Evangelical Christians today are either entering secular scenes on the worldwide Web to save the lost or designing their own Christian web world to house the faith community. In both cases, the Internet has become a powerful tool for Christian evangelism.
Internet Evangelism Day on Sunday is recognizing what God is doing on the Web and telling more Christians to get on board in web outreach.
The latest development is the virtual world. With the unchurched population in America nearing 100 million, according to The Barna Group, Christians are bringing church to the Internet for easy access and wider reach. The popular online virtual reality world "Second Life" with over 5 million visitors has a small but growing Christian community. Pastors have set up virtual churches in the digitalized secular world and even an ecumenical group to help spread the Gospel message and serve as Christ-centered churches more effectively.
Second Life's citizens just celebrated their first Easter together earlier this month.
Another major trend are the Christian MySpace.com and YouTube.com websites that step away from the "me" culture and turn the focus on God.
GodTube.com, a video-sharing site for Christians, draws up to 50,000 unique visitors a day. Videos posted on the site feature anything from Christian music videos and personal testimonies to accountability, including how to avoid pornography, and arguments against evolution.
More increasingly, testimonies and debates have found a major outlet on the Web – blogs. Christian bloggers, particularly within the Southern Baptist circle, have picked up steam in the past year with more pastors publicizing their opinions, including discontentment, and creating a power bloc within their church groups.
Individual bloggers have also found the blogosphere a powerful outreach approach, especially for Christians fearful of talking to strangers on the street about the Gospel.
"Kelsey," a mother of four in West Texas, began writing in her "Holy Mama!" blog in January. Her blog was not intended for evangelism but rather for marketing her writing as an aspiring Christian novelist.
"I write from a Christian worldview, but my site isn't one of those geared for other Christians. Christ is in me, and is a large part of my life, and so there's plenty of 'God stuff' mentioned and implied in my writing – but it's not preachy, devotional, or inspirational in nature," she said, according to the Internet Evangelism Coalition. "It's just life as a Christian mom."
However, the blog soon became evangelistic when she got involved in an online conflict between Christian and Mormon bloggers. Some of the Christian bloggers said Christians should not associate with Mormon bloggers at all. Kelsey argued "You can't be the 'salt of the earth' if you won't leave the rest of the little salt grains that are just like you and get out of the shaker, already!"
Her argument post drew some positive comments and e-mails from her readers, half of whom she believes are of little or no faith.
Although a small "mommy" blog, "people are finding it, reading it, and deciding they 'know me' well enough to start an email conversation about salvation," she said.
On Internet Evangelism Day, Christians and churches are challenged to utilize digital outreach, from a technologically advanced level to a personal blog that requires no real technical know-how, to help reach the world. This is the third Internet Evangelism Day and is an initiative of the Internet Evangelism Coalition, an umbrella group of major interdenominational Christian groups involved in Web ministry.
On the web: Internet Evangelism Day