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The X Spectrum

One helpful way to categorize evangelistic approaches

In the missions world of church-planting, a helpful C1-C6 spectrum has been devised to define the degree of contextualization that a church is using in relation to the culture surrounding it. The concept has been developed by strategists John Travis, Phil Parshall and others. Read more: [1] [2] [3]. [4].

In conjuction with Create International, we propose a similar categorization of X1-X6 to define the conteXtual positioning of Christian websites (and indeed other media – radio, video, and literature). The Gray Matrix is an essential component for understanding this spectrum. We are not proposing that there is only one correct way of doing web evangelism. Different approaches and styles have advantages and disadvantages and can reach different target audiences.

Key supporting verses include 1 Cor 9:22: “by all means save some” and Luke 7.35: “wisdom is justified by all her children”.

However, the tragedy is that perhaps 99 percent of Christian websites fit the X1 category and that many others unwittingly exclude non-Christians.

Your feedback and suggestions for refining this concept are welcome.

Type Description Comments
X1 Target audience is in practice entirely Christian. Knowledge of way of salvation is assumed, not explained directly. High level of insider Christian jargon and concepts. Christian graphics may be used. (These characteristics are entirely appropriate for a site which is ‘inreach’ – edification and teaching of Christians.) Most Christian websites are X1. A few non-Christians may visit by accident, and seekers by intention, and even find some spiritual help, leading the site owners to naively believe that the site is also evangelistic. Many church sites are sadly X1.
X2 Target audience is Christian, but a way of salvation page/section is offered for any non-Christians who may visit. (Link may be part of site, or another site.) Remainder of site remains X1 in approach. This IE Day site is X2. All Christian websites should consider including at least one page targeting non-Christians. Some church sites are X2.
X3 Aims to communicate with both Christians and non-Christians, within the same set of pages. Considerable use of Christian language and concepts, but varying degrees of accommodation to the needs of non-Christians. Some church sites are X3. Sites which offer relatively segregated and appropriate material for Christians and non-Christians are better defined as, for example, X1/X4 hybrids. Non-Christians with a Christian background, or seekers, may find themselves comfortable within X3 sites.
X4 Primary target audience non-Christian. Assumes visitors have considerable prior Christian understanding, and uses Christian jargon. Gospel may be presented in Western, religious, formulaic terms. May have ‘Christian’ graphics, preachy style, or 'scattergun' use of scripture verses. Testimonies, if used, may unwittingly be written using language or issues only of interest to Christians. Outreach sites originating in a country where there is a high level of church-going and Christian knowledge may be instinctively written at X4 level. Within that context, they can reach ‘once-churched’ people successfully, but may not touch the ‘non-churched’. Their appeal to people near the bottom left-hand corner of the Gray Matrix is limited.
Uses X4 style to target another religious group (e.g. Islam) with an explanation of Christianity. May make limited attempt to modify or contextualize language and may be confrontational or even critical. (‘R’ in the code denotes ‘Religion’.) Upfront X4R debate-style or comparison sites may work well with those in the target group who like to debate.
X5 Target audience non-Christian. Assumes visitors have limited Christian understanding. Gospel presented in relevant terms appropriate to target audience with little jargon. Unlikely to use Christian graphics. Will probably use Bridge Strategy to draw visitors and identify with their interests, or address specific felt needs. Additional communication barriers may be broken by writing in the heart language of the audience, when they are not first-language English speakers. X5 sites can reach well towards the bottom left of the Gray Matrix. It is possible to write a church site at X5 level, but very few do this.

X5 sites work hard to understand how non-Christians think.

Uses X5 style to target a religious group (e.g. Islam), with an explanation of Christianity. Moderate level of contextualized language and identification with their religious concepts. X5R sites can also add Bridge Strategy gateway pages on cultural/general interest/felt need topics, which lead into the rest of the site.
X6 Target audience non-Christian. Assumes visitors have no prior Christian knowledge, and may be indifferent or hostile to the Christian message. Gospel presented in highly-contextualized or creative terms appropriate to target audience, in a non-formulaic non-religious non-Western style. Homepage of site may give little clue as to its Christian nature. Probably use Bridge Strategy to draw visitors and identify with their interests and needs. May be designed particularly for non-Christian affinity groups. X6 sites are designed to reach as far to the bottom left of the Gray Matrix as possible. They aim to identify completely with the visitor’s current interests and lack of spiritual understanding. E.g. a Bollywood site could reach India. Where possible, in heart language.
Uses X6 style to target a religious group. High degree of contextualization, using religious words and concepts from the target group in preference to Christian words, whenever possible. Seeks to identify with, and build on, elements of truth within the target religious group's beliefs and scriptures, and demonstrate their true fulfillment within the full revelation of Jesus. May use a ‘layered approach’ with few clues as to Christian content on the homepage. X6R sites are at the creative end of the spectrum in targeting other religions. They may be seen as controversial, yet can identify with individuals within other religions who would not consider visiting, or learning from, a more overt Christian site. X6R sites can also use gateway pages to draw people in on other topics.

Notes and implications