Evangelism Islam Preaching the Church

Letter from Australia 61 – Can We Preach the Gospel Online?

Brothers and Sisters,

It has been my privilege over the past three weeks to speak at a “Share Life” campaign at Christchurch St Ives.  This is a large dynamic evangelical Anglican church in Northern Sydney.  Although I have not been able to be at a Sunday service in the church, attended by the whole congregation – for the past three Sundays I have been driving up to the church and preaching to a camera, doing a Q and A, both morning and evening.  It has been a challenging and interesting experience.  Just a few observations.

  • I hate preaching to a camera. It is not the same as speaking to people – which is predominantly interactive.  When I preach normally, I can see how people are reacting – confused? Amused? Angry? Bored? – body language and vocal responses say so much.  When you are talking to the camera you are guessing what the reaction might be.   Given my particular style I have no doubt that there were people who were really annoyed – because of something they thought they had heard, which I did not say.
  • It is important that when people use media to communicate the Gospel, they have people who know how to operate that media. I was really impressed with the St Ives team (and it does take a team).  I thought they were professional, well organised and prayerful.
  • Islam is an evangelistic religion which does not have an evangel. Driving to St Ives I listened to a couple of Islamic radio stations – there were at least two. The Christian ones seemed to only have music – the Islamic ones seemed to mostly have sermons.  I think I preferred the Islamic music and the Christian sermons! The Islamic sermons were so depressing – some were well delivered and interesting – but all of them were legalistic.  Islam is a religion of salvation by works.  ‘Do this and you shall live’.   You submit to God and hope that he will be merciful to you.   But where were the Christian messages?  That’s a big question…The Muslims seemed less concerned about entertainment!
  • Q and A is a great way to preach the Gospel…I love doing this – not least because it enables dialogue. It is not a replacement for the interaction of preaching directly to people – but it is in my view an essential part of online preaching.
  • It’s harder to preach the Gospel to non-Christians when Christians are your judges. What do I mean by that?  My concern in these kinds of situations is to communicate the Gospel to non-Christians – that is what I was asked to do.   But the trouble is that sometimes Christians have a particular view – not only of what the Gospel is (it’s relatively easy to agree that – if you are a bible believing Christian) – but how it should be communicated.  Many Christians have a kind of formulaic view.  Some of us judge by our own experience, how we were converted.

I was grateful to get a lot of feedback from people who attended online.  Not all of it was 100% positive – which was excellent – because that made it more meaningful.  Most of the more critical comments were probably true (some of the positive ones might also have been true!) but it was intriguing to me that whilst the non-Christians seemed to engage with and enjoy what they heard – it was some Christians who struggled a bit more.   I think they were just not used to the ‘left field’ style and my attempts to provoke the non-Christians to think and question.  In that regard you can almost always tell the difference between the questions that come from non-Christians – and the questions that come from the Christians asking what they think a non-Christian would or should ask!   It was also interesting to do a half hour video interview every Wednesday for the Christians as a follow up…

  • God’s word will never return to him empty. There were several hundred people who listened to each sermon and service.  The team reckoned that at least 50-60 each week were non-Christian guests.  I am told that two people professed faith and others showed an interest in joining bible study groups.  I am immensely thankful for and encouraged by that news, but at one level it is not necessary for me to know that in order to be encouraged.  Why?  Because I am absolutely certain that God’s word will never return to him empty but will always accomplish the purpose for which he sent it.    My only prayer is that I communicate the Word, and don’t get in the way.   I totally believe that the Spirit will do the rest – and indeed if He doesn’t – then all my effort is just hot air.    But a preacher who believes what the Bible says about God’s sovereignty and God’s word can preach with confidence-  but not self-confidence.  My series was on Romans 8 – Real Hope.  If the people got my message then it failed…if they got the message of Romans 8 then we will reap with songs of joy!

Any way here is the last service – it starts at about 12 minutes in.  You can get the other ones on the Christchurch St Ives website.

I hope and pray you have a blessed week in these troubled times – and that you will know the peace and joy of the Lord,

David

Letter from Australia 60 – Cruel to be Kind?

9 comments

  1. Hello David,

    I hear what you are saying about preaching to a camera. Hate is rather a strong word. As you know, I have some stand up comedy experience, and I was involved in some TV work last year with now having presenting on a community radio station.

    It takes a bit of getting used to without having an audience and it is a more lonely discipline but then again if we need an audience then perhaps we ought to be asking ourselves why we are doing what we do. Are we doing it because we like the limelight or would we be just as happy if we were to speak with one person? Many in public ministry have fallen foul of such things.

    Having said that yes we do need to know our media and I would emphasise also our audience. The apostle Paul was a Greek to the Greeks, Gentile to the Gentiles, Jew to the Jews so that nothing be a hindrance to the gospel. So must we consider our listeners / viewers. In radio for example, you want to keep people listening and not tuning in to another radio station. In community radio, it keeps advertisers happy to have listeners and enables to the radio station to be funded. And without funding, the radio station ceases to broadcast. Of course the apostle Paul funded himself with his tent making to avoid getting into a patron / client relationship so there is the danger of being compromised by funders. But then is that any different in principle to paid leaders and staff of churches?

    Final I would say an Amen to your point about it being harder to evangelise when Christians are your judges. No doubt you will have experienced false accusations of blasphemy, arrogance, and perhaps racism, sexism and homophobia thrown in for good measure.

    I recall you saying that comedians are prophets of our time and that being a huge encouragement to me when I was feeling rejected by some powerful voices in the church. I would at the same time add the caveat that there are false prophets as well as those speaking God’s word. But perhaps it is true that comedians as the canaries in the coal mine in that if comedians can’t speak without being demonised then that spells trouble for everyone.

    In mediaeval times it was the court jester how in the kings court was the only one allowed to tell the truth. If the kings had become intolerant of the court jester, it was a sign that the king had become a tyrant.

    It is interesting that even though times have changed dramatically since then, there is one thing that has remained constant – human nature.

  2. Driving to St Ives I listened to a couple of Islamic radio stations – there were at least two.

    Listen to jazz. It is more likely to soothe and stimulate the creative side of the brain and the lyrics – if there are any – often focus on more pleasant things rather than supernatural nonsense and condemning the listener as a ”sinner.”
    Besides, from the Christian perspective I doubt there is a bible story you haven’t heard a thousand times already. And if you haven’t learned them by now and heeded their message (if that’s your bag) then another round of being told you are a sinner is not likely to make any difference, is it?

    Life’s way too short.

  3. Thank you again for another tremendous blog. I do wonder how the Chistian critics communicate with their non believing friends, relatives and neighbors or whether they actually share the gospel with them at all. As DL Moody once responded to a lady critic regarding his method of evangelism he replied. ” Well I like my way of doing it as opposed to your way of not doing it”

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