Principles of Evangelistic Work and Writings
By Victor Beshir
This lesson is an extension of the previous lesson. The previous lesson talked about writing to a small newspaper. This lesson presents “The Legacy of the Coptic Orthodox Church” an example of writing a brochure. However, this brochure, in addition to offer principles of evangelism writing, also offers other helpful evangelistic tools. Let’s examine what this brochure offers:
First: Evangelistic Tools:
1- What to tell others about the Coptic Orthodox Church?
2- How to use the church history as an evangelistic approach?
3- How to introduce the importance of Tradition to the non-Orthodox?
4- How to tell others that the Orthodox Church can fulfill their spiritual needs?
5- How the Orthodox Church stands out among other churches who claim to follow the bible?
6- Talk about the great contributions of the Coptic Orthodox Church to Christianity
7- Explain how the Orthodox Church still keeps the great treasures of the early church as it was established by Christ and His apostles without changes. It says clearly that this is the church Christ established and is still available until today.
8- Explain how the church kept not only the original pure faith but also the deep worship and spirituality of the early church.
9- It talks about the highlights of the “Legacy of the Coptic Orthodox Church.”
10- It mentions the high price that the church paid to keep the original faith and worship
11- It sheds light on the deep spirituality of the church
12- It talks about the proven faith of the church that moved the mountain in the tenth century
So, please don’t just read the brochure, but study it to learn from the above tools and how you can effectively use them in your evangelistic efforts.
In addition, it gives a practical example in writing evangelistic brochures. Careful analysis of the brochure will give you the essentials techniques in writing brochures or the evangelistic writings in general.
Second, Principles of Evangelistic Writings:
1- Clear Objective
Evangelistic writing should have a clear objective of attracting people to God and to His church. This can be translated into many smaller objectives depending on the writings. Once I wrote an article in a newspaper. A few months later, I met a lady who told me that she read my article and said to herself, “This is the church that I should join.” This is exactly the objective that I had in mind when I wrote that article. Frankly, this is my objective whenever I write about my church. I like to move the person not only to like my church but also to wish to join my church.
We need to have the same objective when we give a lecture about our church. Unfortunately, we tend to give historical information and theological background about our church, but rarely do we try to move people to like to join our church. This is the difference between scientific lectures and evangelistic lectures. In general, all our evangelistic activities should have a clear objective of attracting people to our church. Any evangelistic activity that lacks this obvious objective should not be considered an evangelistic activity, and we need to re-examine it.
When it comes to writing a brochure, my objective is to get the reader to like my church, think about it, and try to find it and join it.
2- Effective Invitation:
“Come and see (John 1:46),” this was the invitation of Philip to Nathanael in the past, and continues to work as our invitations to others today. Any evangelistic activity should have an effective invitation. For example, in the attached brochure, I included the following invitation:
“Dear friend, I invite you to visit a Coptic Orthodox Church to discover the hidden treasure of Christianity, to witness a heavenly worship that is as old as Christianity itself, and to touch a spirituality that would fill your entire life with complete inner peace and joy.”
As I mentioned the invitation should not be just an invitation but an effective one. Read again the above invitation to know what I mean by effective invitation. It is not only an invitation just to visit a Coptic Orthodox Church but it is also an invitation to discover the hidden treasure, to witness a heavenly worship. The invitation entices the person to come to enjoy something most people lack and long to have which is inner peace and joy.
An important aspect of evangelistic writings is to keep the readers’ attention. To achieve this objective, these writings use different techniques such as: use questions and answers, challenge the readers’ thinking, shake some basic ideas of the readers, and present shocking facts.
In addition to presenting attractive materials, these writings also use an attractive writing style, which is usually achieved by using short sentences with a careful selection of words. It also uses familiar words and avoids strange words and expressions. The writer should try to get the reader excited in order to continue on reading. So, every sentence attracts the reader to read the subsequent one, and every paragraph leads smoothly to the following one.
In writing brochures, you need to be brief and get to the point quickly, however, in very interesting method. Brochures are usually short, brief, and easy to read and understand.
4- Keep Reader in Mind
To win the reader, you need to keep the reader in mind. You think of the reader and what to tell the reader to keep him attracted. You ask yourself, what should I should write to take the reader away from things he/she prefers to do and to keep him/her focused on your writing. As a hungry person would approach a delicious meal, I’d like my reader to approach my writing.
To keep the reader in mind, you need to know about the readers’ interests, worries, hopes, needs, and his/her world of thoughts and ideas. You will also need to speak their language. I don’t mean speaking English or French, but I am referring to the common thoughts and practices of the readers. For example, in an age where people think of the “bottom line,” I need to present my writings in a way that shows the readers the bottom line in our life and how you can win not for a few years only but for eternity.
Keep the reader in mind means also know the readers abilities and limits in a way that keeps my writing within these boundaries. It also means that I need to know the readers’ small world they live in. If I am familiar with the thoughts and attitudes in universities in a certain country, I’d be able to write more effectively to students of these universities.
For example, if I know that the relativism is the major idea in USA universities and relativism is not only applied to science but also to ethics and beliefs, I can think of the fragile life the students experience since there is no solid reality. Using this knowledge I can write, attract, and influence many students because I keep them in mind.
People will not spend time on something that is not appealing to them, especially nowadays when people have numerous choices to choose from. Unless there is something in it for the person, the person will not get involved in it. Remember the reader asks, ‘what is in it for me?’ If you offer the reader something appealing, you will get not only the readers’ ears and eyes, but also the readers’ minds and hearts too.
Of course in church we don’t offer any materialistic benefits. But instead we offer peace, joy, fulfillment, spirituality, and victorious life over human weaknesses. You may not appreciate what we offer, but read about Americans who travel to India or to China searching for meaning of life or for sources of spirituality and you will appreciate what the church offers. Sometimes we don’t know how to reveal what we have in our church because we lack understanding of human deep need. Before writing or preaching, a person needs to get familiar with the humankind needs on the individual level and on community level. When you get familiar with these needs, you will discover how God offers fulfillment of these needs, and you will see how the church feeds these needs. Then when you write or preach or evangelize you can talk directly to the hearts and minds in a very appealing way.
If you go back to this brochure, you will find how the brochure speaks directly to the hearts and minds of the readers, touching the deep needs of the human soul. However, it touches one need at a time and don’t dwell on it. Then after mentioning some other facts, it goes back to address another need, and so on.
6- Answer the readers’ questions
The successful writings always read the mind of the readers and offer satisfactory answers to these questions. A good doctor knows the questions the patient may has in mind and voluntarily answers them. Patients would highly respect a doctor who answers their questions even before they ask them. Similarly, if you can answer the questions of the readers, you would reach the heart and minds of the readers.
Therefore, before talking to someone about God or about the church or before teaching in Sunday school or before writing evangelistic materials, you need to ask yourself an important question:
What kinds of questions may the reader have that I need to answer?
For example, in this brochure, the readers may have questions about the identity of this church or about its foundation or about its authentic faith or whether it is a biblical church or not. You have noticed that I answered all the above questions and more.
Of course, we still have a long way to go to create more writings that answer the different questions about our church. I encourage you to think about what kind of questions a visitor may have about our church, about our worship, or about our marriage ceremony or our funeral services. I encourage you to write a list of questions you have yourself of things you don’t understand and another list of things that others may not understand. I pray that we have people who would answer these questions in a series of brochures.
7- Well-Searched Materials
Presenting facts is an important tool of evangelistic writing. To gain peoples’ respect, you need to show them that you’re presenting facts based on a solid background of the subject you are writing about. However, you need to present them not in a scientific style that will sound foreign to the reader. The challenge is that you need to give the reader the impression that you’re knowledgeable of your topic without running the risk of using a scientific language that is hard to understand and not appealing.
Please go back to the brochure; you will see that it is full of well-researched information presented in a very attractive way that is easy to understand and be appreciated by many, if not all.
8- Sensitivity to others
You need to win all the readers’ minds and hearts. To reach this objective you have to be very sensitive in your writings or talking. Think for a minute about a Protestant person that comes to your church to find out about the spiritual treasure in your church and then in the church he listens to a sermon attacking his church. What would be the reaction of this person? Of course, it would not be a satisfactory one, and most likely he will leave and never come back to the church.
We need to learn to respect others even when we differ in opinions. We need to show love which translates into acceptance of the person. Evangelism sends invitation to all, no matter what background, skin color, gender, nationality, ideology, or religion. To send an invitation to me, please don’t insult me while you’re inviting me. Don’t attack my religion or my society or my background. You need to learn how to present facts without injuring the feelings of others. Talk about what you have in your church without attacking certain churches by names or religions by names.
Of course, when you study the comparative theology or the comparative religions, you will study in details the differences between religions and denominations. I encourage you to study these differences because you need to get familiar with them. When we talk to our preachers and Sunday school teachers or to our people, we need to fully explain the differences between these churches. However, when it comes to a person I am trying to attract to my church, I will not start by insulting his/her church and its beliefs. Sure, you can use questions and answers to let the person sees the great difference between the church he/she attends and follow and what you have. However, please do it with love and be very careful when it comes to choosing the words. Again present facts without getting into feelings. Above all, don’t make an argument comparing my church against his/her church, but instead use facts. For example, I say this is how the church baptized people in the bible and that what we continue to do until today because the Coptic Church has not changed the faith or worship from what it receives from Christ. Having said that to the person, I have not attacked his/her church but at the same time I made a very clear distinction as to how to baptize people and what churches follow this practice.
9- Contact info
It is important to end an article or a brochure or a lecture or any evangelistic activity with mentioning contact info. Leave names to contact, their e-mails or their telephone number. You do this to open the door for individual evangelism. You may say something like, ‘If you need more info or you have a question to ask, please contact this phone number or this e-mail.” You give people a safe way to contact. People will call to ask a question, but mostly will hesitate to call to ask to get baptized. Most of the time, people like to take their time to search and decide and therefore they like the safe idea of having someone to ask questions from time to time without committing to anything.
At the same time, you need to leave them with other resources to know more about the church. One good method is to leave a web page address or a book title.
If you write a local church brochure, in addition to what is mentioned above, please add the following to the brochure:
1- Map and directions to the church
2- Service schedule, especially those service that are open to the visitors and new comers.
3- Priests names, telephone numbers, and e-mails. Most people know the word “Pastor.” This is fine to start with. Later on the person will know not only the word “Priest,” but much more about the church and the service.
4- What the church offers for the family: Sunday school, summer bible study, summer camps, choir, missions, family conventions, counseling, or services for the poor.