Online Evangelism - a 'conversation'
In December 2011 a group of Christians concerned for ‘online evangelism’ met to compare notes about their various ministries. All could be described as ‘Disciples of Online Evangelism’, as each is responsible for a facet of Christian outreach. These ministries of mission included ReJesus.co.uk
, Message to the Masses, YesHeIs, iChurch, Ship of Fools, Church on the Net, Internet Evangelism Day, etc. They were joined by specialist researchers from CODEC and the Sheffield Centre among others, to consider the special ministry of online evangelism. The key question was - ‘In conversation - what we can learn from each other?’
Krish Kandiah from Evangelical Alliance started the conversation off with a presentation which you can see at http://wp.me/p1df0j-ZZ
, while Bob Fyffe, from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland acted a s reflective listener to draw out the main points of common concern.
Key points which came up in this conversation were:
Support for current practitioners
Training for new ‘digi-evangelists’
Development of the research base for this specialist ministry
Representation of the outreach in Christian and Trade conferences to highlight the work.
We noted how Christians often take one of two positions, either ‘for’ or ‘against’ new media and ‘sharing the good news of Jesus Christ’ online. We discussed various parables, including the ‘sower and the seed’, and ‘highways and byways’ and which said most about our work.
We agreed not to use the phrase ‘virtual world’ as we emphasised people were people whether online or not – the internet is really just another form of communication, and was best treated as such, even with particular considerations. We soon concluded that the issues of online evangelism were often the same as ‘offline’ evangelism, and church planting online was a similar process to ‘offline’. We had more discussion about the nature of church – but that was going beyond our initial remit.
We valued the opportunity to get together and were keen to extend the network to many others either currently or feeling called to this ministry. In 2012 a conference is likely to be held in Sheffield.
Looking at our dreams and hurdles re online evangelism today, we were very conscious that this can be difficult to sustain and grow as a ministry, especially as it is often misunderstood and frequently poorly funded. We were challenged by the new technology and possibilities / implications for evangelism, and affirmed the need to ‘have a go’ even if some projects fail. We challenged the usual internet message of the ‘bigger the better’, as not consistent with Jesus and his teaching of the Kingdom, and agreed to pray for each other and point to each others work by adding web links and mutually supporting each other in our distinctive contributions. Each can point to the other.
Most of all we were keen to encourage all Christians who are already online to give testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ in whatever way was natural. Prayer for this is important. Every Christian with a computer or smart phone has the potential to ‘share the good news of Jesus Christ’ appropriately. This ministry is based on dialogue and relationships rather than preaching to an audience. As in church ‘offline’, a key area has been meeting people at their point of need and enquiry, so our role is often to be clear and available. Our purpose and mission is represent Christ and to encourage and equip others to represent him online too.
(The text for this article was supplied by Captain Jim Currin of the Church Army, Secretary for Evangelisation at Churches Together in England, who hosted the conversation at High Leigh Conference Centre, 12/13th Dec. 2011)