An evangelical group is promoting "Internet Evangelism Day," a day meant to spread awareness of the value social media and the Internet in advancing the Gospel.
Created by the Internet Evangelism Coalition and sponsored in part by Global Media Outreach, IE Day will be observed this coming Sunday.
"I think the Internet has become absolutely vital for evangelism for a range of reasons," Tony Whittaker, Internet Evangelism Day Coordinator in the United Kingdom, told The Christian Post. He noted that the Internet "is usually the first port of call for any area of information or need."
"It offers what is called 'anonymous intimacy' – people can ask questions or access material that might be impossible … for them in the physical world," he added. "This applies especially to people in closed areas of the world, who might be very unlikely to interact with a Christian face-to-face."
Whittaker spoke of the importance of social media, believing that the venue offered still more opportunities for witness.
"Until relatively recently, if someone wanted to be involved in online evangelism, it had to be a fairly intentional activity, i.e. writing a website or blog," he pointed out. "But with social media, anyone can do it. You don't need writing or technical gifts. The three-fold cord of Facebook (or Twitter) with YouTube video shorts and mobile phones is a powerful mix."
The online future of worship has been grasped by some churches. LifeChurch.tv, for example, is a church that offers online worship and boasts of 100,000 weekly viewers.
"[We] see over a 100,000 unique computers every week that come to one of our services at Church Online and we're able to measure the results from the people that come through it," said Bobby Gruenewald of LifeChurch.tv, on a "Face the Nation" webcast.
"We have people from all over the world; I think it's literally 120 countries and territories every week that participate in [worship]."
And yet, there are plenty of church websites that offer little for viewers regarding Web content or even up to date contact information. Others have no website at all.
Regarding churches that do not have a strong online presence or any online presence at all, Whittaker told CP that a church that lacks a website "is essentially invisible."
"Churches that understand these issues are reporting that their website is an integral and fruitful part of their ministry. Increasingly, churches are also integrating social media into their online presence," said Whittaker.
"While some have seen this as only a way to communicate with the membership, others are finding that there are ways to engage with outsiders in the community using Facebook and Twitter."
The importance of using the Internet is echoed by Michael Cheshire, senior pastor of The Journey Church of Conifer, Colo. Author of the book How to Knock Over A 7-Eleven and Other Ministry Training, Cheshire told CP in an earlier interview about the value of the Internet.
"I can't stress enough how important the Internet is," said Cheshire on the issue of churches who lack websites.
"If you want your church to grow exponentially, then you have to drag your church into the century you're living in."