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Seeking Enrollment: Proto-Evangelism of the Nones

“I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore

I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore

When do you think it will all become clear?

Because I’m being taken over by The Fear.”

(Lily Allen, “The Fear”)

Imagine that I handed you a masterful treatise outlining the intellectual, sociological, and cultural problems that are turning young people into “nones”—the forty percent of people under the age of thirty who say they have no religious affiliation—and how to win them over. What would you do with it?

I’d advise you to fold it up into a nice piece of origami, then stick it in the pocket of your out-of-season pants. You’ll discover it later like an unexpected dollar bill, and it might even be helpful then. Right now, it would only cause fear.

Before we seek evangelization, we have to seek enrollment. I learned this from Seth Godin about business, but it’s not a business principle. It’s a human principle.

When we encounter someone who is “Other,” like the nones, we often seek to convince, to win over, to show the power of our position. We’re engaging in a game where someone has to win, and someone has to lose.

This is called a finite game, in the words of James Carse. This type of game has strict limits. It deals in scarcity. Its purpose is winning. Elections, sports, and debate clubs are examples of this.

Faith is not a finite game, yet we can easily make it into one. When we do this, we alienate others. If a person feels that they’ve been roped into something that they didn’t opt-in to, their visceral reaction is fear and anger. We all know the uncomfortable feeling of being swept along before we’re really convinced. Have you ever been upsold by a salesman? It’s not pleasant. We’ve been made the object of another person’s ulterior motives to control us.

Read more at Word on Fire. 

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