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Internet Evangelism

Can people really be discipled online?

It is still one of the most common questions that online missionaries (OM) get asked. Is gut-level personal ministry and discipleship really possible online?

As an OM, I’ll jump in. Yes, it is.

Technology has allowed us to develop and maintain relationships across distance for years. The Internet and Social Networking have massively extended the possibilities.

In a recent post, I wrote about some of my personal experiences with online ministry. In the last year, I’ve been contacted by 250 people from over 40 countries.

About thirty percent of these folks include a personal note in their email. They may ask questions about the Bible or request help in some area of their life. They share struggles. Many ask for specific prayer. These are very personal contacts.

Nearly a dozen friends in my online community email regularly.

On a daily basis, online missionaries connect with people like my friends. God has moved in their lives and they want to learn more about Christ, the Bible and how to live out their faith.

The numbers that can be reached online are astounding, as revealed in the latest results from the Internet evangelism ministry of Global Media Outreach (GMO).

In 2010:

  • 119,444,072 people visited GMO’s websites
  • 15,507,537 people indicated a decision for Christ
  • 2,468,662 people asked for follow-up from an OM

Those numbers, which have been doubling every year since 2004 still, at times, don’t seem real to me.

Awhile back, an executive with HP had some questions about them too. He took his disbelief to GMO leadership. When asked what could be done to make him feel more comfortable with the numbers coming in, he suggested a survey to determine what was happening in the spiritual life of those making contact.

In other words, could it be proven that the people being reached in cyberspace were growing in their faith?

The survey was sent to people who, six to eighteen months earlier, had filled out a contact form and indicated a decision for Christ. 8,509 people from 185 countries responded to the survey.

Results of the survey:

Assurance of salvation
87% were “very certain” that they knew Christ as their personal Savior

Change in Biblical world view and life experience
72% said their thoughts/actions were changed by a prompting of God’s Spirit “daily”

Daily Bible reading
44% read their Bible daily and 30% 1-2 times per week

Attending church/small group regularly
63% attend church or meet with a small group weekly

Daily prayer
58% spend 10 minutes or more daily in prayer

Sharing their faith
57% have shared their faith 3 times or more with others
35% have shared their faith once or twice
92% have shared their faith

Seekers from all over the world answered. They knew they were saved. They were growing spiritually and they were telling others about their faith.

What does this mean for the local church?

You will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.
Acts 1:8

1. People searching for spiritual meaning online is a U.S. phenomenon too. What is happening globally is happening locally. If thirty to fifty percent or more of our cities are unchurched, it is going to take thousands of churches to meet the need. Churches in two or three designated market areas could band together, combine resources, use geographic targeting technologies and blanket a region with the gospel.

2. People are hungry for community and the Spirit is leading them to the Word online. Innovative churches with a passion to form community and ongoing engagement have an incredible opportunity to position themselves with a generation that will only know the connected world. Better interactive and trackable tools for personal spiritual growth need to be developed.

3. The technologies for saturating our towns with the gospel are available now. We are now able to reach everyone. God has opened doors for local churches to do online evangelism and discipleship. There are fewer and fewer reasons to not go through.

Is it possible that we are seeing the early stirrings of a global revival? Let’s pray that is so. Let’s also pray that we use every technology and tool to join in what God is doing in our local U.S. towns and cities too.