INTERNET EVANGELISM – IDEAS
‘As for me and my mouse, we will serve the Lord’
[Here are some ideas I picked up at the Internet Evangelism for the 21st Century conference just completed in Lynchburg, Virginia (April 1-2, 2005). I’m writing this for the John Mark Ministries website (http://jmm.aaa.net.au) but if this reaches you via a friend, feel free to email me at
You can visit the blog about the conference and speakers at http://ie-confblog.blogspot.com/ and comment. If you wish, visit the conference moblog site at http://www.phlog.net/user/ieconf and if you have a mobile . Here are the workshop leaders – http://ie-21stcentury.com/workshop-leader-bios/ – an amazingly talented bunch of Christian techos/evangelists who want to optimize the potential of the Internet to reach millions with the Good News. The Speakers’ Resources (notes, powerpoint presentations) can be found at http://ie-21stcentury.com/speaker-resources/ . I was privileged to lead three workshops on Usenet Newsgroup Evangelism http://ie-21stcentury.com/speaker-resources/rowland-croucher/ (and to prove it there’s a picture of me doing that – the bottom one on http://www.phlog.net/user/ieconf
SOME KEY LEARNINGS:
I attended a couple of plenary sessions and two workshops, and led three workshops on Usenet newsgroups, so there’s a lot I missed. But for what they ’re worth here are my notes:
The Internet is the most rapidly adopted new media in history. The cost of obtaining information has declined over history. With the Internet the relative cost is very low. There’s now 1 billion online around the world: 100m Chinese online; Japan has the greatest number of ‘unreached’ online. 64% of U.S. people are going online go for a spiritual life questions/issue. More evangelism will be done by Campus Crusade via the internet than through traditional ministries by 2010 – five years’ time.
Isn’t it great that people in countries ‘closed to the gospel’ can download a Bible in languages not available via missions/bookshops? The Internet is available 24/7×365. Millennials, and GenXers enjoy being communicated with on-line. Contemporary business cards have a website on them. A strong online asset is anonymity: people are amazingly open to talk frankly with someone they don’t know.
Sadly many churches not using websites for evangelism/outreach – but only for internal communication.
Here are some ideas I want to explore..
1. Every Christian website ought to have a well-positioned question like WorldLINC’s ‘Who is Jesus, really?’ linking to a simple presentation of the Christian Good News, and a response/follow-up mechanism. Another question such as ‘Where is God When It Hurts?’ is also a good idea. People wanting to know the Lord and experience God’s grace in their lives should find answers *one* click away (not three or four). Watch the John Mark Ministries website frontpage for an implementation of these ideas!
2. Many ministries are creating evangelistic websites, yet few have adequate response systems, mainly because they haven’t majored on volunteer recruitment and training. Develop a good ‘back end’ response solution. Have either a short or long form – but with an option that respondents don’t have to fill in anything. (Americans don’t fill in much, Indians fill in everything). Kids under 14 need parent’s permission. Develop software to direct people to articles answering their question. Or an ARC – automated response centre. (BTW nobody is a ‘counselor’ – always ‘volunteers’ because of our litigious society). Respondents should be answered by people, not a computer!
3. Blogs are very simple to set up: they’re great for a mentor/protégé relationship; for missionaries communicating with supporters. They are now influencing history – vide the Dan Rather saga, recent U.S. presidential elections. Website vs blogs: the line is blurring; websites can function like a brochure, but also be an on-line meeting place. Most ‘emerging churches’ are in the blogosphere.
4. Odd (and not-so-odd) bits of wisdom:
· When you think of important life-changing event/information; you don’t think of sermons, lectures, books, but individuals. · There may be people that you can reach with morse code, but you may be more effective using a medium through which millions can be reached”! · Only blog if you can improve on the silence · 500 years ago the priest mediated information; now with the internet we have millions of unmediated relationships between people who’ve never met, but may feel they’re close
So: ‘Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.’ (John Wesley)
Visit these (recommended) sites:
· WorldLINC, http://www.worldlinc.org/ , run by Campus Crusade – ‘Who is Jesus Really? Site’ is #1 in Google and Yahoo when seekers search for Jesus (true – I just checked it). · http://www.webevangelism.com/Brix?pageID=10872 http://www.truthmedia.com/ – beautiful site (Canada)
· PassionofChrist.com · Godlovestheworld.com meant4more.com · Responsecenters.org · Free evangelistic sites – greatcom.org/links.htm · Leaderu.com evangelism.com allaboutgod.com text.com · Technorati – searches blogs: who’s talking about what · Typo3.com – free training modules, graphics images… · Threats to traditional media – Crikey.com worldmag.com
Some ideas I want to check out (can anyone help with meanings/URLs/ pros/cons?)
· Metrics is becoming more important to the entire movement – what kinds of visitors? · http://www.xanga.com/ , http://www.sixapart.com/typepad/ http://www.livejournal.com/site/about.bml – free blogs · The ‘Wikipedia factor’ – anyone can help! · Teenage lesbian – blogged a lie (any info on this?)
· Website needs Marketing + Content + Response (and measuring)
· Steve Douglass six steps of ministry – modified Engel’s scale. · Google maps – the best? · Ashcan – eliminates spam. The Long Tail · Ping-o-matic Talk to other blogs · Trackback – pings someone else’s URL/weblog – excerpts material from another blog · http://hughhewitt.com/ evangelicaloutpost.com – 2 quality blogs · http://www.pubsub.com/ · A-list bloggers – generate more · Blogs – good code under the hood/ WordPress drupal civic space –(now why did I write that?)
· Willzhead, djchuong.com, American Bible Society, Emergent Village Realityblog.com – evangelistic strategy · Alexa.com – webarchive (product of Amazon.com)
· Cosmos – people linking to someone – who’s talking about who – crawl the whole internet… · Individual.net is a great Usenet Free posting Service that can be used with your own browser as if you were posting from your ISP · A9.com –search/book results – phrase in a book · About.com
It was a great conference, and this 67-year-old learnt more about the ‘Net in the shortest space of time, ever.
One thing I wonder about, however: why don’t more Christians make evangelistic forays into the area of the ‘Net where (I reckon) the most pagans are concentrated – Usenet newsgroups? Join me there any/ sometime (start with alt.christnet.christianlife, or aus.religion.christian).
Rowland Croucher (Sleep Inn hotel, 10.13 pm, April 3, 2005.