Bait and Switch Religion
I received an invoice in the mail the other day. That's not unusual. Here's the more unusual part: I have no intention of paying it. Ever.
Time for a confession: I'm a bit of a domain squatter. In the rare down moment, I like to cruise domain registries looking for unused web addresses. When I find a good one, I snap it up and sit on it. One day, I'll either use it or sell it.
About two months ago, I found a great domain name and bought it for the princely sum of eight dollars. A few days ago, I received a letter in the mail asking for an additional $65 from a firm that identified itself as Web Registries, Inc. The name of the domain I had purchased was at the top of the letter, and it was deliberately designed to make it appear that I still owed money for the purchase.
The truth was in the small print: they would register the domain with their own registry for that sum, ostensibly to increase traffic to the site.
I owed them nothing.
I'm sure a few first-time domain buyers will fall for it—but I question the wisdom of such marketing. Why would anybody do business with a company that uses such dishonest business practices? Would they suddenly become more ethical after you send them a check? Not likely.
Unfortunately, the same thing sometimes happens in the world of religion—the religious bait and switch. Example: you're invited to a pick-up basketball game by a good friend, only to discover that it’s actually a Bible study with a little basketball thrown in. Nobody mentioned that part. If they had, you might have gone anyway, because you don't mind a Bible study. But the fact that they didn't mention it makes the whole invitation suspect.
Bait and switch doesn't work. Millions of well-intentioned Christians somehow believe that if you can get someone interested in something else, they will suddenly become interested in spiritual matters. It's a belief that flies in the face of Scripture. "The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God," Paul informs us, "for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)
The bottom line? If someone is not interested in spiritual things, there is nothing you can do to change that. Conviction is solely the province of the Holy Spirit. Befriend and love that individual? Yes. Wait for the moment when spiritual interest awakens? Yes.
Generate a spiritually curious person? No. All you will do is create mistrust, killing off future potential. Your motives will always be questionable. It's far better to simply be openly "religious" up front.
Bait and switch techniques seldom work. If the "good" people who mailed me that letter had openly said, "We would like to sell you a promotional service for your web domain," I might have considered it. Or I might not have. But one thing is for sure: if I ever do come under the impression that I want such a service, I will not be contacting them.