Summary: Excerpt from upcoming book - Explores briefly two faulty ways we try to evangelize

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September 2006

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book - I Love You, in Theory: The misadventure of Christian Grace -

This "work in progress" maybe contain typos and other rough spots, but I hope you enjoy it.


Backwash in the living water

When Jesus engaged the Samaritan women at the well, he referred to his redemption of humankind as living water. He offered her something she was searching for in vain through her string of broken relationships. He told her she would never thirst again. What was he really offering her? Life. He was offering fulfillment in a spiritually intimate relationship. The same life we offer others in Christ’s physical absence. As Christians we know we have living water and many of us try to share it with others. But sometimes, it’s almost like we give them a canteen of living water with backwash in it, when we are ungracious. Instead of leading them gently and graciously by the hand to the fountain of living water itself, we hope they take a swig from our foul canteen. To top it off, we get upset when they don’t like us for doing it that way. Why should they want to have what we have when we act like we do?

And we do something else too. I’ll call it the “big game dump”. If someone is thirsty we shouldn’t come from behind and dump a cooler of living water on them, like athletes do to coaches after big games. That just makes a mess of things. At times we blindside spiritually thirsty people and douse them with some kind of giant bucket from the Fountain of Life. We come on like gangbusters, and it probably feels like an attack.

I wonder why it escapes us that this idea won’t work. We are rather poor messengers in these ways. We may have no clue of these people’s day-to-day needs and have established no real relationship with them. I believe backwash tactics of gracelessness and “hit and run evangelism” do not reflect the idea Jesus expressed in Matthew 28:19. He said, “Go and make disciples”, not make duplicates or mere converts. Jesus’ idea is a process that involves a discipler and a disciple. It entails walking a journey of grace with others as they grow to understand God, his plan of redemption, and his ways. It takes patience. Maybe we really want the Make-Disciples-Instamatic, instead, and that’s why we attempt other seemingly expedient ways.

To those outside the Christian faith, our ways and methods make little sense. Traditional evangelism in post-modern times is often greeted with suspicion. Genuine friendship however, is not because true selfless love satisfies a need of everyone. When in your life have you needed a friend? If someone came to you in your time of need, wanting nothing from you and only to help and love you, would you appreciate it? If you’re saying “no”, you are not from here. Please get back on your spaceship, you’re making the rest of us look needy.

Our extension of grace through caring relationships reduces the proverbial backwash– the foreign tidbits and floaters of gracelessness we slobber back into the living water we offer. When we love people in theory all we can give them is a canteen of backwash water, or a rude splash. People don’t respond well to our faith system disconnected from its Source. It’s cheapened, tainted, compromised, or man-made. The kind of love and grace Jesus demonstrated through utmost humility, servant leadership and acceptance for the least worthy is the kind of love for which people are searching. It’s the kind of message the will turn hearts and lives around, and we have to be that message.

Lisa DeLay

writer, speaker & founder of


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