Christendom has compartmentalized the proclamation of the gospel way too much. To the many, there are different “types” of evangelism. And by types they may use categories like Lifestyle Evangelism, Friendship Evangelism, Old Folks Evangelism, Street Evangelism, and so on and so on and so on! The purpose of this article will not allow me to elaborate on how unbiblical these compartmentalizations are. And perhaps I will address that in another article. But, I want to address a phenomenal evangelistic opportunity that most internet users miss, and perhaps think is too corny or humorous to even consider. And it starts with a little symbol known as the hashtag (#).
Before I explain the utility of this this very important symbol, we must first understand something that linguists call semantics and pragmatics. Semantics studies the meaning of words, and pragmatics studies how meaning is affected in any given context. In one example of how this works, let’s examine our article title. Is the word “hashtag” a verb in which you are commanded or asked to hashtag the word “evangelism” or is it a noun representation of “#evangelism”? Well, the context of how, where, why, etc., will determine its meaning. On the internet such a representation is ripe with semantical data that gives readers an indication of what you may be talking about on a deeper level. Here is another example of a mock Twitter or Facebook post:
“I really wish I could find a way to get laborers to go out and work with me.”
Now, unless you know this person, and perhaps the context, you may be lost to what exactly this person is getting at. But if you integrate the hashtag, the meaning of this post will enlighten the reader:
“I really wish I could find a way to get laborers to go out and work with me.” #evangelism
Aha! We see clearly now (granted people know what evangelism means). But semantical data isn’t the evangelistic opportunity that I spoke about above (although it still may be helpful). When you use words with hashtags in them, you are inputting data into a pool with everyone who might be using those same hashtags. For example, #Ferguson #BillCosby, #Ebola, or #ISIS are all hashtags that will not only connect computational linguistic data together, but anyone who is anyone posting about this subject matter, or at least uses the same hashtag, will show up in the feed when the tag is clicked on or is searched for in almost any search box. In plain English, the gospel has another open door to reach those who are reading these trending hashtags! Here is a scenario for you.
Let’s say a man by the name of Geraldo is on Twitter and is upset about the whole situation with Ferguson. In one column of his Twitter page, there are trending hashtags that show what kind of subjects are floating around Twitter. Since Geraldo is curious, he clicks on one of those links and sees post after post of hatred, racism, and popular media propaganda concerning the Ferguson riots. But then he sees a post that says, “No such thing as racism when you believe the gospel. #Ferguson.” This post also has a link to a website or video that delivers the gospel in a biblical fashion. Geraldo has the potential to go to that page and hear or read the gospel for himself and Lord willing, become born again! The hashtag is not merely a symbol to organize and collect data, but can be used as digital gospel tract! See another example below.
Imagine if every professing Christian that was an internet user adopted this practice whenever there was a huge media event. Imagine how many you can reach with the gospel by simply adding biblical links, bible verses, or gospel centered comments to hashtags that would allow others, who don’t know Christ, to see them. As long as you make your post public on Facebook and Twitter (or any other social media), and your blog or website has these hashtags, the data will be discoverable to others! They can be found on search engines like Bing and Google too. Although we hear about teenagers using hashtags in everyday speech, and comedians making fun of the “over use” of hashtags, one thing that internet linguists know (and so does businesses and government) is that hashtags provide an enormous amount of linguistic data, and it makes it easier to find! #Cool
If you are not convinced about the enormous opportunity we have to spread the gospel through the use of hashtags, next time you see one, just click on it to see what comes up. And when you are scrolling through all the garbage that people are saying about any particular subject, I implore you to ask yourself if you think you can add something to that wall of garbage that will potentially save someone’s soul? If you are a believer, I pray that your answer is a resounding YES!!! And I exhort you to do so! A little bit of advice though. Don’t add too many hashtags. One or two will prompt others to possibly click on it. But if you are just trying to get your evangelistic post into the pool, then it really doesn’t matter how many hashtags you use. Your post will be added to each particular category that hashtag is found. So what are you waiting for? Go and hashtag the gospel! #MakeDisciples #GreatCommission