Digital Evangelism is evangelism using digital tools and a digital strategy.
It’s still evangelism, and it’s still meant to lead people to Christ whether you are doing personal ministry or corporate evangelism.
These are the same methods that have worked for our church for decades, but now we are either using a hybrid of digital and traditional tools or fully digital.
So if digital evangelism is just evangelism using a digital strategy and digital tools, then the outcome of your digital evangelism should be the same, right?!
Planting sends, helping nurture and/or participating in reaping events?
The cool thing about digital, or the digital-traditional hybrid evangelism, is you are able to reach more souls and create systems to ensure that the fewest number of people fall through the cracks. You are also able to shorten the entire discipleship process.
For this piece, let’s focus on corporate digital evangelism.
How effective is your church's digital evangelism?
By now, most churches are way past the “Facebook is the devil” phase and many have some type of online digital presence or strategy. But as good stewards of your ministry’s resources, how well is that digital evangelism paying off?
If you have the facts and figures to answer, good for you. Really. Because this is where many church-focused digital strategies fall short.
We’ve gotten the message that we need to get online (mobile and other devices), use texting, be present on social media, and all that good stuff. However, the boring data and campaign stuff are usually not done. We do the planning and mostly understand what traditional evangelism entails. We have the before, the during, and the follow up mastered through years of experience with evangelistic meetings. For digital, as discussed above, the requirements are basically the same. We have to get good at the process, the data and tracking, and the systems.
Here are my top 3 takeaways learned over the last decade of working with digital evangelism directly (as a church digital strategy team member) and indirectly (as a church digital strategy adviser):
Takeaway #1: Show proven results.
Your church’s online digital evangelism strategy needs to do more than just share good storytelling and receive engagement. It has to connect the dots, showing how one specific thing (such as a specific campaign) led people to Christ.
That means your digital evangelism has to be data driven. It needs to capture the data, track it, and report the facts and figures which prove that people became closer to God.
Not everyone that enters your “campaign” may be converted by the end of your campaign, but what if you could provide that person with tailored content that would allow them to be closer to a decision?
In Part 2, we will dive into how to set this up.
Takeaway #2: Remember: Ministry first.
If the Truth alone were sufficient to convince everyone, we could just leave Bibles laying around and our work would be done. But different people respond to different things, and so our mission is more challenging. And that’s the point—it’s a mission, a ministry. We need to remember that it is a long-haul proposition, not a bunch of cool, ‘flash in the pan’ things, and we’re done. We must keep at it, try new things, and develop a tailored strategy geared towards our ministry's specific audience.
Takeaway #3: Keep it prayered up.
Do we follow the Biblical model of pray—study—serve? We often get so carried away in the ‘serve’ part; I know I do. It’s natural because we are passionate about what we are doing. So, we forget the pray—study parts, forget about letting the Spirit lead us, adding God’s grace and power to our human work.
Not part of your church's budget?
No problem. Scale back to find things that work with the resources you have. Be patient and prayerful. Mindfully, keep connecting the dots. With God’s blessing, your dedication will pay off big time.
When it comes to evangelism, one of the best tools to use is text messaging.
Just to be clear, texting or SMS is “the act of sending short, alphanumeric communications between cell phones, pagers or other hand-held devices, as implemented by a wireless carrier.”
Top push back on texting - it’s impersonal.
If I was to get your number today and call you vs. sending you a text, which would you prefer and which are you more likely to respond to?
In fact, you are likely communicating with your team through some form of text. Perhaps text written in emails, on Slack or Twitter, but most likely, you are communicating through text messages using the default text app—no data required and pretty universal.
This is what Evangelist Wyatt Allen discovered at one of his local seminars (an evangelistic meeting) here in Houston. He was doing all the other steps like mailers, emails, proper registrations, and having a clear strategy. He was also making calls during his evangelistic series’ off-days.
He would call 100 people who signed up and get 10 people to pick up. Out of that 10, many fewer were really engaged with what he was saying. 90 ignored or didn’t answer the call and very very few followed up.
It was Day 3 of the seminar when Allen was speaking with me—the then assistant communications director at Houston Central Seventh-day Adventist Church—about strategy and logistics when the question came up: “How can we build relationships with our first-time attendees and get them coming back nightly?” I pointed Allen in the direction of a bulk, text-messaging platform I was building.
It wasn’t the first time Allen saw texting being used at one of his seminars. In fact, in a previous seminar, the local Pastor had used his cell phone to text the church members every day leading up to the event.
What he had seen didn’t register as a viable option to Allen considering the time and energy it would take to use a cell phone for members and guests. However, using a cloud-based solution for texting made sense as it scales personalized interactions and would give him more tools to communicate. Allen saw he could do it from anywhere, and anyone on his team could help him engage.
Here's what he had to say about his personal experience:
Allen reports that at the end of the Houston seminar, 70% of those who made a commitment to Jesus through baptism had communicated with him via texting. And when he went, he “left” the entire communication with the other guests and the contacts who got baptism with our local church. This created continuity—something that using just his cell phone would not have allowed.
Since the seminar, Allen has continued to use texting as his main form of communication at his other meetings. He reports that his results regarding people’s new commitments to Jesus have stayed consistent. Allen understands it is not the texting, per se, but his ability to minister in a more effective and connected way that has made the difference.
Allen told me that that his ability to use text to connect with everyone in a seminar or meeting was amazing. But it’s much more. Allen says,
“When all the personal responses come pouring in, well, that is beyond amazing! I can now connect with each attendee in a very personal way.”
Allen continues to use all tools available (mailers, emails, knocking on doors) but texting is a must for all his series. He says it’s a great technique for connecting and staying connected. He is amazed at how effective it is and how easy it is to include. Allen encourages every minister to use text. He says it is “a powerful digital communications tool because it is social, non-threatening, and allows the receiver to respond in his or her own time (no pressure).”
As he uses it personally to keep in touch with family and friends, Allen says that using it for ministry is actually a no-brainer...but not something that he had really considered or experienced until Houston.
I asked Allen what his top three bulk texting features are:
Allen explains, “I have my guests text HOPE to my local number. The texting system automatically asks for their name and email and opts them into my special group just for them. Then I send them all the updates and announcements, ask them questions, or just say ‘Hi’ (to start a conversation).”
“When I want to send a link to a page on my website, a video on YouTube, or just a special message, I have them text a unique keyword. For example, for my guests who are looking for good sermons, I have them text ‘PREACH’ to my local number and automatically they get a message with a link to AudioVerse.com, my favorite sermon storehouse. I have my prayer warriors text ‘PRAY’ to my number and they’ll automatically get a Bible verse and be subscribed to my prayer group, making it easy to send them each the new prayer requests that come in,” says Allen.
Allen told me, “I just love the fact that when I send a group text, I don’t have to worry about everybody getting everyone else’s follow-up texts—a constant thorn in my side with my phone texting app. When they respond, I’m the only one who sees it and I can personally engage with them.”
However, for Allen, it doesn’t stop there. “But I love so much more: I can send and receive pictures, emojis. The texting platform has a mobile app (for Apple and Android). I can tag groups to create another level of segmentation. I can answer the phone if they call my local number. I can do polls. The system is fast, simple and intuitive. Oh, and I’ve never had to wait long to get the help I’ve asked for.”
Every registrant, volunteer, and team member is entered into the bulk texting platform (phone number and name). This means that in just a few seconds, you can send all your guests a message. Equally, you can quickly connect via text with all the volunteers. Additionally, each guest, volunteer, and team member can text you at will.
Using texting during your event
During your evangelistic event:
How well does it work?
Churches consistently report that using texting enables a more effective, connected and personal ministry. For example, people who are too shy to ask in person can text in Bible questions. Also, people who did not get an answer due to lack of time can be followed-up with later. Another area is commitment to Jesus through baptism. Ministers say that a majority of the people who commit at the end of an evangelistic event had stayed in touch during the event via texting.
Full disclosure: Evangelist Wyatt Allen uses PastorsLine and has since invested in the company. However, these sentiments were captured before he got involved. PastorsLine is adventist-owned and operated by, and I am the creator.
However, you can implement the process discussed using any cloud-based text messaging solution of your choice that allows you to use a local number (not short-codes).
If cost is a factor, a good option to consider is something like Google voice. It won’t give you all the text communication tools that Allen uses, but you can potentially have a number that isn’t directly tied to your personal cell phone.
Overall, bulk texting is an ‘easy to include’ technique for connecting and staying connected. The power of this digital communications tool comes from its social, non-threatening characteristics and because it allows the receiver to respond in his or her own time without any pressure.