I had to do some shopping today, so I found myself at one of those popular warehouse stores where everything comes in bulk. I don't shop at such stores very often, but I've always liked them for some reason. And since I actually needed large quantities of a few items today, it made sense to go there. I certainly didn't expect that this quick trip would inspire a blog post, but such was the case.
As I rounded an aisle, I walked into a loud conversation between three men. I quickly gathered that one of the men was an evangelical fundamentalist Christian pastor. In a voice far too loud for any indoor setting, he was telling the other two about how much he enjoys bringing people to Jesus. One of the other two men said something at an appropriate volume, meaning that I only caught part of it. The gist of it was that the world is changing and fewer people are interested in hearing about Jesus these days. Didn't that concern the pastor? It seemed like a perfectly appropriate question to me.
Without missing a beat, the pastor loudly proclaimed that he is well aware of this and that if he only reaches one in a hundred people with his message, that is still a success. He said that he cannot stop himself from telling everybody he meets about Jesus even though he knows that many are not at all interested in what he has to say. He did not seem defensive or apologetic about this in the slightest. To the contrary, there was an air of arrogance about him, almost as if he was bragging about his need to tell others about Jesus. He was going to tell people about Jesus whether they wanted to hear it or not because he was convinced that his words would lead someone to Jesus, and that made it all worthwhile.
I left the aisle as quickly as I could since I had no interest in being the next person the pastor decided to tell about Jesus. That is an experience I have had repeatedly during my time in Mississippi, and I cannot say I'm looking for any more of it. As I exited the aisle, it occurred to me that the two men with whom the pastor was conversing had probably just had that misfortune. I saw them a moment later, and it looked like they had decided to escape from the pastor too.
I know this won't be a popular sentiment, and I am moderately ashamed to admit it, but I briefly found myself feeling sorry for the pastor. The idea that something as simple as a shopping trip to a warehouse store has to turn into an opportunity to accost others with Jesus is just so pathetic. How empty would someone's life have to be for this to be the manner in which they try to fill it? He knows nobody wants to hear about Jesus but feels compelled to force it on them anyway.
I guess I cannot assume that everybody would be annoyed if a pastor were to proselytize to them while they are trying to shop. Maybe there are at least a few people out there who would welcome such an experience. But I think it is probably fair to say that most people, including most of the Christians I know, would have little interest in this.
And this is the point where I stopped feeling sorry for the pastor. He is in control of his own behavior and is responsible for his actions. If he is going to approach others with a message he knows most do not want to hear, he is making a poor decision. He should not be protected from the consequences of his poor decision-making.