I was on this one trip with my youth group in high school, and we were playing “would you rather” in the van. The book of questions we were using was more tailored toward the Christian crowd, which basically meant the sexually humorous questions had been excised. But one question ended up being, “Would you rather bring one close friend to Christ or ten people you didn’t know?” All of us instantly answered, choosing ten strangers.
What’s important to mention is that this is abnormal. Answering a “would you rather” that quickly doesn’t happen. Usually questions receive large amounts of debate. Spit flies, hand gestures emphasize reasoning, hair is pulled. We’d come across one that’d ask, “Would you rather be as hairy as a gorilla or be allergic to the sun and never be able to go outside?” and spend lengthy amounts of time discussing it. Pie charts and research supporting our claim would be brought in so as to show our friends why being the hairy gorilla is a much better choice. And yet, here comes this more serious question and we immediately all knew exactly what our answer would be because who would choose to have only one person go to heaven? We want as many people as possible to go. So pick the ten strangers.
I cringe at that memory because of what it says about myself (I can’t speak for my friends, so this post now moves from the communal to the personal). I answered, “Ten strangers.” I’m wondering now if such an answer is a product of the Assembly Line Effect. And I wonder what occurs when it takes root into one’s spirituality. Do people basically become a number and not a name? It seems that my answer to that “would you rather” question stems from a mentality driven by results. I know this mindset dominated my spiritual landscape in high school because as a fifteen-year-old freshman I panicked about how I’d never brought anybody to Christ. It’s not just in young people. One of my university’s former Bible faculty members has a website that describes the numerous revivals where he’s converted some 40,000 people. Someone’s been counting.
When I follow this approach I can’t become personal because I’m measuring my effectiveness by how many people can be snagged at one time, thus grading how efficient I am. This appears other places. Pastors ask each other all the time, “How big is your congregation?” as if that somehow tells the whole story about a church’s impact. That’s like me going up to another guy and asking, “How big is your penis?” as if that tells me something about him or gives me some clue as to who he is and what defines him.
This shotgun approach asks too much. You can never satisfy the beast. There’s no grace inherent in it. It’s a capitalistic assembly line of efficiency, singing praises to Henry Ford rather than God (Huxley’s spot-on ever again.) Sadly, I’m a part of all that. I wish I could say it’s something from which I am apart, but I can not. This system bore me, and I pay homage to it again and again, and fighting such nurture to seek out the better nature from which I am apart takes tireless effort. But this soul is weary, and its feet drag through clods of dirt, kicking up the very dust from which it came out of and to which it will revert one day.
I would hope to bring one truly close friend to see the glory of grace. And that takes time, effort, and hurt. And I may go my whole life without “bringing somebody to Christ,” but that doesn’t mean someone else can’t intercede on my friend’s behalf down the road and pick up where I left off. Because this isn’t a solo venture. And it’s not one with a quota hanging over it.