...and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23).

An online interactive spiritual publication for the strengthening and building up of the Kingdom.

09 June 2010

Evangelism in the 21st Century (4): The Possibilities of the Internet

We have spent some time investigating the climate of evangelism in the 21st century, and the situation could seem quite distressing. We have seen that our world today mirrors the first century world of the New Testament, with many not knowing much about the faith and others being quite hostile to it. We have seen how isolationism and relativism has caused an erosion of trust in others and has contributed to a lack of willingness to be persuaded by the truth claims of the New Testament. We have also seen how many in denominations have attempted to evangelize in recent times, and demonstrated that such methods do all kinds of things, but rarely actually get to preaching the Gospel. While there are many reasons to be distressed, not all is lost, and not all is negative. Let us conclude by considering a great possibility for hope in the future: evangelism and the Internet.

Many Christians are apprehensive about the Internet. There are some good reasons for this, but other reasons are more based in exaggeration and misunderstanding of the resource. As with every tool of man, the Internet allows for people to do good things, bad things, and ugly things. Sadly, the works of the flesh are indeed on the Internet in full force, and the relative anonymity the Internet provides does not help matters (cf. Galatians 5:17-24). On the other hand, the Internet mirrors real life in many ways: if you desire to seek out sin, you will find it; if you desire to avoid sin, you will find ways to avoid it online.

We need to be careful about ourselves and what we do on the Internet. Nevertheless, the Internet provides for opportunities for evangelism that represent great potential-- if we are only willing to consider them and use them.

Recent research has come up with some startling conclusions. Not a few of the members of the younger generation, when seeking information and knowledge, go online. Many Americans indicated that they had searched the Internet for religious information.

This may be surprising to many people who find the Internet to be rather untrustworthy. Unfortunately, it is still true that you cannot believe everything you hear on the Internet, and in fact you cannot believe much of it. On the other hand, the Internet provides the perfect opportunity for our isolationist and individualist society to investigate, learn, and discover: they can visit websites at their leisure, learning whatever they seek to learn, and remain anonymous. They do not feel pressured, pushed, or cajoled into accepting anything. Most such persons have decent discernment abilities, and will not just accept and believe whatever they hear on the Internet.

While impersonal forms of evangelism may not be as successful in the "real world" today as it perhaps was in the past, the Internet provides the opportunity to put forth the truth of the Gospel of Christ, and people very well may come and consider it. Basic websites are often free, and many tutorials are available to help people figure out how to make the website work. Websites can be as simple or as complex as desired. If such websites are known to search engines like Google or Yahoo!, then if people want to search for a given subject, they just might well come upon your website. Who knows what may come of it?

As the technology develops, we are better able to connect with people on the Internet. Websites can have question and comment fields, allowing visitors to ask questions, make comments, or seek additional information from you. Podcasting now allows for sermons and other audio files to be made available for people across the world to hear and to consider.

Special mention should be made about weblog systems and social utility websites (Facebook, MySpace, etc.). While we must always be on the lookout for sin, and to seek to avoid participating in it, there is also the potential for doing good on these websites. Weblog systems allow people to interact with each other in ways that are like communities, and that can have great value for Christians seeking to associate with fellow Christians at many opportunities. MySpace and Facebook and other such social utility websites allow Christians to connect with each other or with people they may know in other contexts; both websites provide ways of promoting the truth of Christ and even to post sermon audio files and other related matters.

As Christians, we should always seek to discover ways by which our light may shine, and ways in which we can have positive impact on others (Matthew 5:13-16). The Internet is a place that needs the light of Christ, and there is much good that has already occurred on account of it, and greater good is possible. Let us seek to use the Internet-- and other opportunities in life as presented-- to promote the Gospel of Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry
March 2008

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