April 1, 2005 - The Internet is the fastest-growing media form in the history of our world. Just 10 years ago there were only a few million users worldwide, mostly in the developed Western nations. Today an estimated 1 billion people access the World Wide Web. Although the United States leads with some 185 million people online, the greatest online growth is in Asia, where China already has 100 million users and Japan 78 million. The Chinese language is second only to English online.
by Sterling Huston
The Internet's rapid growth, broad international reach and low cost offer individuals, churches and ministries unprecedented opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. An amazing 64 percent of Americans online have used the Internet for religious and spiritual information, according to a 2004 Pew Foundation survey. The Internet was once thought of as a place reserved for "techies," but Christians are capturing its potential for evangelism. These "Internet evangelists" represent great diversity in background and location. But all share the same passion for meeting people online and pointing them to Christ.
Internet evangelists have many digital means to share Christ. Some opportunities include creating topical Web sites that offer a Gospel presentation, hosting a café that provides Internet access, writing daily blogs (short for Web log—an online journal) on subjects of interest to seekers, adding Bible verses or links to evangelistic sites in e-mail messages, offering a spiritual perspective on issues being discussed on online bulletin boards (Web pages where visitors leave messages on a topic) and sharing inspirational messages through instant messaging (Internet and mobile phone programs that enable live conversations through brief text messages).
Advantages of the Internet
The Internet has some unique advantages for Christians who want to reach their world for Christ. With information available 24 hours a day and an instantaneous reach across time zones and national boundaries, believers can share the Gospel with others halfway around the world from the privacy of their own homes.
For example, a young woman in Michigan entered into a digital dialogue with a woman in China who knew nothing about Christianity but wanted to learn English. Through the Internet she arranged for the Chinese woman to download a Bible in her language. A Midwestern church received an e-mail message from a man in Finland who had committed his life to Christ through the Gospel presentation on the church's Web site.
Perhaps the strongest advantages of Internet evangelism are that the anonymity of the Web allows "seekers" to be much more vulnerable in their spiritual searching. Also, the Internet's accessibility permits them to return again and again to explore biblical truths.
The Internet Evangelism Coalition provides some very helpful resources for Internet evangelism. The mission of the coalition, formed out of a 1997 consultation on Internet evangelism convened by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, is to stimulate and accelerate Web evangelism within the worldwide Body of Christ, encourage collaborative efforts, and connect partners and resources for Internet evangelism.
Internet Evangelism Day
To help churches, ministries and individuals discover the Internet's potential for evangelism, April 24, 2005, has been designated as Internet Evangelism Day (IED). Web Evangelism Guide editor Tony Whittaker and a team of others from around the world have given leadership to the development of IED.
Through the dramatically expanding medium of the Internet, God has given Christians an unprecedented opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a needy world. All you need is online computer access and a concerned heart!