Liberty University (LU), a distinguished evangelical institution of higher education, hosted the Internet Evangelism Conference on its Lynchburg campus in Va., early April.
About 150 people gathered from several states as well as Singapore and Australia, to join the exciting and innovative event titled "Internet Evangelism the 21st Century Conference," according to the University's press release.
We came up with the idea and started promoting it in the international Internet evangelism arena and speakers started to volunteer because they saw the direction we were going with the conference targeting a non-techie audience and people who arent Web masters, but potential users. Anybody whos got a ministry is interested in talking about it, said Liberty Professor and conference coordinator, Dan Henrich.
Promoting the conference to students was a challenge, Henrich said, because so many students do not recognize the need for Internet evangelism, which he believes is vital to the expansion of Christianity.
The conference, hosted by the LU Communications Department, consisted of 20 workshops organized to teach those in attendance how to successfully reach people for Jesus Christ through online resources. Participants made dtheir own selections from different workshops including Trends in Technology, Global Missions, Ministering Online, Youth and Youth Leaders, and Broad Overview.
Henrich said that although many students have had evangelism class and are very much familiar with internet, they do not see the application of putting them together.
One of the major challenges was making it real to the students, he explained.
The sessions provided the students with insights on the validity of internet and technological usage in evangelism.
I had a lot of questions about whether or not it was valid to use the Internet and technology for evangelism, said Liberty student Justin Snyder, whose two particular interests, evangelism and film-making, were brought together by the conference.
You hear a lot of criticisms that you cant build personal relationships online. They convinced me about how it can be used. The workshop on video blogging showed that you could because when you watch a video of someone, you feel that you get to know them.
Snyder explained that video blogging involves recording a Gospel message, lecture, or opinion on a video and then posting that video online for others to access.
Someone can respond to you in the same way and you can build relationships online.
The biggest thing I gained is that Internet evangelism is about telling the old Message in a new way. I was worried about a watered down Gospel, but it wasnt that at all, said public relations student Aaron Bennett, also impressed by the idea of internet outreach.
The Internet is a very powerful tool. There are so many people on it. Its another channel of communication and there are so many ways to redeem that. There are many opportunities to do evangelism on the Internet," Henrich said.