Does Digital Evangelism Work?
By Tony Whittaker
There is no magic bullet in evangelism, discipleship, or anything else. Over the years, new mediums and methods have been each championed as holding the key to evangelism and church growth. Yet the church continues to decline numerically in some countries of the West.
At most times and places, people only move upwards in their spiritual journeys if they have relationships with Christians and see the life of Jesus modeled in others. You may have read the book The Gospel Blimp, which develops this principle within a fictional story. The Gray Matrix is a useful tool to help us understand spiritual journeys.
We do not wish to overstate the potential of the Internet. It is, in any case, only a channel, and not the Message itself. Nevertheless, the Internet is unique in its ability to reach people, and, we believe a God-given tool for the whole Church.
It is a ‘pull medium’: just like a reference library, it draws people in, but only on the basis of their interests. Rarely do people accidentally find pages they are not looking for. If you have zero interest in, say, hockey, when did you last accidentally find yourself on a webpage about hockey? Probably never! A website does not have an automatic audience. It is also unlike radio or literature, which can be defined as ‘push mediums’.
The Web is the only medium which can target any ‘affinity group’ of people, on the basis of ethnicity, geographic location, culture, hobby, felt need or interest, anywhere in the world. It can reach out to people such as ‘Jay’ – an imaginary but typical non-Christian.
God can use the Web alone to bring someone to Him. More often, it will be just one element in a chain, as this story of an atheist girl demonstrates. However, the testimonies below show how effective the Web can be. You will note that in each case, a key element in each person’s spiritual journey was email relationships. The web-pages themselves were only a starting point (see our discussion questions). Effective web ministries often need e-mail mentors.
Kristi was in high school when she visited a friend at James Madison University and saw EveryStudent [www.everystudent.com] advertised. She visited the site and was challenged.
• Watch or read Kristi's story
“Is there a God?” Patricia typed into her computer. Ask Jeeves, the Internet search engine, boasts the ability to find the answer to any question. This was just one of many search engines Patricia frequently used to find all kinds of information, from news to music. But could it really tell her about God?
• Read her story
Kevin and Cathy’s story
Pornography, drinking and guilt dominated Kevin’s life. Then he noticed a TV advert for the PowertoChange.com website. He and wife Cathy were at their wits end.
• Watch or read Kevin and Cathy's story
Her life was in a total mess when she went to see Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. This challenged here, and she went online to look for answers, and found CCCI’s evangelistic site The Life [www.thelife.com/lifestories/cvogt.html] based on the film.
• Watch or read Christina's story
“I accidentally started chatting with somebody on the Internet.” Polish student Kasia was looking for meaning in life when she contacted a web evangelist based in US. He suggested she visit Polish websites including VitaNovis.
• Read Kasia's story
“On September 11, 2001 I said my first prayer. My son was a police officer with the New York Police Department. As I sat watching the Twin Towers burn, at first I thought that he was fine since he worked a desk job at One Police Plaza. But what if he went over to help? ‘Please God,’ I said, ‘if you’re listening, don’t let them go in there. You can take my car, my house, take anything you want, but don’t let them go in that building. He doesn’t even have a baby yet, God!’”
• Video story
The TruthMedia.com web outreach team feature true stories resulting from their various outreach sites.
The apologetics-for-seekers site AllAboutGod.com maintains a page and email newsletter with brief testionies here.
Facts and figures
If outreach websites use wise communication strategies, clear design and usability, and readable enticing jargon-free pages, they receive many visitors. EveryStudent.com has 160,000 visitors each month, with about 1 percent indicating some level of personal response to God. Women Today Magazine is receiving 105,000 unique visitors a month. The entire portfolio of sites from the TruthMedia team draws almost 400,000 visitors each month: latest detailed stats. God is touching thousands of people each day through sites such as these.
Although many thousands of visitors from almost every country of the world visit outreach sites each day, remember that people interact with a website one person at a time.
Meet the evangelists
But don’t feel that only large ministries with mega-sites can do web evangelism. There are many spare-time web evangelists working at home. And you may be surprised to find that many of them are not technically gifted. There are many opportunties that need no technical knowledge at all!
“It brings me to tears to think that what God gives me the privilege of doing for Him reaches more people in one day than some of the greatest preachers of 100 years ago could reach in their whole life. No wonder God made the Internet!” – Dean Craig, webmaster
• Read their stories – meet some web evangelists, learn what they do and how they started
• Spare-time opportunities – these ministries are looking for help
Taking it to the World
These are the issues that Internet Evangelism Day will share with Christians across the world. “Our hope is that Web evangelism will make a quantum leap, as a result of this exposure. We’d love to see many churches using IE Day,” says Day co-ordinator Tony Whittaker.
Learn more about Internet Evangelism Day
Use CBN.com's Share Your Faith resources to witness online.
Questions about Faith and God
More from the Internet Evangelism Coalition
Learn how to witness online through our Internet Evangelism Training
More Evangelism Resources on Spiritual Life
More from Spiritual Life
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