Going into all the world includes cyberspace.
By now, we all know that the internet is not just a fad, as some predicted several years ago. In fact, for many people in the world, the internet has become a way of life. People today are chatting, blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, Youtubing, and a whole list of other “ings” on the internet. Recent studies have shown that, for web users, life means being “plugged in” to the global community. The internet has torn down boundaries of country, race, culture, and religion. Terms like the “global village” and “the internet family” are often used to describe how people from all over the world have connected with each other. With the integration of audio and video, the web is an endless adventure into places we could never have imagined before.
With this seemingly relentless flow of knowledge and communication, the internet has become a place for sin and evil to abound. It has, unfortunately, opened up unhealthful and damaging experiences which were not available to us 20 years ago. We need to be wise and aware of the pitfalls that exist online. Thankfully, there are tools which provide us with a safer environment and help guard against these temptations and distractions. One must-have web tool is a program like Safe Eyes (www.mysonlight.com/safeeyes). Other internet filters exist, but this is one of the best available.
The question is often asked—and rightfully so—“Should Christians and local churches be involved on the internet?” The answer, based on biblical principles, is a resounding “YES!” This new column will seek to explore various aspects of the internet and how we can be safe users who use the internet strategically to accomplish spiritual ends. There is a vast mission field all around us, and we should be a part of the efforts to reach the lost where they are. The internet also makes available to us many safe and useful tools to help our assemblies grow spiritually and stay in touch with our fellow believers.
The great commission is clear: every soul needs to be reached for Christ. The whole world is to be our mission field. The Lord Himself and the apostles followed one simple principle in preaching the gospel: they went to where the people were gathered. The internet allows us to reach people we would otherwise not be able to access. Many in countries that are closed or antagonistic to the gospel are not only accessible now but also open to discussing topics of religion and Christianity.
The internet gives us two very powerful tools to help us reach the lost:
1. An ear to listen.
People are communicating online with few, if any, barriers or hindrances. They are being real and honest in their search for significance. Never before in the history of the church have we had such open access to the thoughts and emotions of the lost. They are telling us in no uncertain terms the questions they need answered. If we have a listening ear online, we can present Christ in a way that meets the longing of their hearts.
2. A voice to speak.
The internet is also a platform to speak. We can share Christ widely online and engage in meaningful conversations that point to Him. But we need to know how to speak. Our care and love for the lost need not be compromised just because we might be thousands of miles apart. Even online, our witnessing should be compassionate, understanding, and Christ-like.
In the coming months, we will address the most relevant issues facing us in the online experience and seek to understand how we as Christians and local churches can effectively utilize the internet for Christ.