- Channel topics
- Finding faithHow people become Christians
- Effective communicationApproaches for biblical communication
- Bridge the gapMeeting people on the common ground of their interests & needs
- Bridging opportunitiesExamples and opportunities for using the Bridge Strategy
- Using cultureTypes of culture; understanding & using culture in evangelism
- Websites that workIssues for site planning, usability and promotion
- Problems in evangelismThings that stop us being effective
- Mission opportunitiesDigital evangelism & cross-cultural mission, mission & literature resources
- Writing wellHow to write effectively for the web or print media
A Communication Channel page
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Editorial policy for the SOON evangelistic paper
Our over-riding concern is to communicate in a contextualized relevant way. Contextualization is completely biblical, and does not imply any sort of compromise or watering-down of the gospel. It means that we present the good news in meaningful terms and language for the target reader. We bend over backwards to meet them on their ground and culture; we don’t demand that they should come across and meet us on ours. There are enough spiritual barriers to anyone understanding and responding to the Gospel, without us erecting several more.
It was E J Carnell, one of the greatest American apologists of the last century, who said that “relevance is not a substitute for the Gospel, but an entry point for it.” The early Salvation Army was brilliant at contextualization in the culture they found themselves. Catherine Booth said, “God forbid that I should ever teach any adaptation of the gospel. But I contend that we may serve it up in any sort of dish that will induce the people to partake of it.”
We also see it as essential to offer the gospel through needs-based – as a real answer to coping with life in today's world. (Matt 11:28)
Not a tractThere are two big differences between SOON and a tract:
- We are not limited by space to just one message or article. So we can follow a magazine-style and present a range of articles on different topics.
- SOON is a regular direct-mail publication, so anyone receiving it can write to get more copies for themselves (and to give to others). And for those wanting to learn more, there’s the offer of the postal Bible study course.
AppearanceWe try to make the design as appealing as possible within the constraints of only two colours. Photos, graphics, shading in pink, grey, or a combination of both to give brown, lively zany lettering, all these are intended to present an attractive modern appearance. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” There is very little to suggest that the paper contains Christian content at a first glance. We deliberately avoid Christian or “churchy” graphics – angels, churches, and stained-glass windows never appear! Article headlines are designed to be enticing and interesting, but usually quite deliberately contain no mention of Christian faith.
Learning from the bestThe Press are the experts in print communication – they have been doing it for several hundred years. They have learned the best ways to entice and retain readers, and present information in ways which are easily understood. We try to use proven journalistic methods as far as possible.
No preachingPotential readers are not like a captive audience in church. We try to avoid a preachy approach or gushing sentimentality. If readers feel patronised, they may stop reading after the first paragraph!
LanguageWe work within a vocabulary of about 1500 words of easy English. Words outside this range are usually displayed in bold, with a definition at the end of the article for those who need it. Christian idiom and religious jargon words are deliberately and ruthlessly removed. There are so many comfortable words which Christians use without thinking, yet which mean little to anyone else: ‘born again, repentance, faith, sin, salvation, saved’ and hundreds of others. We always attempt to express these concepts in other more simple and meaningful words. Even if we were producing a paper for native English readers, we would still exclude these words! It is, we feel, possible to explain the gospel and only use virtually no other Christian words than God, Jesus, Bible. When words get in the way is a valuable resource on using the right words in Christian communication.
We do not capitalise pronouns referring to God for the same reason that most modern Bible translations (and the original King Janes version) do not: it looks old-fashioned and ‘churchy’, and breaks up the reading flow of the sentence, especially for the second-language reader. We avoid the use of normal British idioms and also where possible ‘phrasal verbs’ (e.g. ‘come back’, ‘put up’). These are often very hard to understand.
Not for ChristiansWe never include any teaching material for Christians within the paper. To attempt to speak to two very different audiences would compromise the value of the evangelistic material. Immediately, non-Christian readers would feel excluded and out-of-place. It is vital to communicate to people who are at the bottom of the Engel Scale, or are at the bottom left-hand corner of the Gray Matrix – a very useful aid on understanding Christian communication.
TestimoniesPersonal testimonies are a key part of Christian communication. People are interested in people. And you can’t argue with a changed life! We normally have at least two testimonies per issue, and often additional quotes or letters which also testify to individual faith. But we never call them ‘testimonies’: this is a churchy religious word – definitely cringe-making and to be avoided. 'Story' or 'true story' is far more meaningful as well as being a neutral term with no religious baggage.
The majority of testimonies are from non-Western people, usually from our target areas of readership. We only use testimonies from British or American people where the personal experience is of general application, and does not include cultural references which would only be understood here. SOON readers often send us their own stories and we frequently use them. Other testimonies are obtained from published sources and adapted. We scan many publications and save anything that could be useful. Often however, testimonies have been written from a Christian point of view, for Christian readers, and are unusable in an evangelistic setting. They address issues in which only a Christian would have any interest, and completely miss out material with which a non-Christian can identify. The issue of creating testimonies to target non-Christians is discussed on this tutorial page: Angie’s Story.
We normally avoid mentioning in a testimony the previous religion (if any) of the writer. This avoids any implied criticism of another faith, and also makes the testimony have a wider application. People can feel very threatened by stories which blatantly target their religion, and in any case no one likes a turncoat!
Stories and proverbsWe use African and other proverbs, as a means of drawing out a Christian truth. We have just started using the same strategy with short parable stories, on the suggestion of a missionary in Ghana.
AIDS and health issuesThe percentage of people who are HIV+ in some African countries is staggering. There is no doubt that thousands of our readers particularly in East, Central and Southern Africa are already HIV+ and will be dead within five or ten years. And those who are not already infected are at risk.
General interest materialWe sometimes deliberately use material which has little or no spiritual content! It is there to enhance the value of the paper in a general way. For instance we've included amusing items on animals, as well as serious material on tree-planting and preparation for exams.
Media Cross-promotionWe want people to be exposed to the Gospel in every way possible. So in each issue we feature times and wavelengths for Christian radio in the non-western world. And we promote a range of websites that we think could help our readers.
It is exciting to see each issue unfold, from initial conception, to proof stage, to seeing 3+ tons of SOON sitting on pallets at our partner Christian Publicity Organisation. We praise God for the way features and photos arrive at just the right time and fit together into a unified whole. Pray that we will always be fresh, clear and effective in the way we communicate.