innovative ways to share gospel
By Kirk Noonan (October
Gerald Boyd loves the
Internet for one reason: its potential as an evangelism tool. Each
day, Boyd, 86, logs on around 8 a.m. After reading and responding
to e-mails he visits chat rooms. Sometimes he begins conversing
right away; other times he watches the text conversations for several
minutes before focusing in on one person.
"When I first started
going online I didnt want to stop to eat or sleep," says Boyd,
a retired Assemblies of God minister who lives in Carmel, Calif.
"I am a soul winner and when I saw so many lost souls on the Internet
I wanted to minister to all of them and not miss one of them."
According to Nua Internet
Surveys, which bills itself as the worlds leading resource
for Internet trends and statistics, there are nearly 600 million
people online each month. For Boyd, who admits he is not tech-savvy,
and other cyber-evangelists, thats proof positive that the
Internet is a massive mission field desperate for missionaries.
"I cant understand
why there are not more people doing what I am doing," says Boyd,
who also has a Web site for his ministry, www.amazinggrace.com.
"If someone knows the Word and can type, he or she should be online
Andrew Careaga, 41, from
Rolla, Mo., shares Boyds passion. So much so that he wrote
E-vangelism: Sharing the Gospel in Cyberspace, a book detailing
the dos and donts of cyber-evangelism. According to
Careaga, one of the best ways to introduce people to Christ online
is through friendship evangelism, and that sometimes takes time.
"Things move quickly
online and its difficult to establish long-term relationships,
but there are a lot of people going online to find relationships
and a sense of community," Careaga says. "We need to realize that
Gods timing is different even on the Internet. If we
are patient and pray that God will give us divine appointments,
we can see some interesting results."
In the past year, Boyd
says he has led 150 people to salvation in Christ over the Internet.
"God has changed my life
and given me an inner peace that I had never known," a former satanist
wrote to Boyd after Boyd spent several weeks ministering to him.
"I truly did ask Jesus to come into my life and I am happy now."
Like Careaga, Boyd strongly
believes in friendship evangelism. But he also uses nearly 60 messages
he sends to those he meets online, ranging from the value of Scripture
memorization to how to overcome depression. After a person has accepted
Christ as Savior, Boyd continues the relationship through discipleship,
prayer and pointing the new believer to a cogent church.
There are many ways to
minister on the Internet such as conducting online Bible
studies and prayer chains, distributing digitracts, and posting
messages on message boards. According to Pew Internet & American
Life, 3 million Americans obtain religious and spiritual material
from the Internet each day. Some get that kind of information from
Web sites such as Peggiesplace.com.
Whereas Boyd traverses
the Internet in search of people to minister to, Peggie Bohanon,
61, a Christian homemaker and writer, created Peggies Place,
which draws thousands of visitors each month. There, surfers find
information and links relating to Christian resources, current events,
education and family, plus devotionals written by Bohanon and a
clear presentation of the gospel. In less than seven years the site
has had more than 5 million page views from more than 170 countries
"Ministering on the Internet
is ministering on the frontlines of technology," says Bohanon, who
lives in Springfield, Mo., and serves as executive editor for the
Internet for Christians newsletter and as a childrens writer
for the A/Gs Global University.
Like Boyd, Bohanon sees
herself as a missionary and claims that anyone with an interesting
life experience or hobby and a calling from God can become a cyber-evangelist.
"People can develop a
Web site based on virtually any interest they have," Bohanon says.
"Internet evangelism is the most exciting and fulfilling ministry
I have done in my life."
Experts say key elements
to cyber-evangelism are for Christians to connect with others on
a non-spiritual level first; be keenly interested in others; avoid
Christian jargon and being preachy; memorize key salvation scriptures;
be a good listener; and, most of all, pray for divine appointments.