I am thrilled to see how the Church worldwide began to use the Internet as a tool of the Gospel during this season of COVID-19. I will share with you an article that I wrote in effort to assist churches who want a consistent ministry presence online. Here is Part One of “Six Questions Churches Must Ask to Use the Internet as a Tool of the Gospel” …
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).
We have more power and opportunity available to us today that entire generations who have gone before us. “Go and make disciples of all nations” is no longer an audacious goal but it a reality that is within our grasp. In fact, it is being fulfilled!
What we are learning in this season of the pandemic is that the Church can function online and Pastors and church leaders can have input into the personal lives of believers each day of the week. Churches are no longer limited to sharing God’s Word and ministering to believers when they are physically in the church building or attend a church event such as a home group. Local churches can now speak God’s Truth daily into the lives of their people. The added feature to believers is that they can access content according to their personal schedules.
The starting point to developing our use of the Internet as a tool of the Gospel is to address the big picture. Let’s address some key questions:
1. Do we “do church” in our building or online?
We must have a “both/and” attitude. Some Pastors have questioned the validity of “doing church” online since people are not in their church building. Others are excited that their number of listeners increased from 100 people to 2,400 and that was due to online viewers. As local churches prepare to reach people moving forward, they must realize that they must combine the physical local church with the virtual church to reach the most people possible. Neglecting ministry in either the physical world or the virtual world will cause us to fall short in reaching our fullest potential.
2. What is our ultimate outcome for online ministry?
We must be Kingdom-minded. As many of us have discovered, the Internet is no respecter of geography, politics, or economic status. When you go online, immediately you have a global footprint in the virtual world. People come to your church website from nations that you did not know you could reach.
This presents two questions. First, are you willing to invest your resources for online ministry to people who may never attend your church in the physical world? Not all local churches are willing to do this. Second, when someone views your church’s online content are you willing and prepared to direct them to a local church in their city or nation? You can resist the temptation to reduce your online activity to either building your local church or the Church because you can do both; a “both/and” attitude.
3.Who is our target audience?
We must know who our viewers are. The viewers to online church services generally comprise the following categories: (1) Christians who are church attenders, (2) Christians who are church shopping online, (3) people who are nominal in their faith, (4) unbelievers who are curious, (5) unbelievers who are searching online desperately for answers to life’s dilemmas and (5) “the forgotten millions.”
The “forgotten millions” are the people whose only opportunity to worship is the online church. They cannot attend a local church in person due to physical or mental limitations, governmental restrictions, family prohibitions, or due to their religious beliefs that do not allow them to attend. Yet, “the forgotten millions” will go online due to the anonymity and security of the Internet and search for Truth.
Recent events have awakened us to the fact that over one-half of the world’s population uses the Internet regularly and the vast majority of them do so on a hand-held device. You cannot function fully in first-world nations without Internet access. When you walk the streets in third-world nations, it is not uncommon to see people on cell phones and interacting in the virtual world. The Internet is here to stay and people around the world are using it.
My hope is that these three big-picture questions will open your eyes wider to the possibilities of reaching people via the Internet and confirm in your heart the validity and vast potential of Network211.
Network211 uses a “both/and” attitude as we help people go from “searches to churches.” We are kingdom-minded as we journey with individuals and connect them with others to join them in growing closer to Christ. We were built to reach people who search online for answers and relationship; especially the “forgotten millions.”
Please know that your prayer and financial support drives this ministry forward and equipped us to be effective. You are making a difference!
I encourage you to visit our “Projects” page, https://network211.com/projects/, and ask the Lord what He will have you do today!
In our next Eblast, I will present Part Two and provide the final three questions.
Dr. Mark Flattery