Archive for category Evangelism
Many of us have heard about videos posted on YouTube that have gone “viral.” The “viral” concept is that these ideas or items are shared from computer to computer just like a virus does. Some of these video that go viral reach millions of views in a relatively short period of time. While many of the videos that we create and post may not go viral or reach millions of views the reach of YouTube is worth looking at. As a note of caution: there are videos on YouTube that are inappropriate. But there are also some powerful messages that can be useful and encouraging.
One of the great advantages of YouTube is that with a free account you can post videos on the YouTube site and then link or embed those videos in your blog or website. You don’t have to pay for the bandwidth to serve them and other people can embed them or link to them and increase your reach. Again, you may not reach millions, but would you settle for message getting to thousands or tens of thousands?
Here is an example. A friend of mine just sent me a link to a video on YouTube titled, “The Bridge.” The body of his email was simple “Worth your time” and he pasted in the link. I watched the video and was struck by it. So I in turn posted it to my Facebook account profile. People watched it and commented on it when they watched. This small video hasn’t gone viral, but in the roughly 18 months since it was posted it has been viewed over 56,000 times! That is reach! I have embedded the video in this post for you to watch. I agree with my friend it is “worth your time” to watch. But after you what think about how this video has been shared, linked to, emailed and the thousands of people that have received the message.
What are we doing as the Lord’s church to use this tool to get our message out?
You will have to excuse the Monty Pyton reference in the headline, but I couldn’t resist. If you know what I am referring to then keep the spam song in the back of your mind while you read this post. Not that it will help you, but it is stuck in my head so I thought I would help you get it stuck in yours.
Spam is the bane of the email world. We have all had to deal with it and nobody likes it. According to Wikipedia SPAM is defined as “the abuse of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately.” Recently, the self-proclaimed “Godfather of Spam,” Alan Ralsky was sentenced to 51 months in prison (a pitiful sentence IMHO) for his role is sending fraudulent emails around the globe. It is reported that Ralsky was involved in sending some 70 million email a day from fake names. It is estimated that 80-85% of all emails sent today are spam.
Each time that I do a seminar or class on Technology in Ministry I talk about the benefits of using email to communicate. Systems like Constant Contact and others, allow interested people to sign up to get your information through their email. These systems keep track of these “permissions,” report bad address, bounces and other data to help you create, send, and track your bulk email communication. These systems are easy to use and quite affordable, even for smaller churches on a tight budget. In my seminar I talk about gathering “permission” from people to send them information. That is an important piece of the puzzle here. You must ask for and get PERMISSION before you send people email.
At just about every seminar I have done I am asked why it wouldn’t just be faster to buy a list of say 1000 email addresses from someplace and start with that? (Insert the sound of the Monty Python group singing spam, spam, spam, spam here!) If you buy a list of email addresses and start sending them emails YOU ARE SPAMMING! Even if you purchase a bulk email list from a reputable source, their list has not asked to get your information specifically. I assure you that once you start bombarding them with your email information they will look at you just like they do all of the other junk emailers that flood their inbox with garbage – and guess what? You are fried! Not really the impression you want the church to make on people is it?
It may take you longer to build a solid email list by gathering permission, but it will give you a better list. Learn to build a culture within you congregation to gather “permissions” from people. Then, use that permission carefully and wisely to communicate with them over time. Communicating with people who want your information will be more effective and profitable in the long run.
Don’t be a spammer – don’t get fried!
I am surprised at how often I am reminded that people still don’t understand that computers are so much more than electric typewriters. Yes, we can type out letters, reports, sermons and research papers and then conveniently store them for editing later, but there is so much more. We are missing the power that these machines put literally at our fingertips.
The Power of Computing
For ministry the power of computing means that we can approach the text of the Bible with tools never before available. Bible software like Logos (my favorite), Bibleworks, PC Study Bible, ESword (free) and more allow us to examine the text of Scripture in more and more detail. We can search, analyze and study faster and more accurately. We can find the Greek words associated with our English translations, discover their meanings and locate them elsewhere in the text almost instantly. These tools can transform our Bible study and help us understand God’s word because of the power of computing. Try that with an electric typewriter.
The Power of Connecting
Listening to the radio recently on my drive to work I was reminded by the DJ of how far we have come in terms of “connection.” He commented that when his grandparents were children there was no television, no radio, no phone, no form of mass communication whatsoever! He quipped, “I realized that the only way anyone could talk to anyone else back then was when they were in the same room together.” I had never really thought about that before. There was no way to communicate to anyone who wasn’t standing right in front of you. How different that is from where we are now! Right now this blog post can be read by anyone on the planet with a simple Internet connection. I can stand in the middle of my living room with a device in my had the size of a deck of playing cards (my iPhone) and can make a phone calls to a person thousands of miles away, access information on the internet, send a text messages to a friend, and all while watching television. We really are connected to the entire world.
But how are we using it? Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools connect us, but do we really need to know what you had for breakfast this morning? Facebook membership just surpassed the population of the United States and if it were a country it would be the 3rd largest in the world! and As Christians, we have been entrusted with the most powerful message man has ever been given – the Gospel. Yet often we only think to “post” the results of a quiz like What Color Crayon are You? or What Should Your Name Really Be? Really? Is that the best we can do?
So the question is what are we, as the Lord’s church doing about it? How are we as Christians using this “information connection” to reach people with the gospel? It is not up to the elders, or the preacher – how can I reach out? here are a few suggestions:
- Use Facebook or Twitter to encourage people with the words of Scripture – I know a woman that has started posting a Bible verse that she is reading everyday. Her friends started noticing and commenting and the best part is, now, if she doesn’t post one, people ask her where her Bible verse is for the day! She is using the power of connection to share God’s word with others and she is having an impact.
- Start a blog – For preachers and ministry workers this is a no-brainer. Preachers can post about information about their upcoming lessons and sermons or provide follow-up information afterward so member can dig deeper. Ministry leaders can post about the affect their ministry is having, what needs they have and what they are doing. Members can write about their spiritual walk and encourage others as we all strive to reach greater heights.
- Read blog posts and share them with friends – Connect with others who are writing to find encouragement and strength. There are a number of good blogs out there that can lift you up and challenge your thinking. Here are a couple to get you started; Preacherpollard, Thoughts from the Mound, Weylen Words, That Fire Within. Blog readers like Google Reader, Bloglines and others allow you to “subscribe” to these sites (don’t worry it’s free). It’s like having your own custom newspaper delivered to your computer all day long. When you find a post that you like or helps you or touches you – share it with someone! Spread the encouragement!
Tap into the power at your fingertips. We have been provided with tools here that can change lives (including your own) and can change the world. Let us always as God’s people be looking at how to use these tools for the Lord.
That’s right – If Facebook was a country, it would be the sixth largest country by population on earth! It seems that as time goes by, the Lord provides more and more ways for His people to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” The question is: what are we doing with these opportunities? Are we using these opportunities to take quizzes like “what color Crayola crayon are you” or “what Harry Potter character are you most like”? Do we show that we are more concerned about politics than righteousness? Jesus said:
“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man” (Matthew 15:18).
I would suggest that the things that proceed out of our fingertips do the same thing. We often times reveal where are hearts are by the things we talk about, text about and post online. We have a great opportunity online to share our faith, encourage our brothers and sisters and reach out show what is really important to us. I would like to suggest a few things we can do as individuals to use these online opportunities to their fullest.
- Practice the presence of the Lord – Whether we are in a physical situation or a ‘cyber” situation, we need to remember that the Lord is there with us. Would he approve of the quizzes we take, the comments we make and the language we use in Facebook?
- Become an encourager – The apostles called a man named Joseph, Barnabas, his name meant “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). We need to have a heart like Barnabas must have. Facebook gives us all a chance to encourage others when things aren’t going so well for them. Start a prayer group to encourage someone struggling with health issues or just send some electronic smiles and hugs to someone who needs them. You could really make someone’s day and demonstrate the love of Christ in your life.
- Share a Scripture – We all have favorite Scriptures that lift us up, make us think, or just touch us in one way or another. Why not pass them along. Type your favorite verse as your status early in the day and meditate on it as the day goes on. You can help others think spiritually by sharing and remind yourself of them blessings of God at the same time.
- Post about what you are studying – As you do your personal Bible study, share what you are reading. We often see things in our studies that are new and fresh to us – share those things – maybe they will be new ad fresh to others as well.
If you work at it, I imagine you can add to this list easily. The trick is to think about it – pray about it – practice it! We have an opportunity through tools like Facebook and Twitter to teach people about Jesus, to share our faith in a new and exciting way. Let’s use the opportunity well.
World Video Bible School (www.wvbs.org) has begun distributing a new DVD developed for evangelism. “Searching for Truth” contains six lessons, each less than one hour long. The topics presented include; The Truth, About The Creator, About Authority, About The Church, About The House of God, and About Baptism. Each of these videos is professionally shot and edited and each presents a powerful message about Christianity.
In a day where getting into someone’s home to teach them the gospel is getting (in many ways) harder and harder, this tool could be a tremendous help. First, DVDs and CD-ROMs create a natural curiosity. With the exception of the dozens of AOL free trial CDs people receive each year, people want to know what is on them. Curiosity can be a powerful ally in this situation. Second, it allows people to explore these issues on their own terms, when they want to. When they are all alone with no outside pressure, they may be much more open to the ideas being presented. Third, these new disks create an easy way for members to share the message – just hand out a DVD. In a time when many members of the church feel unprepared to try to teach the gospel, now they have a tool that can help them get the job done.
The disks are $15.00 each when bought individuallly, but will be sold to churches in bulk for $1 each. According to WVBS, they have sent more than 30,000 of these DVDs out since the first of the year. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any information about these disks on their website, but got a fast response to an e-mail inquiry that I sent to them. Give them a call or shoot them an e-mail for more information on this new tool.