Technology is a wonderful thing. It has not only improved our way of life, but also made things easier for us. The automobile and airplane helped us stay in touch with people far away. The internet and personal computer helped some of us stay home to work and spend more time with our families. Within evangelism, advances in technology have both helped, and hurt the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the areas of helping, the internet has been a key figure in exposing truth and information on cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormons) which has been concealed for generations. We are able to network with others, share information through email, blogs, and chatroom’s. But what about the negative aspects on how changes in technology have hurt evangelistic efforts within the scope of Christianity and in our individual fellowships.
One such invention that has hurt evangelism efforts was the evolution of gas station pumps to what we have today. Now you may be wondering how a gas pump can hurt evangelism. Well, gas pumps have been around for a long time. Created in 1898, they quickly became an American Icon. They were another place where guys can be guys other than the barber shop. Humans have not changed in this aspect, where humans have a “third place” to go (first and second being home and work). For many men, this third place was at the gas station. Where guys got dirty, talked about engines, racing, and the smell of gas. At these stations you didn’t buy gasoline from Mobil or Exxon, but you bought it from Tony or Bill. You bought it from people.
Between 1933 and 1970 things changed a bit. Gas stations became Service Stations, where not only did you buy gas, but your oil was checked, windshield washed, and air in tires topped off. Even though it was quick, and less time to talk, it was still personal. You as an employee knew your customers and they knew you. It was easy to build relationships, and you still bought gas from a person. Combined with auto repair, you now had a favorite mechanic who you knew by name and spoke with frequently.
In the 1980’s, self-service was mainstream in most states. Even though you pumped your own gas, you still payed someone to take your cash or credit card. At this point the level of service changed dramatically to none. If you wanted all those amenities you had at full-service stations, you had to do it yourself. Air for your tires wasn’t even free at some stations.
The 1990’s to today basically destroyed all hope of having conversations about faith and witnessing opportunities between attendants and customers. Bullet proof glass was a new conversation killer sliding a card through the slot and talking through a microphone two feet away which sounded worse than NASA talking to Neil Armstrong on the moon. In this new millennium all transactions are done electronically and no need for anyone to take your money. Attendant-less gas stations where you are lucky to find water and a brush to clean your windshield. My point is that the more advanced technology gets, the less face-to-face human interaction there will be.
But this is how evangelism is effected in this one area. We are seeing less and less in attendance Sundays because more and more don’t want to socially interact with the rest of the flock and rather have the service pumped into their phone though a live video feed. It is impossible to give a hug, wipe a tear, or disciple a new believer through the internet. To console a person dying of cancer, counsel a married couple on the brink of divorce, or help the hungry through a video chat is cold and heartless. Because people are moving farther from face-to-face interaction and more closer to social media people are being programmed to not only hate talking to people, but are downright scared of it. No wonder why the majority of Christians are scared to and honestly, refuse to, share their faith. Either people fear conversation, or are apathetic to it. The two major evangelism killers of all time.
So, where can we start to make changes in the right direction. First, parents need to set good examples to their children and teens. Raise them to go to church, be sociable with ALL members in the body and not just Youth Group. Adults need to cross those boundaries with kids and listen to the younger members. Get to know them, their struggles, and lend some good wholesome advice. The leadership, especially the Pastor, needs to promote evangelism and not only talk about it, but go and do it. Unfortunately in most cases, the sheep won’t seek and save the lost if they don’t see the shepherd doing it first. Do you have an Evangelist to teach others how to share their faith (Ephesians 4:11)? If you don’t I am willing to help where there is a need, and can offer my services to not only teach your members how, but raise up an Evangelist in your church to continue the fight when I depart.
So, the next time you swipe your card at the pump, give a friendly hello to the person at the car next to you. Smile towards the person at the self checkout. At your favorite coffee shop, close the laptop and have a conversation with the person next to you. Start another paradigm shift in the right direction. Share the gospel with the lost. Encourage the saved. You’ll be glad you did.