By: Derrick P. Rodgers
While there have been many different evangelistic methods over the years to reach the lost, I believe the simplistic preaching and teaching of the cross of Jesus Christ, beckoning men to repent of sin and trust in Jesus is bar none the most effective way to produce genuine conversions.

Through the years, all sorts of methods and strategies have risen to the forefront when attempting to reach the lost. While some may have been approved by the Holy Spirit, many have not. Nonetheless, the bait and switch method has become quite popularized among many congregations throughout the wider church.

The bait and switch method consists of palatable commercial marketing toward a targeted audience that is designed to appeal to the five senses of man that will produce only “pleasurable experiences and thought processes.” Once favor is gained, expectations are thwarted by presenting an agenda that is less appealing to the target audience’s passions and desires.

The bait and switch ploy alludes to a practice of subtle deception and sleight of hand within the execution of its operations. This is done by portraying one presentation during the outreach campaign and then once you have them in your church or ministry, you switch the presentation to a totally different set of affairs that the would-be converts didn’t sign up for. Now, what’s amiss with this approach is: it not only misleads the would-be converts, but it has been proven to exhaust valuable time and resources, which is simply because “the way you bring them is the same way you have to keep them.” The deliberate effort to reach them by commercial consumer interest will have to continue throughout the purported Christian experience.

The bait and switch method was primarily embraced because church growth researchers have discovered that the majority of non-believers do not want to hear about spiritual things pertaining to salvation and eternal judgment. Therefore, to pander to the likings of such, the bait and switch method was adopted with the hopes of changing people’s minds. The question is: Should we be changing our approach of presenting a spiritual God, with a spiritual word, that offers a spiritual Kingdom? The approach should be to preach the gospel of the Kingdom according to the patterns of scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to produce genuine conviction, and upon that premise, build spiritual disciples for Christ.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2:13-16)

The fact remains, although there is a practical element to the things of God, the reality is God is spiritual, His word is spiritual and his church is a spiritual institution. To attempt to change that reality to accommodate individuals who desire to remain in the throes of the natural only feeding the five senses will be a gross miscarriage of handling the great commission. The truth is, people dwelling in darkness cannot understand spiritual things of the light. That’s why we must present a biblical message that will transform the heart producing genuine conviction —then and only then can man really be saved and experience true salvation.

All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. (I Corinthians 10:3, 4)

The baiting functionality of this method is composed to lure in the would-be converts with a plethora of programs, community recreation, fun, games, parties, concerts and events: this is intended to appeal to the would-be converts “consumer interest.” It is also, in many cases intended to convey, “our church is a “fun church” and, therefore, joining with us you can have fun.” Now, the precarious component is what’s written in the fine print, or not communicated at all during the outreach campaign, which is “we plan to teach the word of God to you and then hold you accountable to living the lifestyle of a Christian.”

Well, the problem with this bait and switch method is two things:

Number 1: Most, if not all, of the would-be converts will regurgitate the word of God and revolt against the expectation of living a Christian biblical lifestyle. Why is this? It’s simple, because the premise on which they were approached was fairly divergent and not to mention improper and slightly disingenuous. Suffice it to say, there is no convicting desire to consume the word of God. This response is expressed by the would-be converts because in their hearts they never signed up for the fine print. Therefore, the church spends enormous amounts of time and energy attempting to convince individuals to become lovers of God and His word by walking in obedience only to suffer depleted failed attempts.

Number 2: Christian leaders almost certainly will find themselves going further than they intended. The bait and switch method has proven to be more than expected, mostly on the part of the participating leaders. This method has literally turned sound, Bible healthy churches into syrupy sweet seeker sensitive models, exhibiting a worldly integration format.

As a result, the challenge to render correction to this improper method now becomes very difficult at the least. When God reveals to the leaders to stop this behavior and return back to biblical patterns of ministry; many of the leaders are unable to return back because unknowingly they relinquished control of the ministry over to a group of would-be converts who operate on the frequency of “people theology,” which means “for the people and by the people.” The potential loss of finances, property, and status can prove to be too much; not to mention the humiliation and depression that often accompanies such experiences. Therefore, the still small voice that is calling to return back to biblical patterns of ministry goes unanswered and the bait and switch method continues to give the appearance of success while influencing emerging leaders to follow suit.

During the time leaders are pressured to give rise to more fads and programs just to retain the crowds, simultaneously the committed core group who desire to fully follow God and fulfill the will and purposes of the Father are neglected and famished. The neglect is caused by the consumption of time and resources being diverted to satisfy unregenerate false converts. It’s important to understand that everyone who darkens the door of a church building and signs their name on the membership roster is not born again and, regrettably, do not want the God of the Bible.

Just for the record, I’m not opposed to programs that are beneficial to advancing the fellowship of community. The problem occurs when programs and such become the ruling constitution of the house and the word of God suffers a gross violation and becomes secondary to non-essentials.

Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament never used any bait and switch method to convert men to Christ. In fact, they preached the simplicity of the gospel, which included announcing the message of the cross and leading men to a place of repentance of sin and then upon that premise, men became Disciples of Christ. Let’s return to reaching the lost on legitimate biblical premises.

So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6, 7)

But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, (I Corinthians 1:23)

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (I Corinthians 2:2-5)

Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3)

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ” And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)

Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” So they went out and preached that people should repent. (Mark 6:10-12)