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- Websites that workIssues for site planning, usability and promotion
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The Bridge Strategy
A way to reach millions
“Use what is dominant in a culture to change it very quickly. It is in your self-interest to find a way to be very tender.”
–Carved quotation outside Ulazdowski Castle Arts Centre, Warsaw
“Bait the hook according to what the fish likes, not what the fisherman likes.” –proverb
It is important to understand that the Web is a pull medium, unlike literature and radio which are linear ’push’ mediums. Generally speaking, people go online to search for information. The pages which relate to the subject of their search ’pull’ them in.
Most people are not searching for Christian material, and so of course will never find it. If they do, by chance, come across an obviously Christian page on a search engine listing when looking for a secular subject, they are unlikely to click on it. If they do, they probably will not stay. The majority of people are at a relatively low position of spiritual understanding on the Gray Matrix – a modification of the Engel Scale.
In any case, the overwhelming majority of Christian sites have been written for Christians, using Christian ‘insider’ language, jargon, and assumptions, and may be very hard for non-Christians to relate to, even if they do find such pages.
But what are most people searching for online? The things that interest them!
- Sex and relationships
- Advice on personal problems
- Local information
- Tourism ideas
- News-related things
- Famous people
- plus a million other things
The Bridge Strategy: "Be what they are searching for"Write pages on these secular subjects or felt needs and we can target any group of people. We can call this the ‘Bridge Strategy’. Others may use a different name (for instance ‘magnet pages’), but it means the same – identifying with the real interests of people. This does not mean that we make trick pages that are not really about the subject they claim to be. If we write a page about restoring VW cars, or breeding mice, or a favorite musician, the page must truly be ‘about’ that subject. It must be as good and informative as possible, maybe with many helpful links to other pages on the subject. Bridge pages must be written with integrity. They must be contextualized for their readers: the
Emlyn and the Far Pools is a fishing story which illustrates the challenge and opportunity that the Web provides us.
How to build a ‘bridge’There are several ways that you can draw people ‘across the bridge’ to pages which explain the Gospel. We can also call this a ‘layered approach’ – unwrapping a present contained in several covererings of paper:
a. Your testimonyWhatever sort of site you have, make a link to ‘meet the webmaster’ or ‘my story’. Here is a chance to share your testimony. (But don’t call it ‘testimony’ – that’s a Christian jargon word.) Introduce yourself first, where you live, what you like, etc. Then go on to explain how something happened to you which changed your whole view of life. “People are interested in people.” They always turn to the human-interest stories in newspapers first. Short audio or video clips of the person can also add interest to a testimony page.
- Angie’s Story – how to write testimonies for non-Christians
b. ‘Meaning of life’ linksOn any type of website, you can offer a link such as ‘What is the meaning of life?’ or ‘Finding real fulfillment’. These do not sound preachy or even Christian, yet show some sort of non-threatening ‘spirituality’ content. As well as leading to a sensitive explanation of the Gospel, there is also the opportunity to provide FAQ-type apologetics answers
c. Parable meaningsJesus used stories with a message as his main means of evangelistic communication. And he didn’t always explain the meaning – he left people to go away and think! Whatever the subject of a website, it is possible to write a page which brings out a parable or parallel from the main subject. For instance, a site about restoring VW cars can include a page which suggests that just as old cars need new engines, we need something new inside our lives. A site about breeding mice can include a page about how a mother mouse cares for her young, and this is the same as God’s care for people. There is an angle like this for almost any subject. Films, books and music lend themselves very well to this approach. They often contain meanings which the writers never intended.
A ‘bridge’ page should not ‘look’ Christian in terms of its language or graphics. The more apparently secular in its appearance, the better it will communicate with those with no Christian background. Like all pages, it should avoid jargon. It may make little mention of Christianity at all, allowing the links to other pages to progressively offer more material on the Gospel. The Gray Matrix helps us to understand how to communicate with people who have little knowledge or enthusiasm for the Gospel. We must learn how to become information architects.
The balanceIt is important to take care to get the balance right. Many of the evangelistic sites showcased in this Guide are using the Bridge Approach in a wise and sensitive way. Web evangelists may differ as to just how low-key the entry page of a Bridge site should be. “Wisdom is justified by all her children.” (Luke 7:35) But there is a big need for creative new ways of using the Bridge Strategy.
Biblical basisJesus told us to “go and preach the Gospel", not wait for people to come and hear it in our church buildings.
“It is altogether a mischievous thing that we should confine our preaching within walls. Our Lord, it is true, preached in the synagogues, but he often spake on the mountain side, or from a boat, or in the court of a house, or in the public thoroughfares. To him, an audience was the only necessity. He was a Fisher of souls of the true sort, and not like those who sit still in their houses, and expect the fish to come to them to be caught.” (Spurgeon).The Bridge Strategy is essentially the cyber equivalent of this ethos. Of course, it must be used without any element of trickery.
The Bridge Strategy is an identification with felt needs and common interests. Jesus’ person-to-person ministry almost always started from the position of felt needs.
Effective communication happens when there is an area of shared experience, clearly demonostrated in Wilbur Schramm’s biblical concept of overlapping interests.
Although the Gospel never changes, our means and strategies must do so. Although we cannot compare the strategies needed for today with those which worked 150 years ago, it is worth noting that Spurgeon used something very similar to the Bridge approach. For instance, speaking at what would now be called a Businessman’s Breakfast in Aberdeen, he spoke on “Success in Life", first in secular affairs and then in spiritual life. Indeed, all his writings were embedded with secular illustrations and humor.
Rick Warren speaks of the bridge principle in relation to sermon writing.
- Many of these evangelistic pages use the Bridge Strategy.
- This case study of a women’s outreach site demonstrates wise use of the Bridge Strategy.
- An integrated web outreach in Poland is using this strategy very effectively.
‘Worthy witness’ – no tricksThe Bridge Approach must not, of course, use any form of deception or trickery, which would in any case be counter-productive. We can certainly surprise visitors by an unusual angle, intrigue them, but at all times do it with love and integrity.
Not the only wayFor people who are already seeking more of God, of course a Bridge site is not necessary! But there are already large numbers of excellent web pages available which will help a seeker, whereas there are very few sites aiming to reach people ‘further back’.
There are also excellent evangelistic sites which do not primarily use the Bridge Strategy, but have other strategies to draw people to them. For instance, Power to Change is involved in integrated advertising campaigns through other media. It is also ideal for Christians with personal Bridge pages to link to as a core presentation of the Gospel.
related pages within the Bridge the gap & Using culture menu links
recommended books on reaching outsiders, including free downloads
valuable online videos about web ministry