Letter: a memory of where laissez-faire evangelism takes you

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Dr. Harris:

I thought your column on “laissez-faire” evangelism was well-written.

It’s always dangerous to apply non-biblical ideas to spiritual matters, but I think that an ancient fable speaks to our situation. You’re probably familiar with the story about how the mice were plagued by a sneaky cat that kept eating them, one by one. Apparently these were Baptist mice, as they held a meeting about how to respond to the threat. Finally, a proposal was made to put a bell on the cat, and it passed by a unanimous vote (Wait – maybe they weren’t Baptist, after all!). As they congratulated themselves on their decision, the “wise old mouse” asked, “And who among us will put the bell on the cat?”

Silence.

I believe that most Baptists (and all who are truly saved) want to see people baptized. I fear that most of them want somebody else to “bell the cat.” By that, I mean, lay people hope the pastor will share the Gospel; pastors hope lay people will do it, but the great majority fear the awkwardness, the spiritual warfare, or have never developed the skills to share the Gospel in an intentional manner.

Back when I was about 12 years old, we had started attending a new church in Jacksonville, Florida. They had a three-story educational building, and my parents asked me if I knew where my room was. I quickly answered, “Yes,” knowing it was somewhere in that three-story edifice, but not wanting to be escorted to the room like I was a kid (pause for rim shot).

As soon as they cleared the area, I approached a man I knew to be a deacon. I walked up to him and said, “Could you help me? I’m lost!” His pleasant face turned color as he gasped and sputtered, unable to form a coherent reply. Realizing what had happened, I said, “No, sir. I’m a Christian. I just can’t find my Sunday School room.” As he regained his composition, he blurted out, “Oh, thank God!” and took me to my room.

Even though I was only 12, I quickly realized that if a kid walking up to him in church and asking him how to be saved could produce that kind of response, he probably wasn’t real active sharing the Gospel at work or in the neighborhood, either. I’m afraid his tribe still dwells among us, and if that’s English for “laissez-faire,” that’s part of our problem. 

Thanks for all you do to encourage Georgia Baptists,

Ray Coleman
Associational Missionary
Smyrna Baptist Association

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