A LOVE SUPREME

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Online Street Preaching

What do we think of the on-line street preachers? That is the topic of this post.

When John Doyle went offline for a few weeks I recently joked that perhaps he had taken up The End is Near slogans:



Not all street preaching fit the above mode. In fact, I believe I generally support the street preaching movement. What I am interested in is the effectiveness of the various online street preaching sites. The following is an example:

http://www.christianbibleinfo.com/

A few things to note.

Most of these sites are not information oriented. So, there is little done to make the site look interesting. (It is almost as if they just picked a color for the background and fonts that would "stand out.") The content, then is the focus. Content = Scripture displayed in the form of proof texting. That is, one verse after another after another. Presumably, the philosophy is that the more Scripture the better. Here is the logic, as I see it:
Scripture is true
The Holy Spirit will use Scripture to change people
Hence, the more Scripture a person hears the better

So, if you go to the "Has God Saved You" page you will find a list of Bible verses with brief explanations.

I'm not necessarily criticizing these approaches. Neither do I want to become a Christian elitist who says, "I've got the best way to reach the lost." All I want to do is evaluate these approaches in light of current culture.

One thing I note is that the internet is already a place of information overload. How is one more voice suppossed to resonate amongst the cacophony of ideas all screaming for our attention? Again, I believe this would probably refer back to the above mentioned philosophy that centers on proclaiming the Scriptures. And I do think there is something to this - the bare proclamation of Word. For me there is something romantic about it, quite honestly. On the other hand, one must wonder about the ability to truly contextualize the Word for the contemporary wo/man on the street.

8 comments:

Melody said...

Things like that always make me think of Jonathan Edwards preaching "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" all monotone.

He wanted the reaction to be purely to the truth of God's word and not to an emotional apeal.

A commendable goal to be sure, but I probably would have fallen asleep (then again, I kinda feel like maybe God honored Edwards' intentions and that's why people didn't fall asleep).

Anyhow, I think that these people certainly have a commendable goal, but I also think their website would benefit greatly from some simple formatting.

As for the just flinging it out their approach...I'm sure having that info out there is good, but I don't think anyone is going to take it seriously from a site like this. On the other hand...I hear of people coming to Christ is some really odd ways.

ktismatics said...

Hey, while walking the streets of Manhattan two different people handed me Chick Tracts: "The Empty Tomb" and (my personal favorite) "This Was Your Life!" Near the end of both tracts we've got Chick's classic drawing of the Angel of Death tossing bodies into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15). Want to get outfitted? Click here for samples and price lists.

Dawn said...

Paul says that we can become all things to all people...I assume he meant the Church. So that includes street preachers.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Those Chick Tracts are really classic. They've been around for years. The interesting thing about them is that they are very, very engaging and artistic. I think it brings up the Melody-Jason debate about the place of marketing/advertising in the church. The Chick Tracts utilized artistic media to spread the Gospel message. Dawn mentions becoming "all things to all people." Does that mean that the church must find her marketing niche??? And if this is the case, then do we risk becoming Gospel-peddlers? Or do we risk becoming consumer-driven?

Or, perhaps this would be the worst scenario: creating a need for Christ where no need previously existed?

Melody said...

You call them engaging... a lot of people call them offensive...though we used to hand them out at halloween and the kids asked for them if we forgot to give them one (we were handing out candy too).

I don't think Paul was literally talking about becoming all things. When you get into that area you have all these discussions that run a long the lines of, "Of course I can be a pole dancer, Paul said..."

I think we would be foolish to ignore the large role that marketing plays in the average American's life, but as always...I think we have to recognize it as a tool and not the end goal.

Even in business the end goal is never marketing...it's to make the exchange, which marketing helps with, but is the church really trying to make an exchange?

Melody said...

I don't understand your worst scenario either...explain further?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody:
I think we have to recognize it as a tool and not the end goal.

Even in business the end goal is never marketing...it's to make the exchange, which marketing helps with, but is the church really trying to make an exchange?


I disagree. I think for a Fortune 500 company their image is more important then the exchange. Image trumps anything, even profit margin. (Remember that Corporate Glory post?)

So, if the church begins to develop this philosophy then the product is sacrificed for sake of the image and idea of church. Or, imagine that even though people don't believe they need Christ we "sell them" on the idea. We create a need where no need existed. Instead of preaching the Gospel we might start PRing the Gospel. So, the church creates a demand and then produces a supply to meet the demand. We develop missions, purposes, objectives, and cultivate a unique market niche. The problem, I think, is that when the church becomes something of a corporate machine we start to become very monolithic. Not necessarily racially or socially, etc. (although that very often happens), rather, I mean a spiritual sameness. I think this is a danger that has always faced the church, so it is not unique to our marketing/advertising era, it's just that the Corporate model seems to be the newest vehicle.

The ongoing question goes back to your comment: Can Corporate/marketing/advertising tools be used (in all their glory) and not become an end in and of themselves? I am ambivalent.

Melody said...

When companies do make image the end goal, that is often when they begin to have problems.
They lose their sense of purpose and it destroys them in the end.

Example: McDonald's image is not burgers. The only reason they sell burgers is because when they sell a burger it isn't a burger, it's a little bit of the American Dream.

However, if McDonalds were more focused on promoting the American Dream than on the fact that the American Dream sells billions of burgers, fudge sundaes, and cheap plastic toys every day their profit margin would drop pretty fast.

Lose the exchange, lose your company.

Or, imagine that even though people don't believe they need Christ we "sell them" on the idea.

Imagine? People do that all the time, which perhaps is your point.

On the other hand, I'm not sure how I would differentiate between "selling God" and what Paul did when he went to tell people they needed God, even when they didn't believe it.

And it isn't really creating a need is it? Everybody needs God just like everybody needs air. They might not be convinced of this need, but it won't stop their lungs from needing it.

Can Corporate/marketing/advertising tools be used (in all their glory) and not become an end in and of themselves?

Yes. I think it is probably a temptation to make marketing an end...after all, it is pretty darn cool, but that's probably why my marketing prof kept going back to how "at the end of the day it's all about the exchange".