Innovating Evangelistic Content

Larry WitzelBasic Marketing Principles, Evangelism Practices, Marketing Practices

When it comes to the Seven Building Blocks of Evangelism, the one that historically has had the most ongoing innovation is Content. Evangelists and pastors routinely create new sermon series and Bible study guides that are more relevant to each new generation and various cultural groups. Today, we need another burst of that innovation.

Present Truth

Over the last four months, a seismic shift in society has changed the public conversation. There is a need right now for content that is truly Present Truth, speaking to the public health crisis, the resulting economic calamity, and the social unrest that has swept the nation. Content developed just six months ago is already missing critical components to the message that might reduce its effectiveness.

Interest in Bible prophecy may be the highest it’s been in a generation. Since COVID-19 struck, searches in North America for End Times, Book of Revelation, and End of the World have seen marked increases, and searches for the term Second Coming have spiked to their highest level in over a decade, more than 4x higher than normal.

Whatever content you use for evangelism, it should speak to this interest. In our experience, no offer has been more effective in motivating people in your community to come to meetings at your church than Bible prophecy. And in the present environment, we believe this will be even more true.

So whatever you do for content for evangelistic meetings this fall, it needs to be new and relevant to the times we’re currently living in, and speak to the interest of this moment.

Your Content: Live or Pre-recorded

For online evangelistic meetings and online bridge events, if you are presenting your own content you have two options: preach it live or pre-recorded. If you’re doing your own content, it does need to feel like a full meeting, not like someone sitting in front of a webcam on a Zoom call. That works for Bible studies, but not for meetings. It needs to feel like a bigger deal. When live or pre-recorded, you’ll need a solid A/V team and the technology to do it well.

Using Content Online

When you are sharing your own content online, there is are two shifts you need to make.

First, find ways to break up the presentation and engage the participants. With in-person meetings, participants might check out mentally, but they are unlikely to get up and walk out. With online meetings, however, the physical and social barrier to “walking out” is minimal: the guest just closes the laptop lid.

Because of this, you have to work harder to maintain engagement. Shorter presentations are better. And you can use polls and other methods to invite interaction with the audience.

Second, talk to the camera. You are not preaching to a group of people in a church or auditorium. You are talking to a collection of individuals, each watching on a screen. For them to get the sense that you are talking to each one personally, you need to look them in the eye. And that means looking directly at the camera.

TV personalities do this by using a teleprompter, which you can set up yourself with an iPad app and other equipment costing under $100. But Myckal Morehouse, a pastor in the Oregon Conference, recently did something similar with just a large TV. He moved the camera back 25 feet with a zoom lens, then put the TV right under the lens. At that distance, he could read off the TV and it looked like he was looking directly at the camera. (Watch my full interview with Pastor Morehouse about his experience holding online evangelistic meetings during COVID-19.)

Someone Else’s Content

Alternatively, you can use someone else’s video content for the presentations (as long as you have permission to use it for this purpose). You can act as the host on a Zoom meeting or drive them directly to the content without having to run any technology. If you run it through Zoom you can cut to yourself before and after the video to engage the visitors and discuss what you just saw.

Again, you’ll want to look for recent, relevant videos.

We are currently compiling a list of other people’s content available for online evangelistic meetings and bridge events for this fall. We’ll post this as soon as it’s available.

As one of the key building blocks of evangelism, the Content is crucial to success. For best results, whether you preach your own series live, preach it pre-recorded, or use someone else’s content, make sure it speaks to the needs and interests of this moment.