Whenever Christian websites like The Christian Post or Charisma News post my articles on leadership or media, I usually get criticism from some Christians who wonder if I’m even a believer. Responses like “You don’t need leadership principles, all you need is the Word of God.” Or, “Talking about sharing our faith through the media is ridiculous. It’s ungodly to evangelize through a channel owned by nonbelievers.” On and on. There are plenty of “armchair experts” out there who are more than happy to criticize (usually anonymously.) But knowing your audience matters, and the “843 Acres” online devotional had some interesting thoughts on that issue:
“Know your audience” is not just the key to successful startups and effective communications, it’s also the key to compelling gospel presentations. Matthew, knowing that his audience was primarily Jewish, emphasized how Jesus fulfilled the Hebrew Scriptures. Greeks and Gentiles would’ve turned to Mark, who translates some words into Latin and didn’t assume that they knew Jewish customs.
When Paul visited new cities, he frequently went to synagogues and reasoned from the Hebrew Scriptures with the Jewish intelligentsia. In Athens, however, he also went to Areopagus, the highest court in the land. Here, he didn’t reason from the Hebrew Scriptures because his audience wouldn’t have known its prophecies. Instead, he took what they did know–their own poets and philosophers–and showed how Jesus fulfilled their longings, too: “I found also an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you … as even your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.”
Today, our cities look like Athens–most of our neighbors are not familiar with the Jewish Scriptures. They are, however, familiar with Harry Potter, sports, money, The Hunger Games, celebrity personas, movies, The Wall Street Journal, etc. How familiar are we with the language of our culture? Have we walked around our cities, as Paul walked around Athens, weeping and discerning what has captured the affections of our neighbors?
lt has never been enough to simply “preach the gospel” while ignoring the context and background of your audience. Think about it – what are the unique pathways that will help your target audience understand your message more effectively?
A little consideration of that question will make a huge difference in your results.