Beware of snapshot evangelism. What do I mean by this? I mean, beware of jumping to conclusions about someone’s life based upon a ‘snapshot’ experience of them.
As you know, I’m in Hungary. And as you may know, I’ve posted a number of pictures on my Facebook account, helping my American friends and family see a bit of what’s God is doing through us in Hungary. Last night, we had a Bible study at Larry and Melinda’s flat, where our team plus a number of Hungarian students met. During a lull in the activities, I snapped a shot that included four of our team members. One of them didn’t have her normal smile on her face due to the temperature of the room (it was quite, quite warm).
So, as I am prone to do, I posted the picture on Facebook. Someone then made a comment to the effect that it looked as if our teammate wasn’t having a good time over here. But that was a millisecond in time that was captured by my ill-timed phone. (Yes, yes, I know the phone wasn’t ill-timed, but the user of said phone. But let’s not quibble!) Beforehand, all were smiling and singing and sharing. Afterwards, all were singing and smiling and sharing. But someone came to a full-blown conclusion regarding based on a snapshot.
I found myself doing the same thing as I went to the University this morning. We would clandestinely scan the room to find someone to talk to, so to invite them to a study or the cookout this afternoon. And for a millisecond, I would take a snapshot of these individuals in my mind and construct the entirety of their lives: backgrounds, worldviews, social life and all. I would write in the comments section of my mind something that I had no clue as to whether my conclusion was true or not–but it was written. Maybe deep down, I wanted what I was mentally writing to be true so I would brace myself when interacting with them–me in Kentucky/Florida/Virginia English, and them in broken English.
Do you know how I fixed my fix? In the first matter regarding the actual picture I posted on Facebook, I deleted the picture. For one, it was fuzzy anyway (again, entirely the phone’s fault, not mine), but for two, it portrayed something about my teammate that at least one person concluded (which wasn’t true, remember?).
Do you know how I fixed my fix at the university? I deleted my mental picture, walked up to these young men and engaged them in conversation. I’d love to tell you that I was never nervous or hesitant about such encounters, but that wasn’t true either. (Wait a minute, is that a snapshot picture you’re taking of me?) But I prayed, thought about the condition of their soul before Jesus, and I encountered them. Some were receptive, and some were not. For some, the win was having them come to the cookout and to Larry and Melinda’s home for house church, for others the win was getting them in their ‘logical,’ non-religious, engineering mind to even consider there’s a Creator who engineered all that there is.
When we evangelize or disciple others, use the two ears and two eyes God has given you to not just take a snapshot. Take your mental camera and turn on the video to get background, the worldview, the social life, the tone, and everything. Christians go through valleys, and you may take a snapshot there–but the video feed shows they’re coming out of it. A non-believer resists the gospel, and you may take a snapshot there–but the video feed may show that this is one last gasp of the flesh’s resistance until finally the Spirit wins and they come to Christ soon.
Now, of course, snapshots can serve as a way to show you’re happy (everyone say ‘Cheese!’) when you’re holding the pose, but you can’t hold that pose forever.
But for our conversation now, beware of snapshot evangelism and discipleship. Take time to turn on the video feed to get the whole plot. You’ll be glad you did.