How and Why the Internet Fits 21st Century Evangelism...

Christian Witness Must Jettison the Emotionalism and Return to the Original Informational Approach!

ver considered how evangelism has necessarily changed in this 21st century?

Some are still not cognisant of the major changes in modern society which make traditional-style evangelism virtually redundant in modern, western society (more traditional methods are still often fruitful in the third world).

In the Christianized society of earlier centuries churchgoing was the norm, also many would flock to hear the latest evangelist when he came to town, later such an evangelist would get a sizeable radio audience, TV altered a few things but we will look at that medium a little later. Then, there were always a few who would enter a place of Christian meeting in order to ask questions. That has now mostly changed.

We now live in a highly sceptical/agnostic society, moreover it is a technologically advanced society. Many former evangelistic practices will not successfully work anymore yet some are very slow in catching on to this. The influence of the Sunday Schools of the last two centuries has now just about gone, and people - yes, bright, intelligent people - are amazingly ignorant of the claims of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this is especially true in Britain and Europe, a little less so in the United States, although - there too - the decline of influence is gathering pace.

The formerly widespread Christian influence has been replaced by the strong influence of Darwin, and it is Darwinism, plus its accompanying 'scientism' ('science' in name but truly philosophical 'no-God' naturalism), which now forms the paradigmatic bedrock of our modern society. Our modern 'movers and shakers' of society (in education, entertainment, commerce and the arts) have thrown their weight behind this atheistic worldview; Christianity meanwhile, is widely mocked and ridiculed, especially so in Britain. It is widely considered to be ignorant, uninformed, prejudicial and outmoded. Of course, all of this is wrong and is the result of constant mis-information having been fed to the public, but we must recognise the sort of terrain which we stand upon before we can successfully fight back against our enemy's attack.

Therefore, in our day, the Christian evangelist must change from the older approach. A hundred years ago, the non-Christian nevertheless still had respect for Christianity. It was the paradigm (worldview) of the day; 'science,' on the other hand, while always interesting, took a lower position within common public perception. But - we must say in all honesty - in the past, prospective Christians did not ask probing questions about the claims of the Christian Gospel. Today, that has very drastically changed indeed! Those who now show an interest in Christianity are likely to ask very deep and difficult questions about Christian claims. Many such people have read Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, or at least, are aware of their claims. But even if they have not probed that deeply, they will still have been exposed to, and absorbed, the practical atheism (the non-existence of God simply being assumed) which is now almost everywhere. So modern 'westerns' will often have probing philosophical questions. Many such questions will simply never have come up in the evangelism of earlier centuries!

Techniques like "slaying in the spirit," mass crowd manipulation, perverse use of psychology and hypnotism, coupled with a cynical approach to gathering "financial donations," does not fool intellectually sophisticated moderns. This approach only brings ridicule to Christianity! For any well-read and intelligent person, such behaviour only serves to support their view that Christianity is a backward and ignorant religion, barely above the level of 'witch doctors' and shamanism.

must say, that I remain somewhat amazed that probably 90% of TV evangelism still goes for an overly-emotional 'decision theology' - no probing questions ever asked - approach which is now so markedly out of date. This naive approach still holds sway. The general approach seems to assume that nothing has changed within society - That is amazingly naive!

Of course, some internet evangelism is similar but, probably because the internet immediately lends itself to the written word and to deeper philosophical discussion, it is more attuned to a 21st century approach. And what is a 21st century approach? It is 'informational,' and too much modern evangelism has become non-informational, subjective, superficial and emotional. Problem is: TV buys into image and glamour, but the internet not necessarily so. False and deceptive "Christian teachers" pay huge sums of money for a Christian TV presence because they seek the support of more shallow-thinking and impressionable people. But if you go to the website of some of these "super evangelists" who immediately want you to send them money, the lack of information which they are prepared to present is quite stunning.

If one reads of the approach of the first evangelists and the early apologetics writers, one may note that it is solidly descriptive and informational. Read Luke's description of the speaking of Paul the Apostle in Acts! He gives solid Christian Apologetics. Read Justin Martyr who wrote before 200AD; it is the same. I am pleased indeed when somebody comes to our website and comments (as happened recently), "Your website is just so informative. Here are answers to all the questions I have had about Christianity! I'm just sorry it took me so long to find you." I feel very happy with such comments.

The Need For Change...

The world has changed and we must re-examine the traditional techniques employed by evangelism. The good news is that the Gospel itself is not compromised in this but actually strengthened when released from the quixotic sideshow which now so often accompanies it. One only has to consider the doctrinal nonsense of the name it and claim it 'health, wealth and prosperity gospel,' or the 'anything goes liberalism' as examples. We need to get back to the originally more informational approach, especially since this is what 21st century people are asking for.

If I had become a church pastor (which I was trained to be), I could never have been as successful (as this ministry has now become) in reaching so many people - via the world-wide web. Our visitor figures have been breaking all records, especially since about January, 2012. If I had pastored a specific local church I could never have had such influence! Sure, it keeps me very busy with answering Bible questions but I love that anyway. Recently, another British Christian site editor said to me, "How do you get such visitor numbers? What is your secret?" The answer must be that we give out solid information and direct-to-the-point answers to questions, but we also try to make things interesting and appealing. We avoid 'dryness,' but we refuse to insult people's intelligence with sloppy, emotional religiosity.
Robin A. Brace. February 3rd, 2012.