Thursday, 29 December 2011

Evangelistic Fragment Three: Evangelism, Communication and the Influence Spectrum

(The third of an as yet undetermined number of thoughtlets on evangelism that have dribbled out of my brain, down my arm and through the keyboard.   Mainly because I'm preparing to teach an MA module on evangelism.

I am suggesting that we think of evangelism as that aspect of mission that is concerned with the communication of the gospel.  If we are serious about communication we will do all that we can to make sure we take appropriate responsibility for three things: the content of our message, the process of its transmission and the likelihood of its reception.  This fragment is concerned with the third of these.

To seek to communicate presupposes to my mind that we are not indifferent to the response of those with whom we are seeking to communicate.  It also presupposes respect for the otherness of those with whom we are seeking to communicate; communication is not the same as imposition, when we impose we abandon any attempt at genuine communication.

Since part of our motivation is to do with human flourishing (see fragment one) this raises the important question of how much we care about whether or not others receive, accept and respond to our message.  Which in turn demands that we consider just how far caring about the response of others should carry us along “the influence spectrum”:

1. Self-contained indifference
– no real communication takes place.
2. Presence – simply being there so that the gospel is an option should anyone perchance stumble across those seeking to live by it.
3. Availability – being there and being open so that the gospel is accessible to all who might be interested.
4. Offering – actively making the gospel known and actively making it known that it is for all.
5. Advocacy – saying why the gospel is a good thing and proposing that it be accepted.
6. Persuasion – taking active, intentional steps to encourage others to accept the gospel
7.Pressurising – deploying the force of our will to get others to respond to the gospel
8. Imposition – no real communication.

It seems to me that while positions one seven and eight are undesirable, positions two to five are necessary but in the long run inadequate if we are serious about communicating the gospel.  While some may be diffident about position six I reckon that persuasion, based on and growing out of presence, availability, offering and advocacy is where its at - if we are serious about communication.

6 comments:

Mary Taylor said...

Have started reading and am liking Stephen Kuhrt, 'Tom Wright for Everyone' and think it has stuff to say on evangelism including the message, the medium and the reception. See what you think?

SarahL said...

I agree but wonder why we both perceive 2 as acceptable and 7 as undesirable... is it simply that we're both socially happy with 2 (the preferred behaviour of Christians as perceived by wider society / the media?) and uncomfortable with the 'peer' pressure that environments such as a large, anonymous (?) rally can produce?

duffett said...

Like it... 4 floats my boat. There also needs to be something on the lines of provoking and questioning... Most of what I do (if you now what I mean) give space for people to observe, experience (by this I mean taking part in an activity as well as a spiritual experience) and ask....

Glen Marshall said...

Hi Mary, I'll check it out - been listening to recordings of talks from Tom Wright. I can see the evangelistic implications of some of his stuff - not least the eschatolocigal and creational stuff - see fragment five.

Sarah, I reckon those who settle for 2 have lost nerve and over reacting to those who rightly are uncomfortable with 7. I reckon the big rally has long gone as the dominant paradigm.

Chris - reckon the provoking and questioning is crucial. We too often rush to answer without first hearing the question. If we are to provoke questions we need to be distinctive. (See fragment 5) I admire the stuff you get up to but wish it wasn't necessary. Why can't our lives alone stimulate enough curiosity without the need for the sort of imaginative events that you come up with? Will be glad when that day comes. In the meantime more power to your elbow.

Dick Davies said...

I love that scale Glen - did it come straight out of your head or did it come from elsewhere?

I think that where we end up on the 4 to 6 range probably says more about our own gifts and experience. For me some people who do 6 should stick to 4 (and maybe the reverse).

The worst factor is where "evangelical guilt tripping" drives people further up the scale than they should be.

Glen Marshall said...

As far as I'm aware Dick it's original - either that or I've forgotten where it came from!