One of my favorite blogs is that of Seth Godin, a master marketer who understands how ideas and concepts spread in our culture as well as anybody. I have no idea of his faith orientation; his writing is for business people. But his books and blog posts are a gold mine for developing an effective missional strategy. He always sparks me to think better and more sharply about how we spread the gospel message.
Consider this principle. Seth asserts that in our day, the best way to market a product is not so much with video advertising or large scale mass product placement. He writes,
Find ten people. Ten people who trust you/respect you/need you/listen to you…
Those ten people need what you have to sell, or want it. And if they love it, you win. If they love it, they’ll each find you ten more people (or a hundred or a thousand or, perhaps, just three). Repeat.
….Your idea spreads. Your business grows. Not as fast as you want, but faster than you could ever imagine.
This approach changes the posture and timing of everything you do.
Now, what if what we want to pass on to those friends is not an improved widget, a new car or a beach condo. What if what you want to pass on to your friends is the most important message of all—the good news of Jesus that transforms lives and eternal destinies.
For years, Southern Baptists have relied on the next big evangelism program or activity to reach people outside the faith. We’re getting ready to do it again with the GPS emphasis (God’s Plan for Sharing. Really. Aren’t we clever? That, or increasingly cheesy). There will be coordinated ads and big events and suggested sermons and outreach days and the whole deal.
Now, I know that is because we are concerned over the increasing drop in baptisms. But our own research people, led by Ed Stetzer, are telling us that this generation of young people outside the faith is open to a personal conversation about the faith. As a matter of fact, “almost 90% of unchurched 20-29 year-olds said they would be willing to listen if someone wanted to tell them about Christianity.” (Stetzer, Lost & Found, p. 65)
Back to Godin: “You can no longer market to the anonymous masses. They’re not anonymous and they’re not masses. You can only market to people who are willing participants. Like this group of ten.” In other words, we simply have to find a way to talk personally with people outside our church and faith circles. But first, they have to ‘trust/ respect/listen” to us. Which means we have to be in their world.
The key to our mission is increasingly less organizational and more personal. It is back to the roots, more organic.
“Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person…always be prepared to answer anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet with gentleness and respect.” .(Col. 4:5-6, 1 Peter 3:15-16)
First, find your ten. Build the relationships. Start talking gospel. Watch it spread. Repeat.