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. 

If you walk into most any Christian bookstore, you will see it, “Christian stuff” everywhere! Hats, t-shirts, bumper stickers, jewelry, designer fish for the back of your car, even customized mints and gum. This list goes on and on. Apparently, entire industries exist to produce this stuff.

Here are a few examples I found on a recent visit to a Christian book store:

  • “Are you washed in the blood?” backpack
  •  “COPS—What are you going to do when He comes for you?” t-shirt
  • “His Way” Hat (with Subway’s logo)
  • “Get stoned for Christ” Jacket
  • “S.O.B. – Sure of Beliefs” Sweatshirt
  • “Global Warming is Nothing Compared to Eternal Burning” bumper sticker

Much of what is sold is marketed with the theme “a great conversation starter” for evangelism. Of course, the idea of believers starting conversations with unbelievers is a good thing. However, the very notion of an evangelistic conversation starting over a “Jesus hat” feels a little contrived in my opinion. Here are a few reasons why:

1. We should never have to wear something to point out we are His. John 13:35 says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” People know we are Christians by our loving words and actions, not our “stuff.” If we have to rely on stuff to let people know we are believers, we are in big trouble.

2. Beware the “cheese factor” – A lot of Christian stuff just looks cheesy in my opinion. Blatant rip offs of other companies’ logos, taglines, slogans is not cool. Do I really want to make a first impression for Christ with this stuff?

3. Reliance on insider information – Much of it is based on material only a Christian would really get, such as an inside joke or language only Christians understand. A “washed in the blood” t-shirt may create more confusion than opportunities.

4. Does it do more harm than good? The old argument goes, “If just one person trusts Christ, it is worth it.” Really? What about the thousands of people who are annoyed or confused by it? Yes, the gospel may be offensive to some, but don’t make it because of a tacky t-shirt. “Christian stuff” might actually limit your witness rather than expand it.

Our Christian witness does not flow from external messages we wear, but from the fruit from our lives and testimony from our mouths as we interact with people. Reliance on Christian stuff should never replace developing authentic relationships with them.