How Copywriting Made Me a Better Evangelist

Because of some of the jobs I’ve had over the past couple years, I’ve learned quite a bit about copywriting.

“Copy” refers to the words used on web pages, in ads, on promotional materials, etc. Copywriting is the art of writing copy that sells a product or service and convinces prospective customers to take action.

It surprised me to realize that a lot of the best practices in copywriting are really instructive when it comes to evangelism, but not in a creepy way.

Wait, like sleazy salespeople?

This realization took awhile, though. I used to think of copywriting as kind of a slimy line of work. In my mind, I pictured a self-absorbed genius writing copy to manipulate people into buying worthless stuff.

Of course, copywriting can be done this way, and there are lots of examples of people using shady techniques to manipulate people.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Good, honest copywriting is mainly about clear communication. Because of this, what I learned was that good, clear, compelling copywriting can actually be an act of love.

Here’s what I mean.

Good copywriters know their product

Good copywriters have a very thorough understanding of the product or service they are selling. They need to be able to describe the benefits in detail.

The best copywriters are those who actually use the product of service because they truly believe in it.

When you’re truly passionate about something, it’s easy to talk about it. To everyone. In great detail!

We do this every day, don’t we? When we experience something we really like, it’s natural and easy for us to recommend it to others.

Good evangelists know the (big) gospel

Similarly, a good evangelist is someone who actually knows and believes the gospel. This might seem obvious, but hang with me here, because I think this is one of the main reasons most Christians are so bad at evangelism.

In general, people think evangelism means they need to rehearse and memorize a pre-written script, rather than starting with simply, deeply knowing the gospel.

(When I say “gospel,” I’m talking about the full-orbed announcement of what God has done in Christ. Not just forgiveness, which is just a facet of the gospel.)

The way in to faith is hearing and trusting the gospel, but the way on in faith is also hearing and trusting the gospel. Over and over. In situation after situation.

When we don’t connect to the gospel as good news for ourselves, our evangelism comes off as stilted and fake.

The first step in becoming a better evangelist is to intentionally soak deeply in the gospel, for yourself!

Then it can come out naturally, like a language you know how to speak, rather than a speech you have memorized.

When I eat at a new restaurant I love, it’s easy and natural for me to become an evangelist. Because I truly enjoyed my experience, my proclamation of good news to others about it is authentic. I really enjoyed the food! I think you will too! Let’s go on Friday!

Sometimes the reason we aren’t very good at evangelism is that we just don’t know the gospel deeply enough. Like a good copywriter must know their product, Christians need to know the gospel (not just a speech about the gospel) if they’re going to become good evangelists.

Good copywriters know their audience

Good copywriters need to know their product well, but what really separates an average copywriter from a good one is that they also know their audience really well.

Good copywriters have a thorough knowledge of their audience. Not just a demographic statistics kind of knowing, but a deep, visceral “getting in their shoes” kind of knowing.

This requires empathy, getting into the potential customer’s head. What are their hopes and dreams? What are their fears and regrets? What do they care about? What do they love and hate? What are their needs, problems and challenges?

Copywriters actually use tools called “empathy maps” to help them really get into the mind, heart, and guts of the people they are writing to so they can speak their language.

When copywriters connect deeply to their audience (and they know their product well), they can create clear, compelling communication that helps people understand the product and what it might be like to use it.

Good evangelists know their context

The same holds true for good evangelism. A thorough knowledge of the gospel is important, but really knowing who you are talking with makes all the difference.

If we want to communicate the gospel clearly and compellingly, we need to feel what people feel. We need to really immerse ourselves in their experiences and worldview to understand them.

From that place, we can begin to connect the dots and proclaim good news in a contextualized way.

Evangelism can’t be a one-size-fits-all presentation of information. Because the gospel is so BIG, you can never share it in its entirety in one conversation.

Every conversation demands contextualization. Good evangelists aren’t just looking for a way to juke the conversation back toward their pre-packaged presentation of Jesus.

Good evangelists are listening at least twice as much as they’re talking.

Good evangelists are really responding to what the other person is saying, not just waiting for their turn to talk.

Jesus is our model for this. His conversation with Nicodemus is very different from his conversation with the woman at the well.

Why? Because in each case, he was seeing and listening to a PERSON, and bringing good news into those conversations in a way that would communicate to the person he was talking to.

Jesus was empathizing with two very different kinds of people with very different questions, and thus his evangelism looked very different.

Our gospel proclamation must be informed by the empathy we feel as we connect with the people we’re talking to.

Instead of settling for memorizing stock answers and presentations, good evangelists are interested in people. They ask questions because they’re curious, and as the space opens up between them, there is a pathway of trust for the good news to travel on.

Communicating the good news

With a deep knowledge of the gospel and its many ramifications (because you are personally experiencing it!), and a deep knowledge of your context and its many questions (because you are listening!), you can communicate good news to people in context. You can become a good evangelist.

Good evangelism (like good copywriting) is essentially an act of love.

It’s about knowing the gospel, which is what people really need (including us!). And it’s about taking time to listen to people so you understand and empathize with them. Then you can lovingly proclaim a gospel word to them that they can respond to.

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Ben Sternke
Ben is a church planter who also trains, coaches and consults with leaders to help them build Jesus-shaped cultures in their churches, communities, homes, and businesses using simple, reproducible tools that are proven, practical, and powerful. He does this locally through a church he is planting in Indianapolis called The Table, and more widely through an organization he co-founded called Gravity Leadership. He also writes at bensternke.com. He lives in the Indianapolis area with his wife and kids.
Ben Sternke

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