Bait and Switch Evangelism

I was sent a survey recently by Focus on the Family. (If you click on the link you will be taken to a page that says they are currently experiencing a 1.85 million dollar shortfall, adn would you like to donate money to strengthen families?)

I am a psychotherapist and all the psychotherapists that FotF uses as referrals received this anonymous survey. The first question was: List all of the continuing education you have done in the past year. I opened my CE file and copied and pasted for about ten minutes in between answering the phone and following up on messages. Then after the next few questions it was clear that I was not taking a survey. I was reading a hard sell advertisement for Focus on the Family services disguised as a survey. They now have a marriage retreat weekend that couples experiencing trouble can go on. They fly to Missouri or Georgia, enroll in the weekend, come back and they have an 80% rate of couples staying together for 2 years after the retreat. The retreat is so expensive that they don’t tell you the price on the website. You have to phone and talk to a salesperson.

I was furious. In fact I still am furious. They lied to me: “Take a survey.” If they had said: “We’re going to pretend to give you a survey that takes 20 minutes, and in reality we are going to try to get you to refer your couples to us so we can charge them a lot of money to come to a marriage weekend,” I would have clicked delete. But instead they tricked me. So I responded by looking for spaces that allowed me to reply. I found a couple. I responded with some coarse language calling them liars and money grubbers.

Focus on the Family is the second most successful para-church ministry in America. The most successful is Young Life.

Young Life asks for Committee members to volunteer to help the employees of Young Life evangelize to non-Christian youth. Young Life has fun

Young Life Camp evangelism

Young Life Camp evangelism

 once a week and then take as many teens as possible to luxury camps where they hear an hour to two hours of preaching and devotions per day for a week. If you volunteer for Committee you are expected to go to one training per year, about two hours’ drive away. The first year I was on Committee the training was on the topic of raising money. I felt uncomfortable, but I was fascinated by the techniques used: Always thank a donor seven separate times. Have a personal relationship with each donor. Find out the motivation behind each donor’s gift.

Booster ClubThe second year I had a slight fever and wasn’t feeling well, but decided to take the two hour drive anyway. The topic this time was on raising money. What? I was furious. Was that all there was to learn about being on Committee? When I phoned my brother to complain, he explained we were  Band Boosters. “What’s that?” I asked. That’s the club of parents of the high school band members, assigned to raise money for uniforms and instruments. “Oh! Now I get it.”

Young Life raises the most money of any para-church ministry, having passed Focus on the Family 15 years ago.

What do these two organizations have in common? Manipulation. In fact that’s what all evangelical and fundamentalist churches and ministries have in common: manipulation and dishonesty. I went to a wedding last year. The wedding couple and the minister took the opportunity to preach for an hour about marriage and God to a captive audience. Did we volunteer to go hear them preach? No. We volunteered to go encourage our relatives to have a happy marriage together. They used that time to manipulate us into listening to their viewpoint, to evangelize us.

How many times have you been invited to a church play or concert, only to be heavy handedly asked to commit your life to Christ, or convert to a new denomination?

Jesus never did that. The apostles never did a bait and switch technique of evangelism. They never preached to those who weren’t interested in what they had to say.

This is another facet of how the American version of evangelicalism, pentecostalism and fundamentalism is not an accurate reflection of Jesus.


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Dishonesty, Evangelical Church, Evangelism, Manipulation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bait and Switch Evangelism

  1. garycummings says:

    Bait and switch. That is the game plan of the COC. They offer “The True Church”, and you get the “five finger exercise” and “the five acts of worship”. Add some CENI to that and you have a cult.You are promised the True Church and you get a cult, which damns you when you leave.

  2. SteveA says:

    Conservative Christian writers, bloggers, and news columnists like to make a lot of the fact that mainstream churches are losing membership and churches with traditionally conservative beliefs are doing much better. That may be true. But the reason has less to do with the absolute truth as they see it. It has to do with a better business model as exemplified by your experiences Mark. Evangelicals have found ways to monetize religion through parachurch organizations, book stores, radio and television stations that continually build up the brand and go after sales. On top of that, evangelical churches don’t have centralized control and many of the ministers are excellent at promoting themselves and their brand and taking it where the desire.

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