Friday, November 06, 2009

Reaching the world for Christ through Internet evangelism and cybermissions



Updated information as of February 2009:

[A] China had 298 million Internet users by the end of 2008, more than any country in the world, and among which 270 million surf the Web via broadband access. It had a 41.9 percent growth in Internet usage compared to the previous year.

[B] Google is backing a project called 03B which aims to give three billion people from Asia, Africa and the Middle East broadband Internet access by 2010. Together with Liberty Global and HSBC, Google is investing $750 million in 16 low-earth orbit satellites that will link with ground stations such as cell towers or WiMax stations and provide high-speed networking cable connection.

[C] The number of global broadband households will near 440 million by 2010 and top 1.2 billion by 2030. With such infrastructure in place, the opportunity for broadband-enabled services - especially video - will grow dramatically.

[D] Six in ten people around the world now have cell phone subscriptions, for an estimated 4.1 billion subscriptions globally, compared with about 1 billion in 2002. Thirty nine percent of Chinese Internet users adopt cell phones to surf the Web. Students are the main strength of mobile Internet users: 43.5 percent of them use their cell phones to read online news, download music, check email and perform a variety of other tasks.

[E] As of May 2008, according to Technorati (a popular blog search engine) there are more than 112.8 million blogs.

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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] In a recent study, Yahoo! and consumer information group Nielsen revealed that there are now 20 million Filipino users of the Internet. The majority of Filipino Internet users range in ages from 10 to 29. For more information, please surf to my post How the Internet is impacting Filipino society.

[2] China had 298 million Internet users by the end of 2008, more than any country in the world.

[3] 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.

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

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

[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."

[9] Facebook to the rescue: Please read “Coins flow in to help Indonesian Facebook Mum” by Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo of Agence France-Presse to learn how the Internet mobilized thousands of Indonesians in support of Prita, a 32-year old mother of two, who was convicted of defaming a hospital through her e-mail. The AFP story narrates how ordinary Indonesians collected a truckload of coins to help pay Prita’s fine of 204 million rupiah (about US $21,000). The coins as of the latest count weigh more than six tons.

[10] According to John Edmiston's website www.cybermissions.org, “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 http://ie-21stcentury.com/ 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; best viewed in Internet Explorer). The seminar topics are:

Click hereUnderstanding the nature of the Web as a communication medium (from Internet Evangelism Day)

It is vital to understand the nature of the Web as a communication medium, otherwise we can’t use it effectively:

[1] The web is not a ‘linear medium’, offering a sequential block of information or entertainment in the way that novels, videos or tracts do. It is ‘non-linear’, containing multiple blocks of material not linked together in a fixed order.

[2] Neither is the Web a ‘push medium’. Radio, TV, literature distribution or billboard advertising are largely ‘push mediums’ – that is, they send out a single indiscriminate broadcast message to anyone within range. The Web however is a ‘pull medium’. People only visit a web page if it draws them in because of something that interests them. The user is in complete control. A website therefore has no automatic audience. There is no magical ‘trickle-down’ effect whereby Christian websites will somehow be seen by non-Christians who have no wish to visit them.

[3] ‘Broadcast media’ (radio, TV, newspapers) are not really interactive, except perhaps for phone-ins or letters to the editor. The Web offers instant feedback, interaction and relationship-building. More than any other medium, it enables conversation, networking and relationships. Because the gospel flows most effectively through non-confrontational accepting relationships, two-way conversation and non-preachy open discussion, the Web fits very closely with evangelism.

[4] Do not think of the Web as ‘tracts on a screen’, or a static brochure. For many years, Christian radio suffered because it was often ‘church services on the radio’ – hymns, prayers and sermons. By trying to transfer one form of proclamation (a face-to-face Christian meeting) to the very different medium of radio, effectiveness and potential audience were reduced.

[5] It is also very important to understand the process by which people come to faith, online or offline (Gray Matrix).

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. You can also download a PDF handout on digital evangelism. Please read also Rusty Wright’s article “Could God use you in Internet Evangelism?

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.

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 http://www.accessjesus.org/.

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.

    Mobile phone evangelism

    Six in ten people around the world now have cell phone subscriptions, for an estimated 4.1 billion subscriptions globally, compared with about 1 billion in 2002.80% of the world's population live in an area where they can use mobile phones. One billion new camera phones were shipped in 2008.

    Thirty nine percent of Chinese Internet users adopt cell phones to surf the Web. Students are the main strength of mobile Internet users: 43.5 percent of them use their cell phones to read online news, download music, check email and perform a variety of other tasks.

    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)

    There are many innovative ways to use mobiles, as a Nonprofit Technology Network article explains. The video below shows how people from around the world are using mobile phone technology for social change.



    A November 4, 2009 Reuters news story Cheap mobile calls help more young couples elope by Abdi Sheikh relates how mobile phones are changing Somali society.
    Somali courtship was different in Hassan Aden’s day. When he was a teenager, you gave the girl’s parents 11 camels and an AK-47 assault rifle as bride price and then waited respectfully.

    Now, the 55-year-old said, a mobile phone service that seems to be the only thing working in the failed Horn of Africa state is helping drive a rise in elopements, pregnancies out of marriage and a steady erosion of Somalia’s conservative values.

    “The youth of today enjoy modern technology, fast transportation and free-of-charge marriages,” Aden, a store owner, told Reuters at a coffee shop in the capital Mogadishu.

    “Today, even reasonable boys pay just $50 bride price and a copy of the holy Koran after making the girl pregnant or seeing her secretly for months.”

    In a drought-ravaged land where rebels are trying to topple a fragile government, gun battles break out almost daily and nearly 20,000 civilians have been killed since the start of 2007, cheap mobile communications are one happy diversion.

    The entrepreneurial spirit of Somalis, born out of two decades of anarchy, as well as an absence of taxes, have helped domestic mobile companies thrive despite the chaos.

    Many older residents say the prevalence of handsets and such cheap tariffs -- among the lowest in the world -- is making the lives of youngsters unrecognizable. A month of local calls costs about $10. International calls can go for $0.30 a minute.

    The cheap calls and extended mobile network in the Horn of Africa nation make it easier for Somalis to get in touch with willing partners and arrange quick assignations. (Read the complete article)
    Some of these could have specific potential for evangelism, including the use of Bluetooth. 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). Portable electronic book readers such as Amazon’s ‘Kindle’ are enabling people to store a library of books to read anywhere. This creates the opportunity to distribute free Christian books, Bibles or interactive presentations.


    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" (see for example the very familiar Roman Road). You can view the digitracts online, e-mail them to other people, download them to your computer or embed them in your own web pages to share with visitors.

    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.

    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.”

    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. As of May 2008, according to Technorati (a popular blog search engine) there are more than 112.8 million blogs. 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 http://www.famli.blogspot.com/ (discussion of current issues affecting the Filipino family); "Salt and Light" at http://www.-salt-and-light-.blogspot.com/ (articles on marriage, family and relationships); "Campus Connection" at http://www.campusconnection.blogspot.com/ (youth-oriented articles, including articles on photography); and "Families of Faith" at http://www.families-of-faith.blogspot.com/. I created these blogs through Blogger.com, Google's free blog-creation tool. Just type "blogger.com" at the Internet address box and you will be guided through three easy steps, and in minutes, you can have your own blog (see the YouTube video below).

    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.

    To learn more about how to create a blog for your church or ministry, please view the YouTube video below.
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    Free websites from Google Sites

    Google Sites makes it easy for anyone to create and manage simple, secure group websites. Getting started is easy, and there are a number of helpful templates. More than just a visual theme, site templates can include site structure and navigation, custom page templates, embedded gadgets, and more. Google Sites is powerful enough for a company intranet, yet simple enough for a family website.



    2 comments:

    Arman said...

    I appreciate the topic. Let's use all resources we can get to win souls for the Lord.

    Amen brother! God bless.

    Earl said...

    Let's take these advantages to further the gospel of Christ!

    Keep on the firing line!