I Was a Teenage Jesus Salesman

When I was 15, I became a Fuller Brush salesman. I went door-to-door selling cleaning products and I did well. Before that I sold Christmas cards door-to-door to earn a brand new bicycle; I loved that bike!

In college, I did telemarketing during summer break and sold water distillers door-to-door.

Jesus Salesman

Do You Like Salesmen?

Some people like salesmen, but most people don’t—I don’t. You might think I would, but I avoid them and say ‘no thanks’ quickly, and if they persist I shut the door or hang up on them because they are bullies. They’re not interested in me or my needs; they are only interested in their agenda of providing me products or services whether I like it or not. And when I don’t cooperate, they don’t try to build a relationship, they just go to the next person because selling is a numbers game.

Most people feel the same way about Christian ‘witnesses’. People are not being impolite when they don’t want to hear our salvation pitch one more time, and they get irritated when we persist against their will. So would I! Christian witnesses can be real bullies!

My Witnessing Career

In the fundamentalist church where I grew up, we didn’t really do witnessing. Instead we invited and cajoled people into coming to church; it was then the ministers’ job to preach a hell-fire message against sin and give an altar call. Often we would surround the few sinners in the crowd and cry and beg them to go to the altar and get saved. If they did go forward, we would go with them and help pray them through.

One Sunday we had a guest preacher, and I spoke with him afterward. He asked me how many souls I had won; I hadn’t won any because I didn’t know how. He shared with me a simple approach to witnessing which got me started, but soon after that I adopted the Roman Road method from fundamentalist leader John R. Rice.

By this time I had a car and I became a witness. Mostly, I picked up hitchhikers. There were a lot of hitchhikers back then, and I picked them up all the time—and I witnessed to them. Not all of them were happy about it. Some would even have me pull over and let them out, but I didn’t care because witnessing is a numbers game. I had been a good salesman and now I was a good witness.

When I went off to a Christian College, it had a large personal evangelism program and I was ecstatic. On weekends, we were invited to churches within driving distance and went door-to-door witnessing and taught the church members how to do it. We called it an invasion.

On my first trip, I was eager to learn better witnessing techniques from my trainer, but she wasn’t very effective—she simply warned people that Jesus was coming back very soon and they had better be ready! After that first trip, I had good results with the Roman Road. My first summer, I went with a college team on a witnessing mission to Philadelphia with good success.

Not long afterwards, the college program introduced Evangelism Explosion. I thought Evangelism Explosion was the greatest witnessing tool in the world; now I consider it to be very simplistic and manipulative.

When I Retired from Selling Jesus

Within a few years, I was teaching Evangelism Explosion classes in the leading church of our denomination. It was during this time that I became disillusioned with being a Jesus salesman and decided that introducing others to Jesus should not be a numbers game; it should happen through relationships.

This decision really changed things. Next time, I will share how.

Photo credit: Chris Yarzab via photopin cc
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10 Responses to I Was a Teenage Jesus Salesman

  1. Okay, now I’m longing for the next part! But you are right that many evangelistic “techniques” are manipulative. Too many churches rely on the latest programs and forget that it is the Holy Spirit who convicts and brings a person to a living faith in Jesus.


  2. Well said! In England, door-to-door Christian evangelists would usually be assumed to be either Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses and would be treated in the same way. I know how I feel when anybody tries to sell me something in the street. If someone even looks like approaching me, I will literally walk across the road to avoid them. I did door-to-door in England once as a very young Christian but never again. It terrified me and put me off evangelism. Since then I have learnt the value of building strong relationships built on trust and friendship, through which opportunities to evangelise naturally emerge. Of course, Christians have to spend some time with non Christians building those relationships – if our church programmes allow it. Fascinating post!


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  6. Miss Smith says:

    I have never had a bad experience of someone witnessing to me. I admire very much every single person who helped lead me to Jesus, including the neighbor considered a fanatic who scared me to death with tales of hell and demons. It worked!!! I clung to Jesus as a child with nightmares like you wouldn’t believe!!!!!!!!!!!! God bless that woman and all others who did their best and saved me forever!!!


    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Miss Smith, I am glad you had such good experiences. Many people do not and are driven farther from Jesus by it. I firmly believe in sharing the good news of Jesus, but some methods seem aggressive, judgmental , and alienating.


  7. Pingback: “If There’s No Hell then I Will Sin All I Want!” | Jesus Without Baggage

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