Evangelism run amok

I fell for the trap and barely saw it coming. Got reeled in hook, line and sinker. And I should have known better.

For several years, an anonymous emailer who portrays himself as a devout Roman Catholic has been taunting me and other members of the ministerial staff of our Baptist church. It is ironic that someone would target us in such a way, because we are without reservation the most Catholic-friendly Baptist church in town. We are not of that well-known anti-Catholic brand of Baptists.

But this guy doesn’t get that, and so he continually harasses us with sometimes weekly emails mocking Baptists and touting the Roman Catholic Church as the only “true” church founded by Christ. Problem is, lately he’s been changing his name and so I don’t always know it’s him. And this week, he set a clever trap that I walked right in to.

I received the following email: “Hi. I am new to the area. What is a Wilshire Baptist?
Thanks. Tony Simmons.”

Not being completely gullible, I wrote back and asked for clarification. The question was a bit odd, after all. My reply: “Tony, tell me a bit more about what you mean, and I’ll be happy to tell you more about Wilshire.”

Which elicited this response: “Sir, as I noted, new to the area. I understand Baptist Church and 1st Baptist and 2nd Baptist. Did not understand Wilshire Baptist. Pretty straightforward question!”

I should have picked up on the sarcasm, which is a hallmark of this unwanted pen pal, but in my desire to represent the church well, I trudged on. I explained the history of the church, how we got our name, where we were founded and gave a link to the history section of our Web site.

And then he pounced: “Oh, OK. So basically it could also be Home Depot Baptist, depending on what abandoned building was turned into a ‘baptist church.’ Actually the only ‘Church’ is the Catholic Church, which was established by Christ himself. Everything else is but social organizations using the ‘church’ name to mislead people into thinking that social groups established by man are real Churches—of course we all know they are not ! I notice you use a small ‘c’ for church. Catholicism (the only way) is a capital C. Thanks for clearing that up for me!”

A year or two ago, I made the mistake of trying to reason with this unknown writer. I offered to meet him, to talk about our churches. He refused. A few others of our staff have reached the boiling point and responded with offers of explanation and dialogue, also rebuffed. We’ve generally learned to hit the delete button when we see his emails come across, because there is nothing but wasted time in trying to respond. But now he has tricked me into a email conversation.

Clearly, if this is his idea of evangelism for the Catholic Church, it is misguided. I can see that without question. But he always makes me think: What am I doing, what are we doing as a church that may be perceived as equally ineffective to those outside the faith? The eyes of faith are not always eyes of propriety and effective communication.

Mark Wingfield

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About the Author
Mark Wingfield is associate pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and author of the book, “Staying Alive: Why the Conventional Wisdom about Traditional Churches is Wrong.”

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