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We've been bantering about both elections and evangelism for a while here, and in discussing them side by side, I couldn't help noticing the parallels.
First, elections are primarily about drumming up support for a person who represents a package of ideas. That candidate may be eloquent, forceful, sympathetic or persuasive in some way, and those personal qualities might draw potential voters.
Second, every candidate is selling something to the voters - whether the promise of affordable health care, a more "secure" nation, a stronger economy, or better education - a candidate's viability depends on his or her ability to peddle his or her platform.
Third, in elections, while personal qualities and platforms matter a lot, sometimes just showing up in the neighborhood can be enough. The 2008 campaign trail is littered with stories of people who were going to support X candidate until Y candidate spoke at the local high school, shook my hand, held my baby, stopped on my block. People are persuaded by personal contact.
The same three things hold true when evangelists seek votes for their respective religious party (i.e. denomination): personal qualities (charisma, eloquence, etc.), a convincing platform with promise of change for the better, and simply being present and making face-to-face contact all play a part in the "success" of evangelistic campaigns. And success is measured in similar ways - by the number of voters who show up and check "yes".
It isn't difficult to "turn out the vote" when tapping into people's needs for personal contact, the hope of a better life, and the promise of personal gain of some kind. However, as Christians who care about fostering spiritual formation and growing spiritual community, we hafta remember that the spiritual life is very different from voting for president.
Chris Blake put it very well when noting that the charge to Jesus' followers is to make disciples, not decisions. Campaigns are about decisions. The kingdom of heaven is about discipleship.
We would do well to remember the differences.
Jared Wright, a graduate of Southern Adventist University, is studying for his M.Div. at La Sierra University. He created the Adventist Environmental Advocacy blog.