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Does “Witnessing” Really Work?

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for grace.

Not “saying grace,” Nancy Grace or even Grace Adler (all lovely in their own right), but real grace. You know, grace grace.

The I once was lost, but now I’m found grace that is messy and hard to explain and a little too much like Jesus. That’s my jam.

I think this is why I have an issue with “witnessing.”

(And by witnessing, I mean “evangelism.” And by evangelism, I mean “winning souls” —emphasis on winning.)

Whatever you choose to call it, this used-car salesman technique of spiritual solicitation rarely works. And it rarely works because it lacks grace.

I saw this absence of grace on full display this morning at my local Starbucks. While I sipped a tepid latte, my attention was drawn to a stone-faced soul winner on the prowl. His suit was noticeably unpressed, but his technique didn’t have a wrinkle in it, seared stiff from years of evangelistic pressure.

He strode through our third place disinterested with holiday mochas, breakfast sandwiches or the untouched stack of archaism known as newspapers. He was focused—pursuing only the holy grail of evangelism: a convert.

This was a Sunday morning, and Stone Face seemed determined to make his way to church with a new trophy in tow. I imagined his adrenaline spiking at the thought of bagging a rare Bible-Belt miscreant and wrestling him or her to the house of the Lord. This was witnessing at its finest, and it turned out to be a sad sight.

Like a starving predator prowling the Serengeti, no prey escaped his notice. Though his demeanor was casual, his senses were on full alert, eyes darting wildly behind rimless bifocals. From the coffee bar to the love-seat semicircle, every caffeine seeker was unsafe under his gaze.

He tricked people into conversations about church, he told others who professed to be saved that they probably weren’t, and he questioned the veracity of each conversant’s faith, reminding them they were in Starbucks instead of church that morning.

Now, in all fairness, I’m sure assuming his motives were right, but his methods were all wrong. I listened in as he met my fellow coffee addicts at the bar to remind them of their putrescence.

You’re a sinner. You’ve made a lot of mistakes in your life. Hell is going to be hotter than you can imagine.

While they added cream, he added condemnation, and he added it in heaping amounts.