Christians find faith on the Internet
music, prayer and a sermon have encouraged your faith. You close your Bible
with a smile and reflect on the service. You feel refreshed, you enjoyed giving
your tithe and offering toward the ministry, and a little conversation with
other Christians and a promise to pray for a friend signal time to leave
you won’t be walking out the door to the parking lot and the drive home; you’re
already home. Your pew has been an easy chair and your exit comes by closing
your laptop. You have just spent an hour or two viewing the service via
streaming video; you contributed your tithe and that missions offering online
with a credit card; and after the sermon you spent time in a chat room or
through your instant-messaging program catching up with other Christians.
is not a hypothetical future scenario. For millions of Christians — 82
million of them, according to a recent Pew iResearch Center Internet study — the Web has become at least a supplement to, if not a cyberspace
substitute for, attendance of Sunday services in a traditional brick-and-mortar
told us to go into the world; He didn’t specify how,” says Pastor Mark
Batterson, whose National Community Church (AG) has been a trailblazer for
Internet ministries. “Our generation has the greatest potential to fulfill the
Great Commission — if we can learn to redeem the technology available to
us and use it for God’s purposes.”
is an 11-year-old congregation of almost 1,300 meeting in three theater
locations in the Washington, D.C., metro area. The church launched its first
Web site (www.theaterchurch.com) in 1998. Today, it offers an array of
Webcasts, audio or video podcasts, blogs by the pastor (including Batterson’s
regular “evotional”) and blogs for small fellowship groups. A specially
assigned “digital pastor” oversees those offerings.
yes, there is a secure link for online giving; NCC accepts Visa and MasterCard.
podcasts reach more people than our physical services,” Batterson says. He is
unsure what the ever-changing traffic statistics for the church’s Web offerings
are, but his own blog (linked from the church site to www.markbatterson.com)
receives more than 250,000 unique visitors a year.
Batterson insists the Internet can never replace the power and spiritual
intimacy of personal ministry. “But there are people growing up with computers
who tend to connect more naturally via blog, MySpace or Facebook,” he adds. “Is
there anything wrong with that?”
Kellner, a newspaper technology columnist and author of God on the
Internet, agrees. “Religion has
really exploded on the Web because that’s where people are. It’s up 24/7.”
enthusiastic about the use of the Internet to spread the gospel, Kellner warns
that Christians need to exercise discernment when exploring services offered
online. Anyone can put up a Web site, and some use them to pitch errant
doctrine and cults. Check out the church the site represents, its statement of
beliefs and its reputation before committing, he advises.
also stresses online worship is not merely a technological twin of traditional
church attendance. The Internet church cannot offer the same sense of
community, he says. Still, Kellner believes it’s better for Christians to
commune through the Internet than not at all.
are a lot of people who can’t make it to church, for whatever reason,” Kellner
says. “If I have a choice between watching streaming video from my local church
or a televangelist, I’d rather be connected to my local congregation.”
Pentecostal Evangel hasn’t ignored the potential of Internet evangelism and
discipleship, either. The official Assemblies of God publication has embraced
the Web in a big way, having expanded its own Web site (www.tpe.ag.org) with
TPExtra — a layering of multimedia offerings that supplement the weekly
TPE launched its blogging and podcast offerings in July, and has had so much
response that it is expanding its offerings in 2008. Print stories are updated, and additional photo, audio and
are tools for people to use the same way they do the magazine,” TPE Editor Ken
Horn says. “Our goal is to reach Christians and to draw those who don’t follow
there is a term that describes the move of faith onto the Internet, it might be
“Jesus 2.0,” the moniker popularized by Chris Wyatt, onetime television
producer and Internet entrepreneur. He now is chief executive officer of the
the name implies, GodTube.com, launched in August, is meant to be the Christian
community’s answer to the wildly popular video-sharing site YouTube.com.
Sermons, personal testimonies, Christian music offerings and discussions are
posted across denominational lines.
little more than six weeks after its launch, the digital media tracking company
comScore reported that GodTube.com was the fastest-growing Web property during
August. Wyatt’s site logged 1.7 million unique visitors that first month and 4
million by October.
called that inaugural performance a major milestone for a faith-based Web site.
“Our entire culture is becoming Internet-focused,” Wyatt says. “Today, people
use the Internet to search for practically everything they need in life. Why
not their faith?”
one has to ask: What would Jesus surf?
says he believes Jesus would have been a blogger. “All I know is I would have
subscribed,” he says.
says God has allowed Christians to use the Internet as a tool to spread the
gospel and to reach out to millions around the world.
don’t know what Jesus would surf, but the question Jesus would ask us is, what
are we doing with it?” he says.
MIMS is a journalist and member of Valley Assembly of God in Salt Lake City.
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