Last night I saw a fascinating documentary on PBS. Marketing the Message examines the many ways various Christian organizations practice evangelism. It's clear from the title of the film and the groups featured that sales and selling is the dominant paradigm for evangelism. One clear message that emerges from the people on camera is that the ends justify the means when it comes to telling people about Jesus. To that end, several methods that can be perceived as deceptive are featured.
The film maker offers salient, and gentle, critique of the content of the Jesus and gospel presented by the featured groups. This Jesus wants to be our buddy and therapist. The content of the "gospel" presented is: Jesus died for your sins. Believe in him, accept him as your personal savior, and you will go to heaven when you die. Nothing is mentioned about discipleship, deny yourself, take up your cross and following Jesus, or living as a citizen of the coming reign of God.
Marketing the Message reveals the problems and weakness of sales as the dominant metaphor for evangelism. I highly recommend it. The film also gives me greater appreciation for an alternative metaphor for evangelism that is more faithful the Scripture and to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The alternative metaphor is that of evangelist as journalist. The task of evangelism is witnessing to Jesus Christ in the world and telling the story of his good news for the world. The content of his good news is the kingdom of God that is coming on earth as it is in heaven. The task of the journalist is to simply report the news, to tell the story. We leave the rest up the Holy Spirit.
Evangelism as Journalism leads to a much more honest and ethical presentation of the gospel. It also allows us to tell the whole story about the whole Jesus (Prophet, Priest, and King).