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
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.
The 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.