Friday, 24 October 2008

Confessions of a failed evangelist

A colleague with whom I share an office and all sorts of things (including probably his cold) has just decided that he’s going to buy an iPhone. Curiously enough this news makes me depressed.

How so? Well he’s buying an iPhone on my recommendation; I’ve talked a lot about it, expressed how pleased I am with it and let him have a play with it. He loves it. So even though he already has some time left on his old phone contract he is going to get one. So why am I depressed? It is that I seem to be better at selling iPhones than the gospel. We’ve talked a lot about Christianity and he’s made some interesting comments, but he’s buying into the phone and not, as yet, into the faith.

Of course it’s easier to talk about a mobile phone than it is to talk about faith. Phones are everywhere, everyone has them and everyone is using them. Phones come up naturally in conversation. These days faith is not anywhere near so frequent a topic of discussion. To talk about it can actually seem rather forced and unnatural. Phones also somehow a much more concrete topic; it’s much easier to say to someone – as I did today – ‘have a play with this’. It is much less easy to say to someone ‘here, try my Christian faith’. And of course it’s easier for people to risk getting involved with phones than with faith. An unhappy experience with a phone will, at worst, leave you a few hundred pounds or dollars out of pocket. An unhappy experience with faith could be far more costly and open you to considerable embarrassment. Nevertheless I’m sure you understand my unease; shouldn’t it be much easier to talk about a faith that means everything and a phone which, however nice, means very little?

And yet. A year or so ago I extolled the virtues of C S Lewis to my colleague who greatly enjoyed Surprised by Joy. The other week he said that he'd picked up a copy of the Screwtape Letters and here his tone grew pensive, he ‘found it very thought-provoking’. Well maybe the dead Lewis can do better than the living me. Actually from what I’ve heard, the living Lewis wasn’t that great an evangelist. Maybe death will improve me, but I’m in no hurry to try the experiment.

Incidentally I had some lovely fan mail from Ghana this week. These nice comments count, they really do.

Have a good week