not exactly the target audience

"know your target audience, and love them well."
-- bishop scott jones, at an evangelism event

the other day i was at home when the doorbell rang. it was two men i had never seen before. one was holding a magazine and a bible. the other was standing behind, watching, sort of like the training waiter looking over my shoulder at pappadeaux during my early days as a waiter when i was in seminary.

they were spreading the word about the Word. he asked me if i ever read the bible. i said, "yes, i'm a pastor." "oh," he said. "yeah, i guess you have an interest in people reading their bibles too." "yup," i said. "you know everyone says the bible is important, but too often it's just a decoration around the house." "yeah," i said.

i didn't mean to be rude, and i appreciate their effort. but i figured when i said i was a pastor that would be it-- they'd go to the next house, and i'd get back to whatever i was doing. but no. he read a verse from 1 timothy about the importance of scripture-- i knew that one. he offered to leave me a copy of the magazine he was giving out, but i refused, saying he should keep it for someone who would get some use out of it. then they left. i tried to be polite, but honestly i was annoyed.

most people when they think of evangelism think of door-to-door cold calling like this. there are some churches that still train their folk like this, and from what i have read it can be effective. when researching vacuum cleaners recently (yes, rachel, i looked at consumer reports) i learned there's a high-end brand out there that is still sold exclusively door-to-door. i was shocked. maybe that works, but i think for most it's just another sales call that they'd rather skip their house and go to the neighbor-- hopefully that really annoying guy around the corner. in fact, last sunday i was out visiting and the couple thought i was from the dallas morning news or an exterminiator, since they're usually out visiting sunday evenings too.

in a world where folk do not know their neighbors, where we shelter ourselves behind 8-foot fences, where people come and go from the neighborhood all the time, there is a natural tendency to be suspicious when strangers appear at the door uninvited. thankfully nearly every visit i make i am greeted warmly, often invited inside for a brief chat.

maybe i did not receive these guys with the upmost sincerity of hospitality, but knowing i was nowhere near their target audience, i figured, "why waste their time and mine?" who knows-- their next stop may have introduced someone to the bible for the first time. maybe someone read the words of Christ for the first time. and maybe God used them to make a difference in someone's life, someone who was really annoyed at first?[