Note: In honor of approaching the time of Thanksgiving (“Turkey Day”), we’re posting a short series of Evangelism Turkeys. The poor Turkey—long associated with flops, busts, and shortcomings— will get a few more to add to his repertoire this week. Keep checking until Turkey Day! Which, for you, will hopefully not be a Turkey.

Most of us have experienced or witnessed the joy of someone who found a $20 bill on the ground, or a child who found change left in a vending machine. People see money; people want it.

True Story, as expressed by a person who hid tracts: "We gotta get some more of those fake money tracts. Do you remember the look on that last guy's face? That was classic!" The poor guy had found what appeared to be a bill on a bench, only to realize it was a gospel tract upon closer examination.

You might be expecting that the story above would conclude with someone jumping out from behind the bushes with a video camera, “Surprise! You’re on Candid Camera!” (Remember that old show?) But no! The scene is more like this: “Surprise! Now you get to come to church with us!”

It’s bait and switch in evangelism. A product looks like or promises one thing, but rather than deliver on its original promise it offers something else.

There are numerous other examples, including though not limited to: “give-a-ways” that obligate the receiver to listen, over-delivering or even lying about the before and after of salvation, or even that neighbor that won’t give your kid Halloween candy unless she promises to go to church the next Sunday.

It is usually easy to see why bait and switch is wrong when we are faced with extreme examples, such as the one above where the person laughed at the “victim’s” expense. It is trickier though when the examples are subtle, or when we justify it in our own minds with “this is for their own good.”

Let’s ask a few questions to help keep ourselves in check:

  1. Do we care more about loving each person God puts in our path, or about pushing our own agenda?
  2. What is more important: number of converts or how those converts are won?
  3. Do we feel a pressing need to come up with a good “sales-pitch” when presenting the gospel?
  4. Do we use every day experiences to point people to Christ, or do we constantly find ourselves giving lofty speeches and offering fancy gimmicks?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. What examples have you seen of bait and switch in evangelism? Are there any scenarios in which you have a hard time discerning that it is bait and switch?