You're Invited: The Work of Digital Evangelism
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so; little ones to him belong—they are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus love me! Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.”
You might ask why a blog ostensibly devoted to digital evangelism leads with a simple song that many of us learned in nursery school. You might wonder, with all the training and resources, the brilliant colleagues and the engaged congregations, and the shelves of heavy tomes (some dustier than others) available to us, why we couldn’t have created an appropriately technocratic statement. Well, we could have—but we’re going to tell you why we went this route.
Bishop Curry often references hymns in his sermons, specifically the kinds of hymns that folks of all ages know (maybe not all one thousand verses of Hail Thee, Festival Day), songs with a message complementary to what’s being preached. He often repeats the refrain throughout the sermon, punctuating the paragraphs and reinforcing the theme. It’s no surprise that Bishop Curry is committed to the ministry of evangelism—he’s mentioned that the only CEO position he wants is “chief evangelism officer”—so when he quotes a verse of There Is A Balm in Gilead, he explicitly encourages people to tell out the simplest of truths to their neighbors: “If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, just tell the love of Jesus, who died to save us all.”
In May 2017, we had the pleasure of visiting the Diocese of West Missouri for a pair of revivals called “Awakening the Spirit,” taking place over two days in downtown Kansas City’s Power & Light District and at Springfield’s Hammond Field. While we were there, Bishop Martin Field told us about a local Lutheran bishop who had mentioned that marketing firms had described the three messages to which people generally react most strongly. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were “I love you,” “I forgive you,” and “Dinner is ready.” Bishop Field went on to mention that all three of these are central to our faith and lives together. After all, aren’t we are about the work of telling out God’s love for all people, the message of salvation brought by Jesus, and the invitation to the mystery of the Eucharist? Aren’t we set up with a truly counter-cultural message, that is not only attractive, but sincere and honest? Don’t we have church signs that explicitly highlight our hospitality?
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The power of Bishop Curry’s and Bishop Field’s messages are in their truth and simplicity. Many of us have struggled to put words to our faith, wanting to be casually eloquent, unimpeachably cautious, or wholly comprehensive in our telling—admirable indeed, but we ought not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Rather, we should remember that Moses was ineloquent and “slow of speech and tongue” (Ex. 4:10). Even the Apostles were unsure at times. The early Church was relentlessly harassed and hunted. But here we are today, a testament to their commitment to the faith that was within them.
To that end, what we are offering in digital evangelism is not a new message full of jargon and buzzwords; we cannot help monetize your like-stream or content-market your market content. We won’t be writing an encyclical telling you that everything you know is wrong, and you must follow these five easy steps. Instead, we can help take the truths that you know already exist and further help you bring them online, where people are living portions of their lives. On this blog and throughout our work, we hope to come alongside the work you’re doing, to learn from trends in marketing for the Church, to offer best practices, and to highlight ministries and people who are doing exciting things for God and neighbor.
This isn’t a sermon, but we might add a final illustration reflective of our goals, a story about 20th century theologian Karl Barth. In 1962, Barth, whose readers may remember him as the author of the fourteen-volume and nearly 10,000 page Church Dogmatics, was asked how he would summarize his life’s work. Barth, whose writing is verbose, comprehensive, complicated, footnoted, and not lacking in long Latin and Greek expositions, replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”