Evangelism: Fire and Flee?

It is incredible how our means of communication have developed over the last century. We have come a long way from pen and paper or word of mouth. People thought the printing press or the telephone was impressive...and they were. Look at where we are now.

Our Evangelistic efforts tend to trail slightly behind the technological developments of society. Evangelism used to look like gathering people in giant tents to listen to a speaker. It meant sending out printed papers on Bible topics. Over time that general concept grew. In the age of Billy Graham, stadiums were rented out for "Evangelistic Series". The Television lit up with faith-based programing. The radio took the gospel to remote villages all over the world.

...and then the Internet was born.

The internet has expanded our reach so rapidly and so effectively, that many of us are looking at it like a deer in the headlights. There is so much to take in. 13 year olds are posting dancing videos on TikTok and gaining MILLIONS of followers overnight. There are 1 billion user accounts on Instagram alone! That doesn't even factor in the reach of Facebook, Youtube, or even Discord (a popular gamer social media platform).

Naturally ministries are eager to learn how "the algorithms" work in an effort to expand their own reach. The beauty of social media is, in many ways it is mathematical. If you do certain things consistently, you WILL grow. In a sense it is anybody's game right now- there is unlimited growth potential. You could never reach as many people as quickly as you can online.

As wonderful as this all may appear, we need to recognize that truly sharing the gospel with someone goes beyond our first interaction. It is easy for someone to "follow" an account or "like" a few of our posts... but then what? What are they doing after that click? How much impact can we truly have on someone if all we do is throw a few social media posts their way every week?

Although it may seem like this is a dilemma unique to the social media world, I am arguing that it is not. I think over time Christians have drifted away from nurturing individuals to have deep authentic faith for the sake of gaining larger followings. Think about it. How do we often measure our success at ministry events? We ask how many people attended. Then, if the number is large, we pat ourselves on the back and feel like we really accomplished something. But did we really?

I am calling this concept "Fire and Flee". We as ministries or missionaries fire off a juicy piece of Bible truth, and then we are on to the next thing. We host big events and conferences and then we get ready to do it all again next year. But what about all the days between this conference and the next? As our reach expands, our personal touch diminishes. Instead of giving people information and then helping them integrate it into their real lives, we are giving people information and saying, "Okay! Go figure it out!"

This leads me back to social media. I recently took a year to grow my Instagram account from around 1,000 people to nearly 10,000. People look at that and say, "Wow! What success!" and they want to write articles about it and have me host workshops to teach others how to do that. I am happy to share my gift... but I also want to point out that unless those 10,000 people are getting plugged into a local community, their chances of being "truly" converted for Christ are rather slim. I could spend my entire life pleasing the algorithm and growing huge numbers of social media followers. I could use those numbers to leverage myself into speaking roles and book deals. I could grow old and tell myself, "Look at how successful I was!"

And I would be lying to myself. Because having a large following says nothing about the quality of faith those followers hold.

Is it too much to ask for us to develop a system that relies on more than numbers and event attendance? Am I taking on too much? Am I trying to micro manage other people's relationships with God?

No, I don't think so.

When Paul traveled and shared the Gospel, he didn't just leave those he shared with to fend for themselves. He delegated leaders. He plugged people into community groups. He regularly checked in on how things were going even if he was not physically at the churches. Paul created a well connected system long before the internet gave him easy means to do so.

If Paul can do it, we can do it.

Instead of focusing all of our efforts on building a following and elevating our own personal name within ministry, let's start brainstorming how we can "Fire and Stay", instead of "Fire and Flee."

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