And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved. Matthew 9:16-18
Is Internet Evangelism a proper means of evangelistic outreach for a conservative or Reformed Church? Possibly. Consider this, if you want your church, ministry, or even your business to be effective and productive, you must embrace properly the new and emerging communication platforms. Some platforms of social media are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, blogs, internet chat rooms; these and other social electronic forum can be used as prime contact podiums. While it is rather unconventional, it need not be scary or foreboding; this media is not limited to the young as it does allow anyone to participate and can be an opportune way to communicate your presence, brand, vision and wares. And, most importantly, social media-when used responsibly and prayerfully-can relay and inform so many of the Gospel and the precepts of God's Word while calling out to all.
In researching pastors and churches, we found that churches fail when they hold onto past assumptions and assume that there is no need for new practices, relying solely on those things that were in place when the congregation was first formed. Churches with thriving congregations tended to honor the past while embracing the future without compromising God's Word and Gospel. To effectively evangelize, a church must adapt to its demographics and desired demographics to present the Word and love of our Lord in a kind way that can be grasped and understood. Part of this adaptation can include a knowledge of the changing media platforms. The Church embraced the printing press and the radio (with positive results) and TV (with far less glory for God and much more for individuals); at our disposal, we now have the best, easiest, and least costly media--underused and ignored--ready for the Word of our Lord ( 1 Cor. 2:9-12).
As I write this article, I do with the understanding that I'm outside of our usual research parameters and mission. The reason for my departure is to highlight the need for certain adaptations-so useful for growing the numbers of people who will come to Christ. In addition, I have been doing internet evangelism and web ministry, both as user and developer, since the mid 80's. Yes, I was on the 'BB's'; BB stands for the electronic bulletin boards that predated the Internet--if you had a computer in 1984, you know what I'm talking about. I first used email when I was taking a computer class in college in 1975 (I was in the 6th grade) and, in 1994, I built the first Christian website. Through the years, I have picked up on a few things. I also go to web symposiums to keep current, and I have interviewed the top people in this field. One of the inventors of the Internet goes to my church and Bible study (I've picked his brains a lot), so I have some insight on this subject that I can impart to you to make your evangelistic outreach in the electronic age more effective. After all, the bottom line of what we do is to communicate the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; how is the best way to do this in this technological time and age?
What is Internet Evangelism?
Internet Evangelism is basically c ommunicating the most important Message one can ever give-that of the Person, work, love and call of Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior. We must develop the skills for this to bring His Message of New Life to as many people as possible. What better place in all of history is better than what we have in our reach? Not since the printing press has the Church had the opportunity to rise and shine His Light to so many people. It does seem a waste that so many church leaders do not get it. Yes, there are abuses; unfortunately, with every new thing, there are abuses. The same printing press can print smut that can print a Bible. It would be naïve to suppose that social media is not rife with abuses; however, the important question that can be asked for social media and all of life is this: how will you use this for God's glory?
Effective evangelism and outreach is essentially good communication; good communication in any arena is comprised of a conveyance of integrity, respect, and truth with others in a kind and active listening manner that reflects and glorifies Christ. This is the foundation of a healthy church, a great marriage, and in the ministry of outreach by an affirmative friendship. Without good communication, relationships anywhere--in the church, the workplace, marriage--can never effectively work (Prov. 29:20; Matt. 21:22; Luke 8:18; Rom. 12:10; Eph. 4:15, 25-29; Col. 3:5, 16, 4:6; 1 Tim. 4:12; James 1:19; 1 Peter 3).
Keep in mind, if your church or ministry (or business, for that matter) chooses to ignore the new social connection platforms, you might easily imagine yourself in the Reformation period, ministering without the printing press. The press would have seemed too new, untrustworthy, scary, easily corrupted. You would rather rely on the tried-and-true, regardless of limitations.
By choosing not to engage in internet evangelism, you are choosing to disengage from people and your community in another effort at efficiency and success. As in any communication endeavor, we much consciously and conscientiously decide to speak, listen, and express-engage; by not doing so, we move in opposition to God's call. You and your church (or business) will be hindered from seeking the lost in places where the lost typically are found-in the masses; this leads to misunderstandings and missed opportunities and can result in conflict and strife. Worst of all, one less soul might be saved, one less to follow Christ. Keep in mind that God created us as communal beings to commune with Him and one another; we must do our best to seek this without prejudice. We can do this best by using all effective means to communicate the Gospel, helping other to convert from lives of sin to the new and amazing life in Him.
As you ponder the direction of internet evangelism, it is important to consider what internet evangelism really is. Internet evangelism is the communication of the Gospel--all about giving and receiving a message, His Message. Whether we are deaf and mute, polished public speakers, we all communicate. We send and receive messages every day--to one another, many, many times each day. We talk, we use hand gestures, we use body language, we write; we send our words and messages over the air waves and through cyber space. Preferably, we should desire to do this effectively, sincerely, and positively; this desire is born from the gratitude that we have for the Good News and in our representation of Christ, faith, and the Fruit of the Spirit.
Why you need to be using Social Media
Social media is growing exponentially (Facebook recently passed the 500 million member mark) and marks a new outreach strategy of paramount. Imagine Facebook as a country. If it were a country, it would be home to the world's third-largest population. By this fact, online presence is of utmost importance for your parishioners and those you want to reach out to in ministry (in business, this would apply to your customer relations and marketing platform). Not certain? Thinking about social media in a different way allows you to see and use Facebook as a platform for your evangelism, outreach, and also customer service and public relations. You can use social media like a kind friend sharing the Gospel to your church or your business 'receptionist' and marketing manager to the world.
We need a plan to develop an information-dissemination and communication platform for membership, marketing, referral, and information exchange using the best website, blog and social media platforms available, networked and integrated to your church, ministry or business needs. Such a platform must exhibit kindness, Fruit of the Spirit, truth, professionalism, expedience, and availability.
What you want to do is develop a Web evangelism strategy that connects the potential person to your ministry people and product if you are a business in a pursuit of excellence, underscoring your good reputation and further translating that into good social media and website strategy relationships, engaged in and done wisely with love and integrity. Because so much that is on the internet is smut, fake, people seeking to rip each other off and hurt, people preying on others and when someone comes along that just wants to listen, be there, offer wise non condescending or non judgmental advise is a fresh breeze on a hot day. You can be that breeze the the Wind of the Holy Spirit can use.
A successfully maintained social media presence can help your ministry or business greatly by:
· Increasing overall web presence and potential people and customer access to you.
· Connecting and engaging more successfully with current church members or clients.
· Creating a community around your message, programs, people and brand awareness.
· Promoting and expanding the Kingdom by your people's expertise and character.
· Generating leads and presence to your church or business including search engine ranking so people can find you.
Social media is what your ministry or business needs to stay relevant to enhance its awareness, relationships, marketing prowess, and overall web presence to expand the Kingdom and give glory to our Lord.
How to do Internet Evangelism
Your goal is to represent the Gospel clearly, so people can understand and make an authentic decision for Christ. Here are some more tips:
· Pray! Where and how can God use me? Then pray for wisdom and discernment and your opportunities and contacts and of course for God to use you and for them to respond.
· Keep your conversations simple and short. Write in the theme of the 'Fruit of the Spirit' especially with kindness, with what and how you say things. Be straightforward and simple, never condescend or get mad. If they insult you, stay cool and kind; remember they did it to our Lord too. Do not use derogatory or slang terms.
· Stay away from using Christian 'jargon' like 'are you saved' or are you 'born again,' or theological words like 'sanctification.' These terms are loaded with misunderstandings and hurt.
· When someone response to you, try to respond back within a day. And try not to be a know it all, if you can't answer there question, let them know you will try to find out and get back to them. Use our sites like www.intothyword.org or www.carm.org.
· Ask them questions too, like form this list, "Twenty Questions" and more helps on our Outreach page.
· Always be encouraging, plug them into a local church in kindness and timing, and ask them to take a step of faith like salvation. Point them to Discipleship sites like ours at www.discipleshiptools.org.
What is typically done with church based evangelism programs is a door to door (most cities in the US and Europe now outlaw this), invite friends to a crusade. All of which is good, but no longer work well. Even the effectiveness of crusade evangelism hinges upon the connection to other Christians afterwards. Instead or also what you can do is, engage people where they are at. Be a friend, bring hope, love, kindness, see the Fruits of the Spirit and engage them. And where are most people today? Online! What you do not want to do is have the mindset of the megaphone proclamation while hiding behind the walls of our church just gloating over the past accomplishments while ignoring present opportunities.
Good evangelistic outreach and internet evangelism in love is a must, essential to the understanding of one another and to communicate the Love of our Lord. However, although the goal of accomplishment is perhaps unattainable, that does not mean we should not seek to be as effective as we can, as all of our relationships and dealings in life will depend on it. Remember the results are the Lords the obedience is ours. We must seek to do this well in love. It is not a numbers game it is a Gospel proclamation.
The first thing we can do to be better communicators is to have the desire to be heard and to hear the other person fairly. On the internet, most do not do this. We can do this when we are sincere, enthusiastic, refrain from over-talking, be truly open, and make eye contact in person and online watch your words, make sure they are kind. Open communication is the vital foundation for every relationship, from evangelistic outreach to the workplace to friendships, and especially in marriage, where it is necessary in order to understand and help each other. Without it, one cannot see what is truly motivating the other, or what his or her ideas and intentions are. Nor, can we commune, learn or grow our relationship effectively. Online we can see body language, even on Skype it can be hard to see, so watch your words very carefully. When you have differing points of view, and you will have, be willing to talk and listen. Do not go to emotion, go to faith. Simply by listening, 99 percent of the problems will be resolved. When you have this down, you will be light-years ahead of the game in your friendships, marriage and workplace online and in real life.
Prime Information Technology Tools for Evangelistic Outreach
Website . If you are going to build a web ministry you need to have a new, good quality structure and graphic that is pleasing to view and easy to navigate with prime architecture (clean code and clean structure so search engine bots can list you), SEO (search engine optimization), and CMS (customer management system--easily updatable) so people can find and use social media to connect their needs to your program or product. Secure a prime domain. Primary method of listing in Google search. The importance of this is that Google is a main avenue for first hits; people will be able to find you easier with minimal effort and time. Bad and cheesy work is a turn off, if you can't do it, OK, find someone who can like the www.itwgroup.org .
Engage in social media. Facebook and LinkedIn are primary. However, Twitter comes in at a close second as it could be necessary in drawing conventional, Facebook is your prime tool, 'friend' people, talk to them, 'like' pages and talk to people on them. Use LinkedIn if you are a professional and get involved in a group there with your expertise. Have one or more of your church members become experts for their niche on Answers.com and Yahoo Answers; develop a small curriculum and a few Q&A's with relevant web links. The goal is creating and maintaining connections. Carefully dispensing information in a kind manner is essential. Additional social marketing media can be engaged, too-think Yelp and Digg where you share your interests and like and dislikes of business, services and products.
Engage in Forums . Seek out chat rooms and forums that have your interests and where you can contribute positively. Never be negative, argumentative, or hurtful; do not slam Scripture down at people, be a friend, listen and encourage and offer help. If it is too much, seek help.
Social Media Strategy. Develop a comprehensive social media strategy creation if your church or ministry is doing evangelistic outreach. Have a program, like a parents-night-out, movie night, seminar on budgeting, résumé writing, or marriage help; find a need and fill it, plug with press, and reassess while considering integrated marketing, outsourcing of key content creation to marketing venders and publicity organizations with unique plug-ins for website, blog, Facebook and Twitter.
Remember be careful what you say and how you say it! Never spam, give bad information, give personal or cyber attacks and unwanted content. Also, make sure peoples needs are responded too.
The Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter medias will have a public face so all can see, but it will have a private face too, a secure forum for you to interact. In maintaining confidences, do not mention specific people, never gossip; address only general themes and problems in public forums. If you want to network with your pastor and others in this, have a 'secure' forums on Facebook and or LinkedIn for confidential interaction with others who can help. The 'wall' of your social networking is your public presence; all info on the wall is read by everyone. Do not post people's names without permission or details of conversations until permission is received, and still be capful what you say. Social media is a must for church and business marketing, but must be monitored and kept safe.
What is coming next? More!
Social Media is not a fad! More ministriesthan ever are using and relying on Facebook, Twitter and others formats to say "hi" and to stay connected to friends and family. As I talk to many youth pastors, a trend amongst young people today is putting off getting drivers licenses until they absolutely need them. In generations past, as soon as one tuned 15 ½, they got a permit and did all they could for the license and a car. It was the right of passage in America. This was the ideal way to connect with friends and go places. Today, youth are not doing this! Instead all their connections are online with meetings in public places, schools, mall (and in churches with good youth programs). Social media uses will increase as more churches and people get involved by engaging the community, supporters with your ministry, program or product.
Mobile is going bigger! In the next year, more people will be using their smart phones and pads rather than their computers to get online, to connect, to find info to commune. Mobile media is a great tool for building relationships with your congregation, customers and prospects!
Have you ever wondered why Jesus "needs" to use us to proclaim His Word and tell others? Why does He not just audibly reveal Himself to all? Well, He does not need us, but chooses to use us for a greater good. The proclamation of the Gospel is not easy; it takes demonstrators--people to live it out. Just telling someone, even from God, doesn't get much of a response as seen in the Old Testament, because people deny God. The Holy Spirit must reveal Christ to them to entice them to believe, and they need to see the product demonstrated. That is what we do in servant evangelism.
We are called to learn; we need the information so that we know Christ and what He calls us to. We all need love and forgiveness. We need the love from Christ so that we have it to give to others. If we do not learn and love, we cannot grow in faith and maturity; we cannot effectively share the faith. In contrast, if all we do is learn and we are not transformed, we just become dumb, fat, and useless sheep who become annoying and not servant leaders and evangelists of God. Faith and being His witnesses is a matter of how we are over what we are; how we are is more important than what we say!
Why should we embrace internet evangelism? Because, it is evangelism. Because, He Lives! Because, the Holy Spirit lives and works in us as an enabler to help, guide, and empower us so we can receive, know, and obey God and His decrees (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21).
The principle of love, which is the essence of the Gospel, must impact us so we are influenced by His love, that we ponder upon it, become energized by it, and it flows no matter what. We can reach out in His Name for His glory!
For helps and resources see:
Our Evangelism Page Outreach
© 2012, R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/