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Online Evangelism in a Secular Culture

We can see two important points from Paul’s Athenian speech:

  1. Paul started where the Athenians ‘were at’. He took one of their own beliefs/interests and used it as a starting place to explain the Gospel – a bridge from their world to the Gospel.
  2. He also went to where the cultural leaders were — the Areopagus — rather than asking them to come to the Jewish synagogue.

These two points explain CPO’s approach, and that of many other evangelistic agencies, and we’re surely not the first. Most of our directly evangelistic literature is designed to link to an interest that people already have, and ideally it is used not to invite people to a normal church service but to an event designed to link to those interests too.

To take an example, one of our most successful genres of evangelistic literature has been sport-related — successful not only in terms of numbers of items being used, but in terms of reaching people with no or little previous interest in Christianity. Our 1998 World Cup booklet contained 75% purely football interest articles, with only 25% Christian content. It was a gift that was useful to the football fan, met their interests, and genuinely celebrated football with them. At the same time, it used their interests to introduce them to people involved in football – but who also have a Christian faith, and then to explain why. The most successful use of the booklet was when churches put on football ‘clinics’, showed World Cup games on big screens and invited fans to watch with them, or arranged other football related events. In that way, Christians were entering their world, their territory, instead of expecting them to come into the Christian ‘world’ of normal church in the first instance. Another example would be our tract about the film ‘Titanic’. Capitalizing on the success of that film, the tract explained the story of someone who was actually on the Titanic in real life, and how that Christian gave his life to save another. The similarity with Christ giving his life to save us was then explored. This again was very successfully used by churches. Our posters too have taken media interest subjects and used them to spark thought about Christianity, whether that be major movies, well-known TV adverts, or whatever.

For the Internet, the parallels are obvious. A site about Christianity will only attract those already searching or interested in faith. For those whose interests lie elsewhere, Christians should be developing web-sites that connect with those interests, and then bring in the relevance of Christianity to those interests.

There will be accusations that we are ‘tricking’ people – but is it dishonest? People are free to leave a site and surf somewhere else if they get turned off. It is no different to an advertiser using your interests to make you want their product, except in our case only the Holy Spirit can really activate interest in our product – we just have to provide the bridge for people to walk across.
Of course, this isn’t the only method of evangelism that works, but it is one that becomes increasingly important as antagonism to ‘traditional religion’ grows in our society.

Paul famously became ‘all things to all men in order to reach some’ – we must do the same, without compromising the message. Jesus’ two parables about banquets (Matt. 22 and Luke 14) involved people being invited to a banquet, who didn’t come. So the host told his servants to ‘go out’ into the streets and bring the outcasts in, rather than those who might have been expected to want to come. In the same way, we must go out of our Christian sub-culture and into the prevailing culture to meet people where they are at, ‘on the street’, with an invitation to a banquet of life.

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Category: Ministry

About the Author: Andrew Halloway is the Editor of Good News, a monthly evangelistic newspaper used by churches and missions throughout the UK. He has nearly 30 years of experience in Christian publishing. He worked for CWR (Crusade for World Revival) as an editor and writer for four years and for CPO (Christian Publishing and Outreach) as editorial manager and then publishing manager for eight years. At New Life Publishing, where he was editorial manager for five years, he was Editor of another evangelistic newspaper, New Life, and Deputy Editor of the official monthly magazines of two national church denominations. He is married to Mandy, has two daughters and lives in Nottingham.

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