved in a church community. This is one of the reasons we chose to foster through this agency -- they just aren't going to send me a child who is actively participating in a different faith, although they will send me children with no faith background at all.) We have always discussed our faith with children in terms of "what we believe" and "at our church, we do this".

S was recently given a children's Bible. She actually already had one, but she loves both of them. She "reads" them over and over. She picks them for bedtime stories almost every night. She has talked about her Bibles to her parents.

When this child came to us, she knew nothing about God or Jesus. As far as we can tell, she had never attended church. Her mother was not opposed to our teaching her about the Christian faith -- when S asked her mother if she went to church, she mumbled something about "needing to get back to that" -- but it was not a part of their lives. 

10 months later, S talks about what she has learned in church. When she sees a cross, she talks about Jesus dying and coming back to life. She knows that Jesus lives in her heart and in the hearts of others. Someone asked her teasingly one day why she was so pretty; she replied calmly that it was just how God made her. She watches VeggieTales and she loves to go to church.

Soon (I hope), I will be sending this 3 year old girl back to her mother. The child that I am sending back is certain that God loves her. She is equally certain that He loves everyone else, too. The child I am sending back is likely to ask her mother about "her church" and to pressure her to find them a church home. (I'm under no illusion that this is going to be the norm. But S is one determined little person.)

It's almost like I'm sending in a little stealth evangelist to convert her mother. That's a form of evangelism I can be comfortable with. Even if does seem a little sneaky.


  1. AWESOME post! You and feel pretty similarly toward faith and evangelism. I personally believe faith is spread more through relationship than it ever will be through "talking" to someone or handing out a tract.

    When Dolly is outside on the swings I singing Jesus Loves Me at the top of her lungs I always smile big!!

  2. Love your post. We evangelize by asking bio family (safe, approved people) to come to church to see the girls' programs. They won't come because we invite them, but they will come to see the girls.

    Maybe you could find a good church in the area of the bio mom to recommend -