A recent article in New Scientist made me think. It reports research suggesting that autistic spectrum teens appear to be 90% less likely to believe in God.
More encouragingly, there is also other research indicating that children are born with an innate belief in God, as summed up in a new book by Dr Justin Barrett: Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief.
Assuming that the autism research study is valid, it merely describes a situation no different to that within many other demographics, where perhaps an alternative model of evangelism would have been much more fruitful. There are many segments of society with far fewer Jesus-followers than the already low overall percentage found in most parts of the West, eg. poor white inner-city residents.
And it was often, if not quite always, thus. For example, the incredible impact of the Salvation Army on 19th-century inner cities is a story not often heard today. It created a strategic mix of social reform and meeting felt needs, alongside clear gospel proclamation.
Digital media are especially valuable in building relationships with varied people within specific demographic groups, if only we would use the Web this way. I’d love to see an appropriate outreach site for Hells Angel bikers, for instance. Or material that really engages with New Age spirituality. There is a vast need for contextualized digital outreach within countries such as India, Pakistan or Japan.
“You never know till you try…”
These situations don’t need yet more ‘one size fits all’ formulaic gospel presentations. “You never know till you try to reach them how accessible men are; but you must approach each man by the right door,” said Henry Ward Beecher. We can connect with varied social and interest groups using the Bridge Strategy or by meeting felt needs.
Frank Viola considers the same question in Rethinking How We Present The Gospel.
How does this resonate with you? Please add your comments below.