Have you ever been treated as only a portion of yourself?
I was once asked to be part of a group simply because I was a young woman. The other members expected me to represent all young women and help them pave a path that made them more appealing to a younger demographic.
I was offended when I found out. I am, in fact, a young woman, but I'm also much more. I have unique roles, passions, interests, goals, and talents. Instead of being recognized for my whole self, I was simply filling a quota.
When we're seen for only one role we play or as having only one talent, it can hurt. Maybe you've been the token woman on a committee, or you were invited to serve on the church board to represent all young moms. Or perhaps you've always wanted to be involved in the discipleship team, but instead you're only known for the excellent dinner rolls you bring to the potluck dinners—so you're stuck helping in the kitchen. Or maybe you're the happy Sunday school teacher, and no one has ever bothered to ask how you're doing—because they assume you're always happy.
It's far too easy to do this to one another in our culture. What disturbs me is that we also typecast people in the church. We base our understandings of others on one small piece of their identities or lives. Although this worries me, what worries me even more is how often we do this to unbelievers and the unchurched.
Many approach evangelism believing the most important piece is preaching the gospel, telling people about Jesus, and helping people begin a relationship with him. While these components are key, taking this view means we are seeing the unchurched and unbelievers as one-dimensional people—people who simply need Jesus in their lives. We neglect their uniqueness, their past, their desires, and their needs—physical, emotional, mental, or financial.1