Ten things you need to know when talking with an evangelical. Number One: How to respond to the question: “How are you doing?”

First of all I probably don’t know what I’m talking about. If you are an evangelical you might read this and say something along the lines of “I don’t sound like that!” or “you have a chip on your shoulder.”… and you may be right… who am I to judge?  I can only speak from my experience as an evangelical learning the language with all its subtle cultural nuances. I want to share 10 things I have learned that help me understand, communicate and even discern the sometimes complex community language of evangelicalism. The first thing I want to address is how to answer the question “How are you doing?” when asked by an evangelical.

1. How are you doing?” Perhaps In many other cultures and clubs this phrase generally means “I care and would like to actually understand how you are doing.” however, in many evangelical circles when you are asked this question it is similar to a pitching coach asking a struggling pitcher during a mound visit “hey, how are you feeling?” after he has given up a grand slam and walked ten batters in a row.  What I have learned is that if I am asked this question by certain kinds of evangelicals it really means something like this… “I see your struggling, I am not, so I figured I would come and see if you are really one of us”.

(At this point I feel compelled to add that if you can identify with me so far you will understand the rest of what I am about to say but if you are not following me up to this point the following will probably bother you… and you should stop reading now and follow this link to hone your skills.)

How are you doing?

Now, let me take a moment and bring the analogy of the struggling baseball pitcher up again. When approached by the coach and asked “how are you doing?” what he really means is “I see you are struggling we have a guy warming up who isn’t struggling should we replace you… loser?” At this point a real competitor is forced to lie to the coach and lying is acceptable in baseball, deception is actually a part of the rules. This poses a problem however to the evangelical when a religiously well armed stronger believer asks you “how are you doing?” you know that you need to play your next move with great wisdom. You may need to lie (which is a sin) in order to avoid the smiling moral and behavioral shtick you are probably going to receive from one of God’s own scripturally certified behavioral emissaries.

 What I am trying to say? You really only have one of two responses to the question “How are you doing?”

1. If you say the truth “I am not doing well.” you will probably be forced to hear one of the many thousands of scriptures that they have memorized just for times like these. We as evangelicals have been well trained like emergency room technicians to diagnose and treat any issue with pithy sayings, scripture or aphorisms all before you can even explain why you are not doing well. Things like empathy or sympathy generally get in the way of our commission to restore you to faith and spiritual health. You see in my experience many of my evangelical brothers and sisters don’t actually hear a person  say “I am not doing well.” What they really hear is “Help! I don’t have enough faith”, or “Help! I don’t understand all of God’s promises”, or “Help! I don’t know a relevant scripture passage”, or “Help! I don’t understand the concept that right thinking leads to right actions.”

2. You can lie. “I am wonderful! Hey thanks for asking.” The response you will probably hear from us will be something like “Great! keep it up… by the way would you like to become more involved in church ministry?”

Well that’s all for today. I hope this helps you on your journey in the world of evangelicalism. I won’t lie sometimes it’s hard but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. You might think this rant sounds as if I have a chip on my shoulder. At least that’s what my wife just told me after I read it to her. She told me to wait a couple of days before I send it off. I appreciate that advice and it is probably wise but on the other hand evangelicals have many “chips on their shoulders” it’s just usually not with themselves (in a corporate sense) it’s almost always others. I have acted and will probably act again as one of  “God’s own scripturally certified behavioral emissaries.” and I hate that but I am happy that at this stage in my spiritual growth my own hypocrisy is far more real to me than others.  I love being an evangelical it’s real, it’s my family and we’re all growing.

By the way “how are you doing”?


6 comments on “Ten things you need to know when talking with an evangelical. Number One: How to respond to the question: “How are you doing?”

  1. I appreciate your candidness Able. It makes me think of the song by Casting Crowns called “Stained Glass Masquerade”….

    “Is there anyone that fails
    Is there anyone that falls
    Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small

    Cause when I take a look around
    Everybody seems so strong
    I know they’ll soon discover
    That I don’t belong

    So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay
    If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
    So with a painted grin, I play the part again
    So everyone will see me the way that I see them

    Are we happy plastic people
    Under shiny plastic steeples
    With walls around our weakness
    And smiles to hide our pain
    But if the invitation’s open
    To every heart that has been broken
    Maybe then we close the curtain
    On our stained glass masquerade

    Is there anyone who’s been there
    Are there any hands to raise
    Am I the only one who’s traded
    In the altar for a stage

    The performance is convincing
    And we know every line by heart
    Only when no one is watching
    Can we really fall apart

    But would it set me free
    If I dared to let you see
    The truth behind the person
    That you imagine me to be

    Would your arms be open
    Or would you walk away
    Would the love of Jesus
    Be enough to make you stay”

    I the part that strikes me is “but would it set me free, if I dared to let you see, the truth behind the person, that you imagine me to be…” It strikes me because it’s what one ponders when asked “How are you doing?” Do we dare open up?? Or will we have the ninja verses thrown at us….I often find myself in a stained glass masquerade…and I know others do too. Like you said Able, there are no easy answers.

  2. disableme says:

    I love that song thanks for posting the lyrics.
    I remember one similar to it from the band Radiohead called Fake Plastic Trees. It isn’t a Christian song but it deals with the same topic of superficiality in relationships.
    You said “Do we dare open up?” that’s what it’s all about to me Jim. How can we ever have heart change if we cannot communicate on a heart level. A superficial gospel begets superficial Christians. Thanks again for the comment.

    Fake Plastic Trees…
    Her green plastic watering can
    For her fake Chinese rubber plant
    In the fake plastic earth
    That she bought from a rubber man
    In a town full of rubber plans
    To get rid of itself

    It wears her out, it wears her out
    It wears her out, it wears her out

    She lives with a broken man
    A cracked polystyrene man
    Who just crumbles and burns
    He used to do surgery
    For girls in the eighties
    But gravity always wins

    It wears him out, it wears him out
    It wears him out, it wears him out

    She looks like the real thing
    She tastes like the real thing
    My fake plastic love
    But I can’t help the feeling
    I could blow through the ceiling
    If I just turn and run

    It wears me out, it wears me out
    It wears me out, it wears me out

    If I could be who you wanted
    If I could be who you wanted all the time

    All the time…
    All the time…

  3. Ramona says:

    You’re killing me over here…….I love a ranter…. God loves a good ranter too, I’m sure of it, or…or…why would He let us?

  4. daovohn says:

    Able…this makes me happy.

    The Kid Who Once Spit on You

  5. daovohn says:


    This post made me smile. And then I clicked on the link for “evangelicals only” and it made me laugh..hard.

    The Kid Who Once Spit On You

  6. daovohn says:

    Whoops! The above post is from Leslie 🙂

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