Customer Service as Evangelizers

As evangelizers, we’re all in customer service.

Now this is strictly a metaphor, because as Christians we’ve got nothing to sell (in fact, we’re sharing the free gift of God in Jesus Christ) and aim to foster, not consumers, but empowered, Spirit-filled Christ-followers. But let’s use the metaphor and honestly ask, how’s my customer service?

See, sometimes it’s easy to fall into the habit in evangelism of thinking only of the “big wins.” But what of the small, everyday victories of a person satisfied, known, heard, and loved? These too are vitally important, as these moments reveal the fruits of the Holy Spirit in us, our ability to participate in God’s self-giving love, and our growth in virtue.

How does Jesus model this for us?

Example 1: Jesus’ Public Preaching Debut (Lk 4:16-30)

Not long after his baptism in the Jordan and temptation in the wilderness, Jesus is given the opportunity for some liturgical preaching in the local synagogue. After the proclamation of the Scripture (which turns out to be from the prophet Isaiah), he declares: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). The assembly hears “gracious words” and Luke reports (literally, in the Greek) that they “witnessed him [Jesus]”–they fully experienced the moment (Lk 4:22). Many English translations give it a positive spin (i.e. “they spoke well of him [Jesus]”), but we see this isn’t quite the case since the hearers want to get rid of Jesus by throwing him off a cliff, and Jesus himself turns to the proverbial wisdom, “no prophet is acceptable in his own country” (Lk 4:23-24).

What can we learn about Jesus’ “customer service”? His hopes for communication here? His heart and concern for the people and situation he enters into?

First, Jesus has Good News. Jesus has a Yes–glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind (Lk 4:1819; Is 61:12; Is 58:6).

But, even when we have a new yes to share, we shouldn’t expect to immediately please everyone. Sometimes in ministry, this can throw us for a loop, causing us to become defensive, cynical, or disheartened–because we’ve got something good, something needed, something that should bring joy and excitement–yet we experience rejection or discord.

Take-away #1: Jesus doesn’t change or soft-pedal his Good News. Though his “gracious” words aren’t well received (because they are grace for the “wrong people,” you know–those outsider, non-believers with a totally different culture) he still shares them.

Take-away #2: Jesus is okay with the fact that his communication for the better leads to “wondering,” confusion, and/or uncertainty. As evangelizers, we’re being unrealistic if we expect simple agree or disagree responses from those we communicate with. Those who wonder or express confusion aren’t enemies of the cause–they might be in transition, or on the way, if we as communicators continue to reach out to them.

Take-away #3: Jesus doesn’t verbally, personally confront those who disagree. He expresses the reality of the situation–that challenging words are generally not well received close to home, to those with the greatest perception of “loss” from a change of the status quo–but does not attack anyone personally. Jesus’ heart is for the future conversion, in purely human images, a “customer service” oriented toward the long-term.

Those who heard Jesus’ sermon that day, they might not have been ready for Jesus’ love for them. Yet, Jesus’ interactions with them reveal that he wants to hear them, nonetheless. Jesus wants them to experience being known, even if they’re not ready to accept or agree. It’s a level of “customer service” (to put it mildly!) we can all aim for in our own evangelism.

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Reiss Vermeulen, M.Div., M.N.A., blogs, ministers in parish life and lay/deacon formation, and serves as a U.S. Army Reserve officer. She and her husband, Luke, have been married since 2011 and live in Ypsilanti, MI with their two young sons.

2 responses to “Customer Service as Evangelizers”

  1. sensiblycatholic says:

    Yes, we certainly shouldn’t water down anything, but there is also another amazing fact: we can make exactly the same point yet, depending on how we make it, we can either end up in conflict or anger, or a really good result.

    I studied a Calvinist course on Apologetics several years ago. It was not about the content, but the conversation itself. I learnt about all the common mistakes people use when trying to evangelise, and my conversations (and relationships) were transformed overnight.

    I suddenly found myself rarely in ‘an argument’ over matters of faith and morals with atheists and other Christians any more, rather than every conversation ending up in raised voices.

    In fact, I rarely find myself in ‘an argument’ when I talk about the faith now, and most people leave saying things like, ‘I didn’t know that. Thank you’, or ‘I see Catholicism in a totally different light, now’.

    The key thing, apart from the techniques of how to conduct oneself effectively in these sorts of conversations, is about not objectifying people.

    One of the commonest things I observe when I see Catholics defending the faith, is objectification of the other, and they, rightly, resent that.

    The trouble is, therefore, in nearly all attempts at communicating the faith I observe, all I observe is the psychological ‘noise’ and ‘baggage’ of the two participants, so it’s a dead cert. that, from the get go, the conversation is going to go nowhere, apart from even further apart as neither knows how to have a conversation that impinges on values and beliefs. 🙁

    People who don’t want to hear the Gospel are few. it’s not that people don’t want to hear, it’s that most people don’t know how have a conversation about important things without being belligerent.

    Not surprising they’re the ones often divorced or in unhappy relationships, too.

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