The Problem With Canvasing

Apr 29, 2023 4:13 AM
define canvasing here

I was sitting on my couch one Sabbath, listening to a sermon, when I heard a knock at the door. I assumed it was one of my neighbors and went to answer. Instead I found a father and daughter, dressed in church clothes. The first words out of their mouth told me they were canvasing. They asked where they should go to get advice about life and then launched in to their prepared monologue. I call it a prepared monologue because it was obvious that it didn’t matter what I said; they had one mission and they stuck to it.

Despite the fact that my answer to their question was to read the Bible and the fact that I told them I was a believer, they continued to try to “convert” me. From trying to give me a Bible, to insisting I watch a video from their church, to trying to get me to have a Bible study with them and go to their church’s website. At no point did they ask which local church I belong to nor ask if I was already part of a Bible study. The assumption from the jump was that I was lost and needed to be brought in to their church.

Cognitive Dissonance

What I find amusing about these situations (and probably why I let them talk for any amount of time) is the amount of cognitive dissonance that occurs on the part of the canvas-er.

Converting the Already Converted?

The person who answers a door must fall in to one of these four categories: atheist, agnostic, non-Christian religious person, Christian. If you were trying to share the good news of Yeshua/Jesus, how you would approach each of these people is very different. A Christian should already know the good news, a Muslim or Hindu already has a set of values and beliefs, agnostics need evidence, atheists will believe you are wasting their time. Theoretically, your aim is reach those who do not known about Yeshua, so you are wasting your time talking to believers. Imagine when Yeshua gives the command for the disciples to go out in pairs spreading the gospel that they just went to each other and tried to convert each other. That would be a waste of their time, no?

I live in a small town with a population of about 10,000 people. I have counted 23 churches that profess Christianity as I’ve driven around town. If we assume all 23 of these churches are worshiping the same YHWH and the same Yeshua, believing in the same Bible, what difference does it make if I go to church #1 vs. church #23? While it is polite to invite a stranger to visit your church, why would you spend time and energy trying to convince me to move from my church to your church? Unless you believe my church is insufficient, false, corrupt, in apostate, etc. The underlying statement of trying to convert someone who is already a believer is that you think there is something false or wrong with their current belief.

Now, when you pile on the fact that these particular cavans-ers (and most that I’ve encountered) never asked for further information on what I believed or what denomination I belonged to, you see the arrogant belief that their church is the only “right” way. For all they knew I could have been part of their denomination but belong to a congregation in a neighboring city.

Would You Like A Bible?

After explaining that I was already a believer, the pair offered me a Bible. The gesture is nice, but if you are a believer you should have a Bible. The only exception I see to this is for those who are financially struggling and/or very new believers. Some churches actually give Bibles to the newly baptized to combat this issue. As a teen, I actually received three different Bibles as gifts: one from my uncle when he taught Vacation Bible School, one from the youth leader who held our weekly Bible study, and one from my mom’s coworker because their church was giving out Bibles. It’s odd to approach someone who is a believer and assume they don’t have a Bible. Again, a natural conversation would lead to the question of how long a person had been a believer, but I digress

The fact of the matter is, these particular canvas-ers were Jehovah’s Witnesses. The official Bible of the Jehovah Witness church is the New World Translation, which has been translated to fit their doctrinal beliefs.[1][2] The Bible they wanted to give me does not contain the truth of YHWH; it is not the same Bible

References & Footnotes

  1. https://carm.org/jehovahs-witnesses/bad-translations-of-the-jehovahs-witness-bible-the-new-world-translation-nwt/
  2. https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-qa/qa-archives/question/how-accurate-is-the-new-world-translation/
Side Note: Bible translations fall on a spectrum from “Word for Word” to “Through for Thought.” Word for word translations focus on translating each word accurately, leaving most of the interpretation up to the reader. Thought for thought translations, instead focus on translating the thought which inherently leans to word the translators’ interpretation.
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