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Principles of Effective Communications

By Dick Innes, author of the best seller, I Hate Witnessing—A Handbook for Effective Christian Communications with over 100,000 copies in print.

For effective and dynamic means for communicating the gospel and Christian message across the street and around the world, check the following principles for effective communication:

1. The Power of the Internet
2. Opening Closed Minds
3. Process Evangelism
4. The Spiritual Decision Scale
5. To Effectively Communicate to Unchurched Friends and Contacts
6. Audio of mini-seminar on "I Hate Witnessing" by Dick Innes
7. "Needs Based Evangelism" and "Jesus, the Communicator"

1. The Power of the Internet

Felt needs: the key to opening closed minds.

Felt Needs:
Key to opening closed minds

In the 1450s when Johann Gutenberg, a German from Mainz, invented movable type to print the Bible, he introduced one of the most important technical advances in history. His invention "transformed education, learning, evangelism and communication. It laid the foundations for the Renaissance, the arts, sciences, and the world as we know it today."1

Today, however, the Internet is creating a communications revolution of far greater and more immediate impact. People worldwide can be reached 24-7-365 with any message anyone cares to send—either for good or bad.


The only country in the world that bans the use of the Internet is North Korea. China alone was expected to have 100 million users less than two years ago. ACTS International is only a small organization with two staff members in our North American office and in the last quarter viewers from more than 125 countries that we know about. Plus, in the past six months ACTS has received more than 2800 salvation and re-commitment to Jesus Christ responses from 109 countries.

Perhaps God has given today's church the greatest resources, the greatest training, the most powerful technology, and the most effective means of communication ever in order to reach the ends of the earth with the gospel in preparation for the Lord's return. And even if the Lord doesn't return in our generation, we only have our generation to reach our generation.

While businesses, spammers, and pornographers are taking the fullest possible advantage of the world wide web to "sell their wares" the average church web site is designed to communicate to it's members and fellow Christians in christianeze—language that is mostly understood only by Christians—as are 90% plus of the books in the average Christian bookstore.

2. Opening Closed Minds

Churches, organizations, and individual Christians are in a prime position to evangelize the world as never before. But to effectively communicate the gospel (or any other message), it is imperative that we understand the fundamental principles of effective communication.

Scratch 'em where they itch: To put it in a word, to effectively communicate to people we need to "scratch 'em where they itch." That is, we need to reach people at their point of felt need in language they understand. People today are continually bombarded with endless messages via radio, TV, bill boards, news papers, E-mails, the Internet, and so on. However, the only messages they attend to are those that speak directly to their felt or perceived needs and interests. All other messages are filtered out.

Even a casual reading of the gospels reveals that this is the way Jesus communicated his messages. He always addressed people at their point of need: "Do you want to be made well?" he asked the sick. "Come down out of your tree," he said to Zacchaeus, the social outcast, "I'm coming home to dinner with you." "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked others.

Meeting people at their point of felt need is the most powerful and effective means of communication. In fact, it is the key to opening closed minds. In all communication it is imperative to meet people where they are, not where we are or where we expect or presume them to be. And then, of course, it is also crucial that we minister to the real needs of readers and not "Christianize complexes" by giving over-simplistic solutions to many of life's complex problems. To be effective communicators of the gospel we not only need to understand sound Biblical theology, but like Jesus, we also need to understand people and their total needs—physical, emotional, and social as well as spiritual. Remember, too, that felt needs ultimately lead to real needs.

Avoid christianese: As Nicodemus was confused when Jesus told him that he needed to be born again, if we use such terms, it is important that we explain what they mean. For example, what does the question, "Are you saved?" mean to the non-christian? Think too of terms such as sanctification, the Holy Ghost, redemption, regeneration, and even repentance—terms that are not only totally misunderstood by non-Christians but can be a real turn-off. Always strive to communicate in non-churchy language.

3. Process Evangelism

Realize, too, that evangelism is a process, not an event. Most people who become Christians rarely make that decision the first time they hear about Jesus and what he has done for them. Physical birth is a nine-month gestation process. Spiritual birth may happen quickly but more often than not it is a much longer period of gestation—even years for some people. This is why it is imperative that we "keep on sowing our seed."2 Or as the Apostle Paul said, "It is God himself, in his mercy, who has given us this wonderful work [of telling his Good News to others], and so we never give up."3

4. The Spiritual Decision Scale4

+8   Continued growth, maturity, and service
+7   Continued growth, maturity, and service
+6   Discipleship and service
+5   Exhibiting the fruits and gifts of the Spirit and service
+4   Christian maturity and service
+3   Christian growth and service
+2   Fellowship in the church
+1   Post-decision evaluation
  0   A person's point of conversion or new birth
-1   Repentance and faith in Christ
-2   Decision to act
-3   Personal problem/need recognition
-4   Understanding of the gospel
-5   Increased understanding of the gospel
-6   Some understanding of the gospel
-7   Introduction to the gospel
-8   Sense of a Supreme Being but no understanding of the gospel

Arriving at Christian faith is a process that takes time—a process that is activated by a combination of many events such as the influence of Christian parents, a friend, teacher, youth leader, a sermon, a book, a piece of literature, an e-mail, blog message,or Internet message, and so on.

Communication specialist, Dr. Jim Engel, has illustrated this spiritual decision process illustrated in the graph above. At -8 a person has a believe in a "Supreme Being" but has no effective understanding of the gospel. At zero he/she makes his or her commitment to Christ. The plus side of the scale represents Christian growth and service.

In evangelism, as in all major life changes, people change slowly. As a general rule (to which there are always exceptions) to move a person from -8 to -7 and so on takes many events, each of which is a vital part of the evangelism process as moving a person from 1 to zero his/her point of conversion.

People are not ready for the "John 3:16" message until they are where Nicodemus was, at -3. It can take months or years of continual sowing to bring a person to this place. To "Push" people too quickly into making a decision can have a boomerang effect and drive them farther from the cause of Christ. It can cause spiritual still birth.4

Furthermore, for a continual harvest, continual sowing is essential. In selling it takes an average of seven calls to make a sale. How much more is required to change the total direction of a person's life? This is why effective evangelism needs to be treated as a process, not just a single event.

5. To Communicate to Unchurched Friends and Contacts

To communicate to unchurched friends and contacts it is absolutely essential to send them articles that speak to their felt needs and interests. This is the way that Jesus always gained a hearing from others; that is, he was constantly reaching out to meet the felt needs of his hearers. He fed the hungry and to the sick he said, "Do you want to be made well?"

ACTS articles in addressing people's felt needs also include the following:

Effective Pre-evangelism:To help readers (who have little, if any, effective understanding of the gospel) progress on the Spiritual Decision Scale from -8 to -3 to where they are ready for a direct gospel message, it helps to read articles that speak to their every day issues. That is, they need to read articles that address the needs they feel—articles that have a Christian application that is based on sound biblical principles. ACTS articles do this.

Via the Internet: Click on any of the following links (in blue) to see articles that address readers' felt needs and apply the Christian message at various levels on the Spiritual Decision Scale. See articles on love, marriage, hope, forgiveness, heaven, divorce, life after death, grief recovery, taming anger, where is God, how to know and find peace with God and more.... Any or all of these articles and more are available for adding to your web site.

Via E-mail: Solomon wrote, "If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done. Keep on sowing your seed, for you never know which will grow—perhaps it all will." ACTS Daily Encounter, now going to 380,000+ subscribers worldwide, is an excellent example of a very effective means for continually sowing the seed of the gospel. This too is written to address the issues of life—the felt needs of readers—and reaches people at all points on the Spiritual Decision Scale. Daily Encounter can also blend into your web site giving your readers a practical, uplifting and helpful e-mail inspirational message every weekday of the year.

Forwarding suitable copies of Daily Encounter and encouraging friends and family to subscribe is another very effective way to reach people for Christ as Daily Encounter has become one of our most effective tools of evangelism.

Click HERE for an example of a Daily Encounter that received many salvation and re-commitment to Christ responses. Here's another very effective one.

6. "I Hate Witnessing" FREE AUDIO Mini-Seminar

"I Hate Witnessing" audio is a condensed version of Dick Innes's seminar based on the bestseller book with the same title. It is obviously a tongue-in-cheek title and shares the latest principles for the effective communication of any message in general and the Christian message in particular. It is shared in an easy to understand manner and is sprinkled with humor.

Click HERE for the audio.

Books authored by ACTS Director, D. Innes

Books by D. Innes, Ddirector of ACTS International.
To read more about, and purchase copies Click HERE

1. Tony Whittaker, Web Evangelism Bulletin
2. Ecclesiastes 11:4,6(TLB).
3. 2 Corinthians 4:1 (TLB).
4. Adapted from the Engel scale as seen in I Hate Witnessing
    by Dick Innes.
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