God has given his church a wonderful gift in the internet, and slowly we are beginning to learn to use it. But change comes hard for the church, and often our use of the internet follows the same rules we have been using with print media for several years, and our audience continues to be confined to an exclusive audience of those within the church, or even our own congregation.
I look at a lot of church web sites and a growing number of Facebook groups, and I continue to observe how many say things like “This group is designed to provide information and discussion for members and friends of St. John’s-by-the-gas-station Church.” The web site or Facebook group is full of announcements, inside chatter, and pictures of the latest Youth Group car wash,
Increasingly, however, some are using the internet as a means of outreach to their community. Their websites are inclusive, rather than exclusive. They meet people where they are, rather than fitting them into the program and schedule of the church. They invite people to share their needs, their prayer requests, their questions. And they reach out to help these people in word and deed with the love and mercy of Christ.
A web site called “Internet Evangelism Day” has assembled a broad array of resources for congregations looking to use the internet in outreach and is setting April 26 as “Internet Evangelism Day,” Watch the video below, and then check out the web site (CLICK HERE)
A good place for any congregation to start is with an assessment of its web site. The movement to a blog or to Facebook or Twitter shifts the approach from a standardized message on a fixed platform to a more customized approach to individuals. Another avenue being explored by some, including my own denomination, is outreach through Second Life, the virtual world community. Second Life enables one to actually plant a congregation and hold worship services in this virtual world. See the video below for an example. As it stands now, Second Life has (in my opinion) a rather demanding learning curve and an aura of mystery that limits it from really taking off. As the developers work to make it more user-friendly, it will become a fertile field for outreach.