Written by Hannah Trail
Growing up, my father was a pastor, and my family including most of my extended relatives were active, passionate Christians. Because of this upbringing, I had a lot of information floating around in my head about this religion, but until I was older and in university I wasn’t a Christian myself.
Sure, I went to church every Sunday, and sure I sang in almost every service, but that was the extent of my faith. To be perfectly honest, when compared to what I was taking in from going to church and hearing my family talk about God and the Bible, I was getting ten times the information from outside sources. From what those outside sources were telling me about religion, I had no interest in being a part it.
Later, when talking to non-Christian friends of mine, I was surprised that despite the information about Christianity they had read or heard or seen, they had even less knowledge about God than I did growing up.
As young people, I think we all understand the opportunities that technology grants us in terms of learning and discovering for ourselves. I don’t think we are ungrateful or ignorant of that at all. But with the sheer amount of information we read online, I do think that we overestimate the amount of knowledge we have on a lot of subjects, including Christianity and other religions.
In Western culture—at least what I’ve been exposed to—everyone is familiar with the concept of Christianity. The rise of technology and the internet have led to a huge availability of information for most people, and when looking back at Scripture and how evangelists like Paul travelled constantly and wrote letters upon letters which were successful in spreading the gospel, one would think that these new tools would make ministry that much easier for the modern Christian.
To be honest, though, it seems like it’s having the opposite effect. As someone who has grown up alongside modern internet and tech, I have seen and been a part of this phenomenon.
In the time of Paul’s evangelism, every piece of news and every social or religious movement was spread almost entirely through word of mouth. Even the length and number of letters written by early Christian missionaries was really abnormal at the time. As we all know, word spreads quickly and can easily be distorted, but that speed and lack of reliability is heightened when we bring the internet into play. Anyone can say anything online, and it can reach any number of people around the globe almost instantly, which is both exciting and terrifying for those concerned with truth.
From my own experience, most of Western evangelism ignores this issue even though it should be a very prominent consideration. Adult Christians that I knew while growing up (not to discredit their faith or intentions) always assumed that because my dad is a pastor, I had a strong faith and no misconceptions about Christian theology, which couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
In the same way, we still often assume that because all the knowledge necessary to understand our faith is freely available to most Westerners, it is simple for them to sift through all the information surrounding it.
I’m still young, and even younger in my faith, and I have a lot of growing and learning still to do. But I know enough to beg you, when ministering to non-Christians or even when speaking with members of the church, not to assume anything about what they know or where they stand.
It can make a huge difference if you simply ask, before saying anything else, what they already know and what they think of it. Without putting everything on the table right away, there could be something huge slipping through the cracks.
Paul and other early evangelists had a lot of pseudo-Christian ideas to combat, but we cannot forget that with the rise of technology and the internet we have even more today, and the first steps to fighting them come from recognizing and acknowledging them.