Costcovangelism Part 2

 

Continued from Part 1.

Here are three keys to personal, practical evangelism. This isn’t meant as a formula to follow in every single situation, but it’s three things that I find helpful and encouraging for myself.

1. Relationship
2. Relevance
3. Respect

1. Relationship
Cheryl and I have a personal relationship. She rents her garage out to my husband and I. We share a kitchen and a breakfast table and faith in Christ. We identify on many levels. She’s not just my housemate or landlord, she’s my friend and mentor. If she were not my friend, or if we had no experiential basis of trust, I would be skeptical and suspicious of anything she tried to “sell” me.

It’s the same with evangelism—we have to do it from the basis of relationship. I’m not saying we have to become besties with every homeless man on the street before we can talk to them about Jesus—sometimes, a simple friendly introduction will do. “Hi, my name is Hannah. I notice your wrist is in a cast—would you like to be healed?”

It’s the same principle as giving CPR to a stranger—even if they’re not conscious or responsive, you introduce yourself, say you’re going to help them, ask questions to determine their condition, then proceed.

2. Relevance
Cheryl’s Costcovangelism would be completely pointless if she was talking about the price of steak, white bread, Jif peanut butter or Jell-O—because I could care less. They are not items I prescribe to in my lifestyle. They are not relevant.

But because of the relationship Cheryl and I have, she knows the things I use a lot of and how much I spend on them. She is able to relate to me though the things that are relevant to me.

I think I speak for every Christian when I say it’s awkward to start a conversation with a total stranger just to say, “Hey. Have you heard about Jesus?” In church, they try to tell you that it’s simple and it’s easy, to just go out and do it. But apart from relationship, how will you know what is relevant to a person? Without knowing what is important to them, you’re just shooting in the dark with the pickup line of, “Do you know Jesus?”

Which brings me to the third key to practical, personal evangelism:

3. Respect

If you don’t have a relationship with someone and therefore don’t know what is relevant to them, if you start a conversation with the intent of subscribing them to your product, you are a solicitor.

Solicitors are usually slaves of obligation. Nobody likes to be solicited. A 1-800 number on caller ID will either be ignored or received with dread.

What’s the difference between a college student who shows up on your doorstep with a Filter-Queen vacuum, and a college student on your doorstep with a salvation tract? The method is the exact same—and so is the consumer response. An awkward, uncomfortable exchange of introduction transpires, the salesman casts his pitch, and the homeowner smiles uneasily as he or she explains that no thank you, we are not interested, we already have one…et cetera.

Any success on these solicitors’ parts is usually due to pressure or the desperate desire to pacify the poor man to get him to leave—or worse, out of pity.

When Cheryl talks about Costco, she’s not pushy or pompous. She is gentle and respectful. She says her bit and is willing to say no more on the subject unless I show interest and engage in conversation.

It should be the same for sharing Christ. We can’t assume that just because we have access to perfection, that everyone else’s lives are miserable.

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When I was young in the faith and very zealous, I made this mistake. I looked at my most unchristian friends, felt a wave of compassion, and tagged them all in a note on Facebook telling them they were missing out and that there was great joy in Christ.

Little did I know, one of the people I tagged had just lost her mother. My attempts to evangelize backfired, and I lost a friend because I hadn’t taken the time to get to know her, see what she was going through, and actually relate to her.

There is nothing wrong with zeal.

Psalm 69:9 - Zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

Jesus Himself was consumed with zeal for His Father’s house. But void of a heart after relationship with individuals, zeal kills.

The Crusades are evidence of this.

Evangelism isn’t about selling a product, it’s about making people hungry.

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Cheryl Bradley, Costcovangelist (Part 1)

Our housemate is a Costcovangelist.

Costcovangelist: A person dedicated to the mission of sharing the good news of Costco.

He who finds a Costco membership finds a good thing indeed. And what’s not to love? Brand-name products in bulk, for ridiculously low prices—not to mention the cheap gas! And it’s all for the investment of $50 a year! Surely, the passing of a crisp $50 is worth all the Benjamins you’d be saving by shopping at Costco!

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Our housemate, Cheryl, is a faithful cardholder and frequent shopper of the Costcovian Kingdom. She has taken every opportunity to educate me in the gospel of Costco. My baking powder, flour, baking soda, brown sugar, milk and all fruits and vegetables are all grossly overpriced, reports the Costcovangelist, who then eagerly throws open her cupboards to price jugs of cinnamon and vanilla extract under $10, a gallon of baking soda for less than $5, a potato sack of barley for $7ish…and so on and so forth.

Now, I’m not stranger to the wonders of Costco. When I was in my mom’s house, Costco was always the first stop for groceries. A full cart for $200 to feed a family of five was a darn good deal. But now that I’m building a family of my own, and we have a $200-per-month budget for food, I long for that Costco membership card to call my own. Especially toward the end of every month, when I pull open the refrigerator to find just eggs and foil-swaddled baked potatoes remaining.

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Mind you, my husband and I are not lacking by any means. The past three months we’ve been married, we have never missed a meal. And every time things have gotten tight with food, I have prayed. The first time I prayed, we got a box of home-canned delights as a gift from one of our friends. The next time, I had $20 more on my card than I’d thought I had to spend. And the next time, we were blessed with a HUGE cardboard box full of organic vegetables!

We have never gone without—and I know we never will. But the frugal voice in my head paints fantasies of how much more effective our $200 food budget would be if we spent it at Costco. I keep telling myself, “Someday, someday, when we have an extra $50 for a membership startup…”
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I was perfectly content to keep up the mantra of “someday.” But Cheryl is a Costcovangelist who does her job well. She knows our staples and how much they cost where we do our shopping, and then she scouts out the prices of our staples on her next trip to Costco.

She’ll leave sweet notes for me on the counter, with afterthoughts of, “Agave nectar is $6.50 at Costco!”

I know she’s not talking about our 12-oz squeeze bottle ($7 at Fred Meyer). She’s talking about a 30-something-oz JUG of our favorite sweetener for only 50 cents more than what we get.

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I was perfectly content to stick to “someday.” But Cheryl keeps making me hungry, transforming my passive desire into an anxious, gotta-have-it, get-me-that-membership, burning desire for Costco.

This is practical evangelism. The model Cheryl demonstrates to inspire me towards a Costco membership would be just as effective if she were telling me about Jesus.