Evangelistic Fraud

The general consensus from conversation on this blog about Election’08 seems to be looking more towards hope for 2012 than towards next month. And now, the issue of voter fraud recently surfacing is just one more item on the long list of things that make this year’s presidential race uniquely complex. It only makes us hold tight to the passage suggested by our brother:

(Proverbs 16:33) “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.”

Recently, I was thinking about the ramifications of fraudulent voter registration in the election, when I stumbled across a thought. Persuading people to commit to something by pretense – sounds a lot like some fundamentalists’ idea of evangelism. I realize that it’s not a perfect comparison, but hear me out.

Voting Fraud

  • When someone is asked to fraudulently register and vote, more often than not, they do so knowing little to nothing about the political issues at hand. Obviously, a person does not have to know everything about every political issue to make a legitimate decision. But, it is likewise obvious that an uninformed voter makes for a superficial vote.
  • Because statistics are the goal, in many cases names are made up, resulting in false numbers.
  • Because the fraudulent voter is pushed to cast a vote, the decision is made the way the one doing the coercing wants it to go. The vote is therefore not based on a personal decision but on an obligation to the one who asked the person to vote.
  • Votes are intended to demonstrate political support. When the vote is illegitimate, the support is shallow and short lived.

Evangelistic Fraud

  • When someone is superficially asked to accept Christ as their Savior, more often than not, they do so knowing little to nothing about the spiritual issues involved. Obviously, a person does not have to know everything about every theological issue to make a legitimate profession. But, it is likewise obvious that an uniformed believer makes for a superficial belief.
  • Because statistics are the goal, in many cases names are made up resulting in false numbers.
  • Because the fraudulent believer is pushed to pray a prayer, the profession is made the way the one doing the coercing wants it to be made. The prayer is therefore not based on a personal conviction but on an obligation to the one who asked the person to “repeat this prayer after me.”
  • Professions of faith are intended to show evidence Christian commitment. When the profession is illegitimate, the commitment is shallow and short lived.

God help us to examine our evangelism and be careful to not commit evangelistic fraud.

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7 comments so far

  1. DT on

    Amen! the thought you stumbled across (doesn’t happen often, does it?) is right on the money.
    I cringe when people say they’re voting for this candidate or the other without knowing all that means. Likewise, I cringe even more when a shallow presentation of the gospel is given, and the unsuspecting individual is coerced into “casting his vote for Jesus”. May this kind of evangelism that so pervades Christianity today be cast into the depths of the sea!

  2. kentb on

    Nice analogy. It works.

  3. Paul Zeron on

    Many times “names are made up” for the sake of statistics? Thankfully, in all the fundamentalist circles I’ve been in for 35 years I’ve never seen that, or even heard of such a thing.
    As for witnessing methods -I have personally given both extensive and basic presentations of the Gospel hundreds of times, and I have seen faithful fruit that remains, as well as those whose lives were unchanged using either approach. Be careful not to make sweeping generalities based on a small sample of unfortunate cases. Keep in mind that while the Bible is rich with deep theology, we are supposed to be preaching God’s simple plan of salvation. Remember the words of our Lord, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” (Luke 18:17)

    Hey guys, I’ve been wondering….In your estimation, do Fundamentalists ever get anything right?

  4. DT on

    I can’t speak for TJ on why he said “names are made up” but I do believe that could happen, and perhaps has in the more extreme circles of numbers-oriented evangelism. I think this is why he prefaced it with “statistics are the goal.” If statistics are not the goal of a church, then they shouldn’t fall into that trap. Making up names, or perhaps more accurately, making up numbers, is well known in statistic-driven circles.

    Generalizations are not our goal. It doesn’t matter if false doctrine is popular or found in a select few. Our goal is to avoid it anyway. And I don’t think shallow evangelism is found in a “small sample of unfortunate cases.” From extreme Hyles-ish fundamentalism to social gospel, neo evangelical Rick Warren-type churches, the easy believeism form of evangelism is widespread.

    As for fundamentalism, I don’t know what could be more clear than, “sounds a lot like some fundamentalists’ idea of evangelism”, a phrase used to introduce this post. As the title of our blog says, we need to see a rebuilding in fundamentalism today. We’re criticizing those elements that need reform the most. To think all we do is bash fundamentalism all day is not consistent with the entirety of this blog. Oftentimes, we’re criticizing ourselves. If ranting against fundamentalism was the only goal, we would not have posted things like the following:

    Sunday and Machen, two founding fathers of the fundamentalist movement:
    https://biblicism.wordpress.com/2008/09/29/sunday-and-machen-god-weaves-his-tapestry/

    Great things I’ve learned from fundamenatlism:
    https://biblicism.wordpress.com/2008/07/18/great-things-i-have-learned-from-fundamentalism/

    A Program of Practice, in which I defended the fundamentalist’s model of evangelism programs over against that of evangelicalism:
    https://biblicism.wordpress.com/2008/07/14/a-program-of-practice/

    When we bring to light things in our movement that need correction, we are doing so from the inside, in hopes that a change will occur. We’re not outsiders, pointing fingers at a movement with which we have nothing to do. We want the best for our movement and want to see God glorified in all we do.

  5. Matt Moore on

    Last night I heard someone talking about a man he had witnessed to. He began by asking the man, “where will you go when you die?” Is that the point of the gospel? Is the reason we witness to people to get them some fire insurance or to glorify the name of God? How often do we get away from the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? (I Corin. 15:3-4) The gospel is the most simple thing in the world, the problem isn’t that we’ve complicated it, it’s that we’ve made it no gospel at all.

    I’m sick of ministries and people who want to see souls saved so that their report for the week, month, or year will be one that brings glory to themselves. I’m pointing that finger mostly at myself. We’ve gone from giving glory to God because of what He’s done in our lives and how He alone is glorified in that, to giving a watered-down “presentation” of a get-out-of-jail-free card. I think this is a great analogy in a lot of ways, TJ. Just like people are pushing for fraudulent voting for reasons other than the betterment of America, people are pushing for salvation deicisions for reasons other than God’s glorification.

    Let’s preach Christ and thank the Lord for other individuals and ministries that are doing the same.

  6. MarkR on

    The thing that scares me most about “evangelistic fraud” is what do we do when we run into a person who payed the prayer?! Either, they say, “oh yeah! I did that.” (and they are sleeping with the devil) or, “yeah i tried that and it wansn’t for me.” In both cases, how do we explain that Christ was misrepresented and their “prayer/profession” was not legit? On the one hand they spend their life trusting their prayer, and on the other, they are all done with “christianity” because they “tried it” and it didn’t do anything.

    This thought “evangelical fraud” is certialy real, and for me, my heary breaks for the people who think that they have experienced God, and haven’t even been properly introduced.

    Thanks DT for pointing out it is not “all fundamentalist,” but the ones doing it need to be confronted with this thought. There are definatly fundamentalist doing right out there but we need to make sure we are not letting any of our brothers get side tracked.

  7. TJ on

    I apologize for my absence from this conversation. I’ve been void of internet for the past couple of days.
    Pastor Zeron,
    The comment about made up names was a bit facetious on my part, and as DT pointed out it would have been better to include the idea of exaggerated statistics. I have in fact personally seen such things. I am sorry if I was too general in my wording, but I think the focus on statistics that has been so prevalent in fundamentalism is one of the darkest blots on our record. If we can’t point this out about our movement (and, yes, I still consider it my movement), how will we ever be able to fix it?
    This issue is where the analogy no longer works. In politics, numbers are the only thing that matters. In evangelism, however, there is so much more. There is the spiritual well being of the person which, if statistics are a goal, is disregarded. There is also the integrity of our Gospel presentation, which if statistics are a goal, is compromised in order to make it more accepted.
    …which brings me to your following remarks…
    I appreciate that you have been both extensive and basic in your presentation of the Gospel. I have heard many wonderful things about the fruit of your ministry, and in no way do I doubt your position. I sincerely hope that I do not come across that way.
    However, as was pointed out by our brother earlier, the issue is not simplicity. The issue is accuracy. This is the reason for the analogy of not knowing the necessary issues involved. I think people can make the Gospel too complicated, but I believe it is just as dangerous, probably more so, to make it too simple. At least when it is too complicated people are not given a false hope.
    As DT said, this could happen on both sides of the spectrum, from hyper-fundamentalism to neo-evangelicalism. I consider myself a fundamentalist, and as such I feel that I have an obligation to remove the beam in our movement’s eye before I consider what is in the eye of other movements. That, I think, is a sentiment shared between DT and me and is the reason for any criticism we might bring up about the movement.
    Matt and Mark,
    Thanks for the comments, guys! It’s encouraging to know that the point was made.


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