Web Evangelism

by Tony Whittaker
Posted on 1st April 2004

"I believe it is one of the most key tools that God has give us in the church today." - George Verwer

Although most mission agencies and Christian groups use the Web to communicate both internally and with their Christian constituencies (an essential task - see discussion list for mission webmasters and advocacy teams), few are using it for primary evangelism. Here's a tool waiting to be used!

The old story about the Old Story: the 99% problem
Go into any Christian bookshop. 99% of the books and videos are written primarily for Christians, using Christian language and assumptions. The same applies to most Christian websites, 99% are written with only a Christian reader in mind. Of course, some non-Christians visit them too. And - if they already have an interest - maybe they will stay to read. But this is like hoping that non-Christians will walk off the street into our church services. A few may, occasionally. Most do not. (Website visitors will leave in 5 seconds if they cannot relate to a page.) So we may touch people with a Christian background or interest - the "once-churched" - but fail to reach the "never-churched". Most people have no reason to visit Christian pages. Therefore web evangelists need to find different strategies.

Problems and strategies
The tragedy: after 6-7 years of mainstream Internet growth, there are relatively few truly evangelistic sites in English, and even fewer in other languages. Sometimes it seems that Christians are using the Internet for every other purpose except cutting-edge evangelism! Even sites which they hope to be evangelistic often compromise their effectiveness by using Christian jargon, assumptions and graphics.

The other problem: we do not always appreciate that people normally go to the Internet to find specific information. It is a "pull medium" - there is no automatic audience. Because most non-Christians never search for Christian-related material, of course they never find it. (I, for instance, with zero interest in hockey, have never yet accidentally stumbled upon a hockey website which would show me that sport in a wonderful new light.) A major key to web evangelism is to "be what they are looking for" - to create legitimate pages around secular subjects that DO interest people, and then lead creatively with integrity into appropriate evangelistic material. We call this the Bridge Strategy.

Women Today Magazine exemplifies this approach. With 1000+ pages (many on "secular" day-to-day issues) and 105,000 visitors a month, it is touching women worldwide. Because its publisher TruthMedia/CCCI also produces a superficially similar site for Christian women, a comparison of the two sites is a valuable case study in conducting effective online outreach.

Other forms of computer outreach

Teaching computer skills
Many people are desperate to learn computing and Web skills. Teaching English has long been a worldwide opportunity for Christians to make friends, earn credibility, and share their faith. Now, teaching computing skills to those in the community is becoming another way of reaching people. Missions have planted churches through this strategy.

Chat rooms
A chat room is a web-page where you can 'talk' to someone else in real time, by typing messages onto the screen. It can be a very effective way to witness, though it is very important to learn how to do it appropriately. Millions of people visit chat rooms every day. You can even visit chat rooms located in specific countries. It's a strategy that missionaries can use, even when they have to return home for reasons of health, children's education, or retirement.

Over to you
This powerful new medium is touching the world - even hard-to-reach countries in the 10-40 Window. For instance, an exciting portfolio of sites is reaching Poland. The Web is no longer just for the West - users in China and India will soon be 100 million and 60 million respectively!

If God is calling you to be involved in online evangelism, you have an exciting time ahead! Online resources exist to help you. Page links in this article are parts of the extensive Web Evangelism Guide, which also includes a twice-monthly newsletter. Also check the excellent Cybermissions resource which includes a web evangelism training course. Your fingers on a keyboard (Ps 144:1) can fight in the battle.

Tony Whittaker was director of SOON Ministries, a literature outreach within WEC International, based in Derby, UK, which provides free evangelistic papers in easy-English, French, Pulaar/Fulfulde, and Swahili.