In his book, The World is Not Ours to Save, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson describes sinner’s prayer activism as:
1. You are confronted with a quick pitch describing a huge problem (sin)
2. You are implicated for your personal complicity in the problem, and this
complicity has consequences (going to hell).
3. You are presented with a quick and convenient way to absolve yourself of
personal responsibility, which entails zero short-term cost.
Here is how this plays out at Christian conferences:
Step 1 - Set the scene. The feel you are going for is haunting.
Dark Screen, Ominous, slow percussion. Then cue keening, sand and vaguleing
Step 2 - State the Big Problem in a dramatic way.
Did you know that every day, people worldwide suffer from Big Problem X?
Step 3 - Insert a subject that will induce feelings of charitable sympathy in a
mostly white, middle-class audience, followed by a terrible verb, followed
by the biggest number you can use without lying outright. Decorate with a
sense of urgency and any relevant details.
“In the time it takes to watch this video, vulnerable subject A will suffer/die by the
millions because of Big Problem X. Details, details, details, etc.”
Step 4 - Now you have reminded your audience that the world is not a nice
place. Because they are good and decent people. this reminder makes
them sad. The sentimental are weeping and the righteous are angry. Give
them home, fire them up, and bring’em back.
“Fortunately, a solution is possible.” Sudden upswing in music: cue happy,
vaguely African-sounding percussion.
Step 5 - Name a ludicrously simple solution to Big Problem X, and implicate
your viewer with a quick switch to first-person plural.
“The average American’s annual sock budget is $23. If we stopped wearing
socks for just one month, we could SOLVE Big Problem X! But we can’t do it
Step 6 - Blend up a smoothie of empowering-sounding activist jargon.
Dynamic verbs are mandatory, coherence is optional. Your goal is to
channel emotion into action.
“The time to take action is now! Stand up! Let your voice be heard! Act out!”
Step 7 - Close the detail with an easy action step that is ridiculously
disproportionate to Big Problem X.
“Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter today, and visit our website to
learn more and help raise awareness about Big Problem X.”
Step 8 - Finish Strong
Together, we can be the generation to make a difference/impact
Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International. As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.