Sunday, February 03, 2008

Reaching the world for Christ through Internet evangelism and cybermissions

We live in an increasingly wired world. More than a billion people now use the Internet on a daily basis for education, home and business purposes. Consider the following statistics and facts:

[1] China, according to the official China Internet Network Information Center, now has 210 million Internet users, only five million users behind the USA. As reported by the Associated Press, China is expected to surpass the US online community in 2008 to become the world's largest.

[2] According to Internet World Stats, as of September 2007, Asia has 459 million Internet users out of a total population of 3.7 billion. Africa, on the other hand, with a total population of 933 million, has some 44 million Internet users.

Internet World Stats provides the following figures of Internet users in the following Asian countries: Afghanistan - 535,000; Armenia - 172,800; Azerbaijan - 829,100; Bangladesh - 450,000; Bhutan- 30,000; Brunei Darussalam - 165,600; Cambodia - 44,000; East Timor - 1,000; Georgia - 332,000; Hong Kong - 4,878,713; India - 60,000,000; Indonesia - 20,000,000; Japan - 87,540,000; Kazakhstan - 1,247,000; South Korea - 34,120,000; Kyrgyzstan - 298,100; Laos - 25,000; Macau - 201,000; Malaysia - 14,904,000; Maldives - 20,100; Mongolia - 268,300; Myanmar - 300,000; Nepal - 249,400; Pakistan - 12,000,000; Singapore - 2,421,800; Sri Lanka - 428,000; Taiwan - 14,500,000; Tajikistan - 19,500; Thailand - 8,465,800; Turkmenistan - 64,800; Uzbekistan - 1,745,000; Vietnam -17,220,812

Internet World Stats provides the following figures of Internet users in the following African countries: Algeria - 2,460,000; Angola - 172,000; Benin - 700,000; Botswana - 60,000; Burkina Faso - 80,600; Burundi - 60,000; Cameroon - 370,000; Cape Verde - 29,000; Central African Rep. - 13,000; Chad - 60,000; Comoros - 21,000; Congo - 70,000; Congo, Dem. Rep. - 180,000; Cote d'Ivoire - 300,000; Djibouti - 11,000; Egypt - 6,000,000; Equatorial Guinea - 8,000; Eritrea - 100,000; Ethiopia - 164,000; Gabon - 81,000; Gambia - 58,000; Ghana - 609,800; Guinea - 50,000; Guinea-Bissau - 37,000; Kenya - 2,770,300; Lesotho - 51,500; Liberia - 1,000; Libya - 232,000; Madagascar - 110,000; Malawi - 59,700; Mali - 70,000; Mauritania - 100,000; Mauritius - 300,000; Morocco - 6,100,000; Mozambique - 178,000; Namibia - 80,600; Niger - 40,000; Nigeria - 8,000,000; Reunion (FR) - 220,000; Rwanda - 65,000; Saint Helena (UK) - 1,000; Sao Tome & Principe - 23,000; Senegal - 650,000; Seychelles - 29,000; Sierra Leone - 10,000; Somalia - 94,000; South Africa - 5,100,000; Sudan - 3,500,000; Swaziland - 41,600 Tanzania - 384,300; Togo - 320,000; Tunisia - 1,294,900; Uganda - 750,000; Zambia - 500,000; Zimbabwe - 1,220,000.

[3] Africa Online, a company based in Nairobi, Kenya is putting up Internet cafes all across that continent.

[4] South Korea, with an Internet user population of 34 million, now has 80% of homes with broadband connection.

[5] The National Statistics Office reports that there are currently 13.4 million Filipinos using the Internet.

[6] According to Andrew Careaga, pioneer e-vangelist, it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. Television hit the 50 million mark in 13 years while computers reached that many users in 16 years. But the Internet reached 50 million users in just 4 years.

[7] The first batch (some 250,000 units) of the $100 XO laptop is expected to be delivered to children in developing countries in October 2007. Various governments have ordered this Linux-powered laptop which has been designed to withstand high temperatures and moisture like in Libya, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay and Nigeria, can be recharged by foot-pump, pull-cord, or solar power, has built-in wireless Internet, and is equipped with a sunlight readable display. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is a non-profit organization committed to providing educational opportunity, in the form of low cost laptops, to children worldwide.

[8] YouTube, the immensely popular publish your own video Internet service, reached more than ten million members in Japan in just 14 months. Of the total 70 million blogs in the world today, the largest language grouping is Japanese, with 37%. English is in second place, with Chinese third. (From Web Evangelism Bulletin, August 2007) Japan, with its highly-wired, tech-loving 127 million population has been described as one of the “major modern mission misses.” Please read "Japan and web evangelism: A missed mission opportunity."

According to John Edmiston's website, “religion seekers” are a major Internet phenomenon with 40% of Internet users regularly searching for religious information online. That is 400 million people seeking religious information.

What is cybermissions?

Cybermissions, as Edmiston defines it in his website, is the “intentional front-line use of computers and the Internet as tools for fulfilling the Great Commission, cross-cultural evangelism, discipleship, church-planting and training.” It includes websites, blogs, Flash movies, chat rooms, podcasts, Internet radio, e-mail, etc. Edmiston presents eye-opening statistics on the 43 nations where cybermissions could be the main missions strategy. His website has a Powerpoint presentation on the concept, opportunities and strategic use of cybermissions.

Videos and Powerpoint on Internet evangelism and cybermissions

In 2005, Liberty University (founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell) in Lynchburg, Virginia, USA hosted the “Internet Evangelism for the 21st Century” conference. The seminars by various Internet evangelism practitioners are available for viewing at as Google videos. The presentations can also be downloaded as an e-book (PDF format, 6 MB file size). Some of the topics tackled during the conference were: How is Evangelism Changing in the 21st Century? Communicating Christ Effectively to Secular Audiences; A Complete Internet Evangelism Strategy; Evangelistic Sites and Follow-up Systems; Internet Evangelism and the Third World; Podcasting and Internet Evangelism; New Media Technology and Trends for the Future; and Reaching the Connected Generation with Blogging.

Some of the web evangelism seminars from the Web Ministry conference held last September are now available to watch online (video and Powerpoint). The seminar topics are:

How effective are online evangelism and cybermissions?

The North American Mission Board, recognizing the impact of the Internet, appointed Siam Rogers in May 2000 as its first ever missionary to the Intenet. His website is

Edmiston in his Powerpoint presentation cites the impact and success of the Internet ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ – Canada. He says,

    TruthMedia (a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ - Canada) evangelistic websites receive 750,000 visitors each month. It is a ministry that's dedicated to help people come to know God in a personal way through the medium of the Internet and then helping them grow in their faith through discipleship sites. Its goal is to impact people around the world by using the medium and tools of the Internet. Truth Media has 450 volunteers doing the writing, evangelism and discipleship outreach.

    In an average month the website has about 750,000 people who visit the related sites, of those approximately 1,400 people will indicate that they received Christ or have made some kind of significant spiritual decision like rededicating their lives to Christ.

    TruthMedia's Women Today Magazine also has a Chinese language version with the millions of Chinese women as its target audience. An Arabic version of the website, meant for women in the Middle East, is also in the works.

    Edmiston clarifies that cybermissions are not meant to replace or compete with traditional missions but to work hand in hand, synergistically with each other.

    If you want to know more about online evangelism, please surf over to Internet Evangelism Day for its well-written and valuable guide to web outreach. An introduction to the nature of the World Wide Web as a medium can be found in the portion entitled “Push or Pull.” The crux of the guide is “Web strategy to reach millions” while the article “Chat room, Instant Messaging, e-mail witness” discusses ways by which these technology can be used for online evangelism. Please read also Rusty Wright’s article “Could God use you in Internet Evangelism?

    Blog: simplified form of a website

    Internet Evangelism Day also talks about the possibilities of blogs. A blog is an easy to use form of a website, capable of posting pictures and text. If you know how to use MS Word, you can create a blog in minutes. You can use a blog for posting pictures and articles of your church events, announcements, etc. Through a blog, you can keep your sending church and supporting groups and individuals informed about what’s happening to your ministry.

    My blogs are "Legal Updates" at (discussion of current issues affecting the Filipino family); "Salt and Light" at (articles on marriage, family and relationships); "Campus Connection" at (youth-oriented articles, including articles on photography); and "Families of faith" at I created these blogs through, Google's free blog-creation tool. Just type "" at the Internet address box and you will be guided through three easy steps, and in minutes, you can have your own blog.

    How serious can blogging be? According to a Christianity Today article by Ted Olsen, Mark D. Roberts, one of the most prominent "pastor bloggers," announced that he was leaving his pulpit at Irvine, California, Presbyterian Church to become senior director at the Laity Lodge retreat in Texas and concentrate on his blogging. "My blog now becomes a part of my primary work," Roberts told his congregation.

    Flash movies

    These are created either in the Macromedia Flash program or in Swish Max, and can be effectively used for Internet evangelism, Bible teaching and cybermissions. We are very familiar with the printed Gospel tracts distributed during visitation or saturation drives. Through Flash, we now have the Internet versions of these tracts known as "digitracts" or "e-tracts." You can view the digitracts online, e-mail them to other people, download them to your computer or embed them in your own webpages to share with visitors. The website has numerous digitracts, even the very familiar Roman Road.

    Other good examples of Flash movies used in evangelism are: [1] The Kristo by the North American Mission Board; and [2] Father's Love Letter, an eight minute preview of the 25-minute video created by Barry Adams and which has been viewed by millions of people.

    Mobile phone evangelism

    80% of the world's population live in an area where they can use mobile phones. And 2 billion of them already own a mobile phone.One billion new camera phones will be shipped in 2008. There is huge evangelistic potential for these devices, including video clips, Short Code text response numbers, and the mobile web. (From Web Evangelism Newsletter, August 2007)

    Last month, the number of mobile devices tipped past 3.3 billion - i.e. half the world's population. In Japan and several other countries, more people access the Web through mobile devices than fixed personal computers, whose usage and sales are declining. In recent years the cellphone industry has seen surging growth in outskirts of China and India, helped by constantly falling phone and call prices, with cellphone vendors already eyeing inroads into Africa's countryside to keep up the growth. (From Web Evangelism Bulletin quoting from Reuters / Helsinki)

    E-mail evangelism with Taiwanese students

    ASSIST Ministries, founded by Dan Gooding and based in Garden Grove, California, has been running various pen pal programs for 13 years with people all over the former Soviet Union and China, and now is focusing on Taiwan. The e-mail program is called “Bridge of Friendship Taiwan. “

    Wooding calls the aim of this e-mail project as 'Love Tucked Inside An E-Mail message.'” He explains that the idea is “to establish a friendship with people (primarily students) from Taiwan who read and speak English and, as part of that relationship, be able to share their faith with them and also learn about their life and beliefs.” Wooding adds, “This is a wonderful opportunity for American Christians from all ethnic backgrounds, to become missionaries to Asia without leaving home.”

    The use of bridge strategies

    Both Internet Evangelism Day and John Edmiston emphasize the use of bridge strategies, that is, identified needs around which website ministries can be created. My Family Matters website uses free legal information on the Family Code of the Philippines as its bridge strategy.

    "English for Asians and Africans" and "Better English for Filipinos" cybermissions project

    Internet Evangelism Day says that "English teaching is a major opportunity in virtually all non-English speaking countries, open or closed, and that such a ministry is significant as a witness tool in a world desperate to learn English." China, for example, has 300 million people learning the English language. Also, Filipino missionaries working in the foreign fields often use the teaching of English as part of their evangelistic strategy.

    These websites serve as page-specific portals to all the ESL (English as Second Language) and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) resources already on the Internet. From the various ESL and EFL resources, the website have sections on the eight parts of speech with links to interactive exercises, plus sections in vocabulary, spelling, reading, pronunciation, and resources like online dictionaries. The websites also have a section that teaches writing through the use of photographs.

    As the primary way of encouraging people from Asian and African countries to communicate with the website, free online tutoring in conversational English will be offered to them by qualified persons (the “cybermissionaries”) through Yahoo Messenger, for example. The "Better English for Filipinos" website will not offer online tutoring; Filipinos who want to avail of this service have to surf to the "English for Asians and Africans" website.

    The website will network with Filipino missionaries now serving in the foreign fields. The missionaries can use the website if teaching English is part of their ministries. The website in turn can provide these missionaries with the names of the persons (from their field of service) who have contacted the website.

    Friendship evangelism will be the evangelistic strategy for this website. As people from Asian and African countries contact the website to avail of the free online tutoring in conversational English by the qualified and accredited cybermissionaries, friendships can be developed with these persons.

    After the initial contact, the cybermissionaries can start sending these persons via e-mail digital tracts and other materials about the Gospel. As Edmiston says, “Through the online communication, the cybermissionaries can sensitively look for opportunities to witness to these persons. Interaction builds loyalty and must be carefully nurtured. It grows the relationship so you can ask the tough questions.”

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