hit-and-run evangelism, drive-by evangelism, tract-bombing

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Christians use terms like “hit-and-run evangelism,” “body-count evangelism,” and “drive-by evangelism” to refer to evangelistic tactics that treat people like bull’s-eyes.

definition of hit and run evangelismYou might think that any evangelism is better than no evangelism. After all, even if an evangelist does an abysmal job of sharing the gospel, at least the name of Jesus is mentioned and maybe a “seed is planted” that will sprout at a later time. Right?

Maybe, but probably not.

When it comes to hurried, aggressive evangelism that leaves potential converts feeling like a target or a checkbox, probably no contact would have been preferable to the full-body tackle of an evangelist trying to cut a few more notches on his or her soul-winning belt.

The following Christianese terms refer to hasty, aggressive, impersonal methods of evangelism: body-count evangelism, drive-by evangelism, fast-food evangelism, hit-and-run evangelism, shotgun evangelism, and tract-bombing. They’re all defined below.

The sad reality is that while such methods might result in a large number of contacts per hour or per day, the actual long-term impression that these methods leave on people likely isn’t favorable.

Alternatives to these superficial methods of evangelism include these styles of evangelism, which you may have heard of: friendship evangelism, relational evangelism, service evangelism, oikos evangelism, and lifestyle evangelism. Even without me defining these terms, I bet you can already detect a difference between these terms and the terms for hasty evangelism. Let’s compare the adjectives in each list:

  • body count, drive by, fast food, hit and run, shotgun, bombing
  • friendship, relational, service, oikos (meaning “household” in Greek), lifestyle

I get two very different feelings reading each of those lists of words! Which list of words would you want for someone to use to describe your efforts at evangelism? Which words describe an evangelism style that might persuade a potential convert to consider the gospel?

See the definitions below for detailed information about evangelism styles you probably want to avoid.


body-count evangelism n. Evangelism whose emphasis is obtaining a large number of positive responses (such as through *commitment cards and *decisions). Such evangelism is stereotyped as making no provision for following up with the people who have expressed an interest in Christianity or who have made some kind of commitment.
2007 crosswalk.com (7 Mar.) : I was reading a recent “negative” article entitled “Body Count Evangelism.” The angle was a slap toward churches and ministries who are determined to count people, bodies, souls and propagate those numbers as a statement of some success in evangelism. 2009 Charlotte Observer (18 Jul.) : Smith, who titles one of his chapters “body-count evangelism,” says it’s not mere numbers that count.
drive-by evangelism n. A derogatory term for evangelistic encounters that are brief and abrupt and are considered to be ineffective for convincing people to convert to Christianity.
2003 Rainer The Unchurched Next Door: Understanding Faith Stages as Keys to Sharing Your Faith 28 : Most of the unchurched can easily tell the difference between “drive-by” evangelism and a person who really cares. 2004 Driscoll The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out without Selling Out 67 : Drive-by evangelism techniques [include] … knocking on doors and street witnessing. 2013 Pfeiffer True Jihad: Winning the Battle for Muslims 85 : I learned to share my testimony … within 90 seconds or less…. I have come to call this type of method “drive-by” evangelism or “hit and run” evangelism. The results of these methods were meager.
fast-food evangelism n. Efforts at evangelism that seem formulaic. Such evangelism may utilize tracts and *bumper-sticker theology.
1986 Peters, Merrill What About Christian Rock? 109 : The outspoken chief lyricist reveals he felt trapped into having to validate the existence of his new music, bizarro-wave band by displaying spiritual results, what he calls “fast food evangelism.” 2007 LeFlore Fast Food Evangelism: A Drive-Thru Approach to Sharing Christ x : Fast-Food Evangelism doesn’t take a lot of time, cost a lot of money, or require a complete lifestyle change.
hit-and-run evangelism n. A derogatory term for evangelistic encounters that are brief and abrupt and are considered to be ineffective for convincing people to convert to Christianity.
1963 Christian Herald LXXXVI. 77 : The purpose of the team was not merely “hit-and-run evangelism.” It sought to encourage the formation of Bible clubs in high schools. 1972 La Sor Church Alive 221 : The New Testament knows nothing of “hit-and-run evangelism.” In three years Jesus might have gone through most of the Near East. He chose to concentrate on His few disciples in Galilee. 1978 Orjala Get Ready to Grow: A Strategy for Local Church Growth 45 : This is what I call hit-and-run evangelism. It is message-centered rather than person-centered. Is our goal to deliver the message or to make disciples? We can win an argument and lose a person. 1996 Pam The Challenges of Evangelism in Our Cities Today: A Case Study: Kugiya 14 : Most people who come for witnessing in this area have been engaging in a kind of hit and run evangelism because most of the time many people give their lives to Christ and that is all. It ends up there without proper means of follow-up. 1999 Kennedy Led by the Carpenter: Finding God’s Purpose for Your Life 111 : Beware of letting yourself off with impersonal “hit-and-run” evangelism techniques. 2007 Religion and Society LII. 159 : It was not supposed to be a “hit and run” evangelism. It was a hard and patient task of building communities.
shotgun evangelism n. A style of evangelism that is characterized by a hostile or disrespectful attitude on the part of the evangelist.
1920 Miller Missionary Morale 25 : The easiest way to deal with the “heathen” is to assume an attitude of belligerent dogmatism and roundly denounce his barbarous practices and unchristian beliefs. Since he is a heathen, he is wrong and must be set right at all costs. The head-on fight is comparatively easy…. Shotgun evangelism requires nothing more than very general marksmanship and produces very indefinite results. When did ever clear vision follow blind antagonism? 1982 Ebony (Sep.) 60 : There are no traces of bitterness in either his dialogue or professional presentation. A man who’s never tried drugs and shuns “shotgun evangelism,” Crouch seeks occasional solitude on a friend’s yacht, takes long drives to clear his head, and looks continually forward. 2000 Wood Sermon Outlines on Great Doctrinal Themes 13 : Are we saved simply by trusting the saving work of Christ, or must we recognize the Lordship of Christ to be saved? The debate has arisen because there is so much “shotgun” evangelism, and so few who profess salvation appear to have any understanding. 2006 Rankin Letting Go of the Pews 60 : This is a criticism of some “shotgun evangelism” programs. The “witnesser” just notches up another number and goes on his way. The “savee” is left standing there like an alien in a new world without a map. 2012 Smith Halloween, Hallowed Is Thy Name: How to Scripturally and Theologically Justify Christian Halloween Haunted Houses 189 : Earlier in my life, I was the unfortunate recipient of shotgun evangelism. The evangelist said, in no uncertain words, “God said it, I believe it, and you had better believe it too—right now—unless you want to die and go to hell for eternity!” Fear should never become the weapon of choice in Christian evangelism.
tract-bombing n. Also tractbombing. To throw a large number of tracts into a crowd of people, hoping that some people will pick up a tract; to distribute tracts in large numbers by any means.
This term often refers to such evangelism as it is done in China by Western missionaries.
1997 Eastman Beyond Imagination: A Simple Plan to Save the World 149 : There was yet another dimension to Mac’s literature distribution ministry that fascinated me, facilitated by those Chinese minibuses, which carry fifteen to 25 passengers each to towns throughout China. He calls it “tract-bombing.” In one of his early trips to a distant town, a trip that took at least five hours, Mac decided to sit in the rear of the bus by a window. Beside him was his bag loaded with Gospel booklets for distribution in the town where he was heading. As the bus rumbled through small villages, rarely slowing down even for pedestrians, an idea came to him. Mac decided, when no one was looking, to toss a handful of booklets out the window. The result was amazing. The wind hit the booklets and scattered them across the road like a white carpet of paper, while people came running from all directions to retrieve on of them. 2003 Aikman Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China 281 : Caspary’s “tract-bombing” would consist of standing by the open window of a bus, waiting until another bus was passing in the opposite direction, then pushing the Christian tracts as quickly as possible into the other bus through its open windows…. Most foreign Christians living in China are critical of things like “tract-bombing” and do not respect it very much. After all, throwing tracts at people isn’t necessarily the best way of getting to know them, hearing them out, and winning their respect. 2013 Driscoll A Call to Resurgence 108 : When trying to evangelize, fundamentalists are more prone to use methods such as tract bombing and aggressive street witnessing, which are devoid of relationship.
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