7 Our Medium
Have a look at a magazine or newspaper and try to work out the target audience intended by the advertisements.
Grade the following human needs 1 to 10 in what you think is their order of importance:
– good health
– sense of belonging to a community
– purpose to work for
– food and drink
– good order in society
– financial security
– acceptance by others
– respect from other people
– the ability to express oneself
– power and influence
Effective communication of any message requires that there be both a transmitter and a receiver. There is little point in transmitting messages if no one is able to receive them. This would happen, for example, if the speaker spoke English while trying to address an audience of Spanish-speaking people.
One of the first lessons to be learnt by European missionaries in the nineteenth century was that, before any communication of the Gospel could take place, they had to learn the language of the people they wanted to reach. And not only the language, but the culture and world-view of those people. Only then could they bring the Gospel to bear on the lives of the people they hoped to reach. Many became competent anthropologists in the process.
Advertisers and marketers study their target audience to find out the wants and needs, the hopes and dreams of the people they hope to reach. It is simply a good communication technique to start with the people that you hope to reach.
But in Christian evangelism it is not just a good technique. It is closely related to what it is we are trying to communicate. Love-based evangelism has to grow out of concern for people. It means getting to know them, not just as pew-fodder, or with the hope of gaining evangelistic scalps, but genuinely taking an interest in them. It means being concerned for their true welfare. It means loving them, respecting them, being concerned for them in much the same way as we love, respect and are concerned about ourselves. That is why social justice concerns and evangelism should go hand-in-hand.
Love-based evangelism starts with a concern for the other person and that person’s need. The good news is then brought to bear on that person’s particular situation.
It sometimes seems as though social justice concerns and personal evangelism are opposites, as though one had to choose between one or the other. Have you found this to be so? We have suggested that it should not be so. Why do you think it happens?
Remember what we said previously about forms of evangelism that were not love-based. What other motives do people have for engaging in evangelism?
How can we ensure that our evangelism is love-based?
There are two things necessary for felt-need evangelism: a real concern for other people in their situations of need and a genuine experience of God’s saving, healing, renewing, empowering, direction-giving activity in and through Jesus Christ.
The other thing is that until we feel the need for help we will neither look for it nor accept it if offered. The illustration usually used is that of a person in the sea. If he thinks he is strong enough to swim in to shore he will neither signal for help nor accept it if offered by a passing board-rider, but if he knows himself to be in danger of drowning he will accept the lifebelt or the hand reaching out from the rubber-ducky. When a person has a particular felt need, then he or she is more likely to listen if it can be shown that Christ meets that need.
Read the following passages and indicate the need to which Jesus was addressing himself
John 9:1-7; 24-25
Read Mark 1:40-45 and discuss
Why do you think Jesus told the healed leper not to tell anyone about his healing?
Why did he not do as Jesus asked him to do?
Can we learn from this story anything about our task of evangelism today?
To what felt needs in our community should we, as a church , seek to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Pray that God will help you to be more aware of people around you and their needs.