Evangelism and Follow-up: Media Contacts and Church Planting
One of the goals of any outreach is to bring a respondent to a point of decision and to “group” them into a fellowship. Much discussion has taken place and many people refer to the Engle Scale or the Gray Matrix as a way of representing the journey from no knowledge of God through to spiritual maturity as a Christian. Our goal, of course, is to use media to lead people to Christ and hopefully to small groups.
The answer is that effective broad seed sowing provides multiple new contacts within a target people group with whom our personnel would never hear of or reach otherwise. Using the RDS (Relationship Development System) system one can touch more peoples’ lives utilizing mass media. We can have a reasonably simple response mechanism for collecting important data and then replying back – (texting) those, who show interest in the message. From this, we often have an opportunity to later meet people face to face, who have already shown proof of having moved up the Engle Scale a few steps by their requesting more information. This media “connection” results in a much more positive first-time meeting, where the first few, but difficult barriers to sharing, are lessened or removed. Also the person is often in a much more receptive mood to the idea of a investing in a learning relationship with the follow up person.
A simple follow up by text message will sometimes lead to that first important personal contact. This initial contact also sometimes opens a window into a family group or peer group situation (as with students—“hey, if you have some friends who might be interested, invite them to join us at the coffee shot!”) for our personnel
Broad seed sowing and collecting data, and texting followup has a real potential to speed up the process of finding people who are ready to hear and believe. Thus, facilitating the whole process of building new relationships, grouping them into care and study groups, and so on. Of course, the time span for this all to happen depends greatly on the receptivity or barriers to Christianity/God’s message. But in most, if not many cases, one can expect that an effective delivery of either social-moral or other pre-evangelism entertainment; or, carefully constructed “better quality of life”, truths for living, answering societies problems, etc – will put our personnel or nationals much closer to many more people resulting in more opportunities to “tell what God has done in my life—and what he can do in yours!”
One current example is the follow up system in place and working in Indonesia where our personnel follow up on respondents to a short-wave radio broadcast. These broadcasts are locally produced in the common language and present a variety of bridges to the Gospel using programming around simple biblical truths and answers to common problems in that social/religious setting.
The intention of this form of mass media is to present God’s truth packaged appropriately to as many people as possible – as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. To do this, we have to know what are the existing conduits of communication already in place in the local media setting. Then to “patch” into that popular or acceptable genre of media with programming or content that “fits” and will be attractive and entertaining; or of such significant real benefit to the listener, that they will want more and want to know more about this source of this content.
This “conduit” would vary and could be a ‘broadcast’ – a radio broadcast, a website or a social networking site – like Twitter; or even a recorded talk given by an individual on a relevant topic. But, whatever the original medium and message is or how it is packaged, there has to be a response opportunity that is obvious and easy to use. Sometimes a simple response such as ‘please send me a booklet’ or ‘please, tell me more,’ is enough to start that person down the road to learning truth and to trusting and wanting to connect with the people who are at the source of that truth. Even these two simple requests can be multiplied over and over again form this “one-to-many” communication.
The idea is to facilitate the process whereby our personnel can then move from the “one-to-many” – mass media presentation to one-to-one communication involving email or SMS or other forms of communication. This develops into a dialogue between two people. The aim that many have is that this communication results in the person deciding to follow the Messiah. What then happens is that people desire that the individual followers of the Messiah gather together in groups for fellowship etc. Getting from the individual to the group is often very difficult and in some cultures no community of followers of the Way ever seems to develop.
How it Works:
A person hears or sees and evangelistic message. He/she sends in a text message to that local in-country number (gateway module). The gateway sends the SMS message over the Internet to the server. The message is directed to the client folder on the server. The helper-evangelist can be anywhere in the world and log onto the RDS system over then Internet and respond. The reply message to the person goes from the very same number as he/she originally sent in the request. A client could have up to 3 unique numbers porting through one gateway system.
Points to consider:
1. How to Make Contact: The outreach teams pass out 50,000 DVDs of THE HOPE video (true example project in formative stages in Thailand). In each packet and on the DVD is contact information like SMS number, email, box number. Because we want to capture more information we offer them a free gift (scripture portion, T-shirt, etc). Now we have their address!
2. How to build relationships: Now we assign say each 10 respondents to one “helper-evangelist” and they start asking questions, making friends, etc. Maybe this becomes something that can be moved to email and the helper could offer to send items that they have talked about. Remember, the respondent has shown intentionality by sending that SMS and corresponding with the “helper”.
3. How to get them to a point of decision: This is always an issue but this often takes a longer relationship to get to that point. This, of course, depends on the work of the Holy Spirit, other witness experiences, knowledge of God, etc.
4. How to group them. At some point in time you could invite them (if they were local) to a coffee shop or student center, etc for a felt need seminar on, say time management or marriage. Or, to learn English or to, depending on where they are in the process, study the Bible. From there, perhaps they could be grouped.
The Relationship Development System is an integrated follow-up computer system that manages the contacts generated by media outreach such as radio, Internet or literature distribution. The system manages the relationships that develop between a contact and helper-evangelist (one to one) as they correspond via SMS, email, mail and various web interfaces.
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