Marketers and entrepreneurs might help expanding and clarify this post, along with others as these are thoughts in the making…

I am coining the terms “permission evangelism” and “participation evangelism“. So from now on – if you use those terms – please credit me 🙂

Old style marketing has been called “interruption marketing” or “interruptive marketing“. This is unsolicited, impersonal,… It is about trying to catch a person’s attention through cold calling, a television advertisement, newspaper ad, a booth at a show,… I understand the term was coined by Seth Godin. Many a graph illustrates the result – many marketers battling to get a potential buyer’s attention, and ultimately numbing the customer who tunes out of all the advertising.

The distinction is somewhat fuzzy, but newer style marketing tends to be “permission marketing” or “participation marketing“. This is much more about hospitality, about the person anticipating the approach which is personal and welcomed. It is much more about a dialogue initiated by the potential buyer (or after a much more discrete “interruption”). It is unlike a television advertisement which interrupts a person’s experience to (regularly) share information in which they have no interest. Interruptive marketing is a modern style of marketing which requires little or no participation with the person being marketed to. Permission marketing is a post-modern style, regularly involving social media and requiring personal participation along with the “product”.

Now translate this into evangelism. Old style marketing parallels evangelism as the street-corner, bible-bashing approach, which interrupts people, hands them a tract, uses a “one size fits all” approach. It first hopes to create the sense of need which can then be fulfilled by the rest of the message. In our post-modern, multi-faith environment, of course, like old style marketing, the potential convert’s attention is ultimately numbed and tunes out.

Contemporary (post-modern) “permission evangelism” or “participation evangelism” is much more about a relationship in which a person’s real need is discovered and the gospel is found to be “Good News” for their real need.

Churches, it seems to me, are so often empty of a whole section of society, or a whole band of age-groups, because no one is actually finding out what their real needs are. They certainly have real values, meaning, spiritual needs. Let’s go out and find out what they actually are – rather than assuming what they are and telling them what they are. Do we not trust that the gospel addresses the needs that they will present us with?

The distinctions of the two types above may be more blurry than here delineated. This may be an oversimplification. The comments box is open for your clarifications.

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