Chapter Ten – NetCaster Networking
“If we are together nothing is impossible. If we are divided all will fail.”—Winston Churchill
The great British statesman was paraphrasing the biblical themes of unity and cooperation when he called the free peoples of the world to rally against tyranny in his day. As believers, we must rally together against the tyranny of sin and worldly deception that holds so many in ignorance and bondage.
It is imperative to have NetCasters networking.
In this chapter I want to supply a starting point for connecting and partnerships among ministries and individual NetCasters. As a member of the Internet Evangelism Network executive committee, I have the privilege of meeting on an ongoing basis with other Web ministers. I am always amazed and encouraged by the innovation, creativity, strategies, and dedication of these wonderful men and women of God.
Here are some of the ways a ministry or an individual NetCaster can find partnerships and collaboration with other Internet evangelists.
Internet Evangelism Network
The purpose of the Internet Evangelism Network (IEN) is to stimulate and accelerate Web evangelism within the worldwide body of Christ. The focus is on collaboration—linking partners together in this mission to reach our world with the Good News of Jesus Christ—http://www.webevangelism.com.
The goals of the IEN are:
• Promote Internet Evangelism: Inspiring strategic thinking and resource development to empower the church for Internet evangelism and initial follow-up.
• Facilitate Collaboration: Encouraging collaborative efforts and connecting partners and resources for Internet evangelism.
Members of the Internet Evangelism Network provide support through financial donations and in-kind contributions and are involved in the IEN e-newsletter, IEN annual meeting, and the development of new tools and resources for Internet evangelism.
IEN members are at the forefront of new initiatives designed to connect those involved in Internet evangelism. IEN members connect with individuals, organizations, ministries, and churches that have a passion for sharing the gospel online.
I sat down with IEN Chairman Dr. Sterling Huston to talk about the IEN history and goals.
von Buseck: Tell me how the Internet Evangelism Network was birthed?
Huston: Back in 1995, I said to Bob Coleman, who headed up the evangelism institute at the Billy Graham Center, that we really ought to do a consultation on using the Internet for evangelism. It was just beginning to emerge, and the Web was being made available to the public. Bob took this vision and began to organize this consultation under the auspices of the Billy Graham Center. Their first goal was to have CEOs and people at the executive level of leadership from major organizations to come with the goal of fifty. They ended up having to shut it off at one hundred people. They held a three-day consultation in April 1997 at a local hotel.
The outcome was not only the great interest of people showing up to be a part of that, but also a consensus that there ought to be some kind of a continuing body to further enhance and facilitate collaboration among ministries toward this goal of Internet evangelism.
The consultant who worked with the original group said he had never seen a group come together as quickly with a sense of a goal and a vision as he saw here. I believe this was because it was about evangelism, and because these were people who had a passion for that. We can unite around evangelism much quicker than almost anything else.
It was also intended to be not an organization but a guided collaboration that helped to facilitate the passion people had and assist them with information, resources, and networking.
Out of that original mandate, then, a small group of us met among the planning committee and began to shape a body that would include some practitioners, some providers, as well as a good cross-section of parachurch and church leaders to start a committee that we would come to call the Internet Evangelism Network.
It was started with the idea that we would have the minimum amount of organization needed in order to accomplish our goals and our purposes. That particular body has evolved over time. Usually the service providers, because they appear in some way to have a vested interest, eventually left the committee but still were networked with it. It has ended up being, at this point, primarily people who represented transdenominational ministries or parachurch ministries, and some major denominational representation.
We finally decided that the IEN should be primarily a stimulant and a catalyst for bringing people together, networking, communicating, and providing resources for organizations and ministries that wanted to use the ’Net for evangelism purposes.
von Buseck: What are some of the things you’d like to see happen through the IEN in the coming years?
Huston: The mission of the IEN, simply stated, is to stimulate and accelerate global evangelism using the Internet. I would like to see us continue to be a catalyst to bring people together who have resources to commit to this. By that, I mean resources of programs and ideas and technology and, obviously, dollars to support that. And as much as possible, create product and create a kind of knowledge base that we can give away to both the church and parachurch.
I would like to see the IEN be a place of coordination, whereby ministries that are springing up all over the world can have some place that they can not only receive information that helps them but also share information that helps others.
There needs to be some kind of clearinghouse where we can help people on the other side of the world, “We’ve already tested this. It already works, or it doesn’t work.” I would like to see it be a place that has an intentional focus on communicating again, and again, and again that the Web and digital technology are the new media frontier. We must be utilizing these.
We need to see evangelism as more than only inside the church. We need to see it as a way to have access to a whole world of people who live in this media form and expand our outreach enormously by doing that.
von Buseck: You spoke of the IEN using these words: catalyst, convener, connector, commender, consultant, communicator, and a credible voice. I counted them and there are seven—so through the IEN a NetCaster could sail the seven Cs! (laughter).
Huston: Well, I’d like to pick up on the credible voice. If anything, because some significant organizations have gathered around the table and have said “We need to collaborate because the mission is bigger than any one of our parts. We trust one another, and we can help one another get this job done.” I think that provides a statement to the public at large, as well as an endorsement to the Christian community that will help the cause of using the Net for evangelism and for sharing our faith.”
The Internet Evangelism Day
One of the ways that the Internet Evangelism Network is promoting Web outreach is by cosponsoring the Internet Evangelism Day. This special annual NetCasting event serves as a resource for churches, Bible colleges, and other groups to promote Web evangelism.
The purpose of the day is to:
• increase awareness of the Internet as a powerful evangelistic medium;
• encourage, enable, and envision churches, other Christian groups, and individual Christians to use the Web for outreach;
• offer specific strategies and training for Christians in this area.
The Internet Evangelism Day is held on the last Sunday of April each year and promoted extensively through the Internet and other media outlets. To learn more about this exciting opportunity to promote Web outreach go to http://www.internetevangelismday.com.
This site offers a myriad of downloadable resources with suggestions and background material to help your church or group create an effective IE Day focus. The materials enable you to create a mix-and-match, do-it-yourself program. The promotional program can be five minutes or fifty, and it can be included within a church service, after-church meeting, midweek home group, Bible college seminar, or any other appropriate meeting for Christians.
On the IE Day Web site you can follow the “planning” link in the left-hand menu bar to view and download these resources. There is also a seventeen-slide PowerPoint presentation if you need to explain the concept to your leadership or decision-making team.
GUIDE Network (Global Use of Internet and Digital Evangelism)
Another group that encourages collaboration and cooperation among NetCasters is the Global Use of Internet and Digital Evangelism (GUIDE) Network. GUIDE is an informal networking resource, linked with Internet Evangelism Day and Web Evangelism Guide, Digital Evangelism Network, Global Christian Internet Alliance, Lausanne and visionSynergy.
The GUIDE network gathers to enhance the global spread of the gospel in multiple languages via the Internet and mobile digital devices by networking with practitioners to:
• share resources and information;
• encourage Kingdom collaboration;
• help the body of Christ to embrace and engage in Internet/mobile evangelism.
Dave Hackett of VisionSynergy founded the GUIDE Network to help ministries collaborate and cooperate and avoid duplicating ministry efforts. “I worked first with the IEN and got acquainted with it,” Hackett remembers. “Then I stumbled upon the inaugural meeting of the Muslim Internet evangelism group and was brought right onto the steering committee. The effort that came out of that was a long drive, almost two years, to form a global cross-language, cross-organizational Internet evangelism network.
“We saw quickly that if there was a Muslim one, and that has an exciting degree of specificity, and there is the North American one here—this English-speaking IEN, and there are some possible strands of hope for Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and so on that might separate off and form. We’ll need some mechanism and way of pulling those together so we can share what we’re learning. Or the opposite, we can seed and help start more specific ones.”
Hackett points out that currently there is neither a Hindu or Buddhist Internet evangelism group. “I mean, China, Buddhism, and Internet—does anyone see things clicking here?
“In Japan there is 100 percent Internet penetration. We’ve been going crazy trying to spark mobile evangelism through Alpha Japan, OMF, and JEMA (Japanese Evangelical Missionary Association). We’re sending out the seminal pieces to help them to understand the dynamics and to consider it. And that’s another way we work, to help them catch a vision.”
Many of the GUIDE Network partners are involved in the cross-cultural missions community as well as the new media, with a unique web of relationships to draw on. The network includes a Yahoo! Group (which has merged with the IEN GlobalForum group) and a range of other resources, including a wiki and blog on mobile evangelism, a group for those interested in children’s online outreach, and free articles—both evangelistic and evangelism-challenge for Christians.
GUIDE Network aims to draw together those interested in web evangelism and mobile device evangelism, with a particular emphasis on the huge opportunities in the non-Western world, in languages other than English, and to the unreached peoples world.
Patrick Johnstone of Operation World writes of GUIDE Network, “I am delighted to see the networking of Christians concerned for using the Internet for outreach. We all have much to learn to make best use of this medium. May the GUIDE Network be a key tool in equipping many Christians to become effective Internet evangelists and disciplers.”
Here are some recent additions for the GUIDE Network:
• GUIDE Network Yahoo! Group (http://www.tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/guide-network): This is a place to network with others, share news, and ask questions on any aspect of Web/mobile evangelism. You may wish to opt for a daily digest, to restrict the number of e-mails you receive.
• Mobile Evangelism Wiki (http://mobilev.pb.com): Wiki, listing the ways Christians are using the mobile platform in outreach and discipleship.
• Tracking Mobile Ministry Blog (http://davehackett.blogspot.com): A resource page about mobile device evangelism.
• Children’s Web and Digital Media Ministry Network (http://community.godrev.com/group/childrenswebanddigitalmediaministrynetwork): A place for networking, sharing vision, ideas, resource, and strategy for reaching and teaching children through the Internet and digital media. You will need to join GodRev; you can then ensure that your settings will send only e-mails in relation to this group.
• Lausanne’s newsletters Connecting Point (http://www.lausanne.org/lausanne-connecting-point) and Lausanne World Pulse (http://www.lausanneworldpulse.com).
VisionSynergy is a small team with much experience in creating viable and enduring mission networks and mission partnerships between churches, agencies, and organizations to advance global evangelization, especially among unreached people groups. The ministry hosts a networking resource site (www.powerofconnecting.net) that includes their book Well Connected (www.connectedbook.net) by Phill Butler.
VisionSynergy believes that an international Internet evangelism network will significantly increase the growth and effectiveness of existing and new online evangelism efforts. It works to connect experts around the world to help Christian groups network together to fulfill the Great Commission.
VisionSynergy has identified at least six such opportunities with high-impact potential for world evangelization. In each of these sectors, strategic networks can share best practices, case histories, and resource information; help fill gaps and reduce overlap; and provide encouragement and hope.
1. Evangelism among the 2.5 billion illiterate people who are the last frontier of the unreached.
2. Evangelism in the nearly 400 2/3rds world cities of more than 1 million inhabitants each in and around the 10/40 window.
3. Evangelism of more than 1 billion Internet users in languages other than English.
4. Economic sustainability of the emerging, persecuted church in Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and animist settings so these churches can support their own church growth and evangelism.
5. Linkage of the extensive North American resources among laity, local churches, mission agencies, Kingdom funders, and denominations that share a commitment to reaching the unreached.
6. A growing global company of individuals working to encourage kingdom collaboration, networks, and partnerships but who lack information, resources, training options, and connection with each other.
More information can be found at VisionSynergy’s Web site, http://www.visionsynergy.net.
Regional Expressions May Develop
Dave Hackett of VisionSynergy believes that a key way that global Internet evangelism network might develop is through the linking of regional or language-specific networks. Early collaborative efforts are already under way:
• Several ministries are preparing an online evangelism effort for French speakers (http://www.connaitredieu.com). There are more than twenty-seven million French-speakers online.
• Ministries are using the Web to reach out to Farsi speakers (http://www.kelisatv.com).
• Numerous seeker-friendly, evangelistic Web sites for the Islamic community are operating (http://thelightoftruth.com), containing both English and Arabic versions.
• China appears ripe for online evangelism with an Internet population of 103 million, second only to the United States. Nearly half of Web users in China are under the age of twenty-four.
John Edmiston of Cybermissions.org refers to a “tunnel and blast” strategy of using the Internet to tunnel into a culture to find a “person of peace,” then building a relationship and equipping the person to win the community and thus blast the gospel. In the developing world one person may be directly or indirectly connected to three hundred people.
Edmiston views global Internet evangelism as part of God’s unfolding purpose. “God has planned the use of Internet evangelism from long ago and stretched out His hand to bless it. We are at a critical period of world harvest when much needs to be done and yet many countries are closed to conventional means of preaching the gospel. God has raised up Internet evangelism and cybermissions as one way of meeting this need and is powerfully blessing it and making it effective.”
Global Christian Internet Alliance (GCIA)
The Global Christian Internet Alliance is an international network of Christian ministries using the Internet to help fulfill the Great Commission. GCIA’s mission is to provide convenient access to quality Christian Internet resources in all the major languages of the world.
The Global Christian Internet Alliance grew out of an international gathering convened by Christianity Today International in May 2001. Participants included ministries representing eight major languages: Chinese, Dutch, English (U.K. and USA), German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil), and Spanish (Chile). Most were leading Christian publishers or broadcasters seeking effective ways to extend their evangelism and discipleship ministries through the Internet.
Following this first conference in Chicago, alliance partners developed an international channel on their own sites with multilingual links to other affiliates. Since then, conferences have been hosted by GCIA partners around the world: Amsterdam (2002), Toronto (2003), Paris (2005), Seoul (2006), Berlin (2007), and San Antonio (2008).
The conference program focuses on practical case studies with partner ministries sharing strategies and methodologies in their areas of expertise and strength.
This growing network now includes twenty-four ministries representing fourteen major languages: Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English (Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, U.K., USA), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish (Chile and Costa Rica), and Swedish. Together these languages represent more than 85 percent of Internet users, and new partners are being added to the alliance as more languages get connected to the World Wide Web.
Partnership in the Global Christian Internet Alliance is by invitation only. To contact the GCIA, send an e-mail to GCIA@christianitytoday.com, or visit them at http://www.christianitytoday.com/international.
The Lausanne Movement
As Billy Graham preached around the world from the 1940s through the 1960s, he developed a passion to “unite all evangelicals in the common task of the total evangelization of the world.” In 1966 the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in partnership with Christianity Today magazine, sponsored the World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin. That congress brought together twelve hundred delegates from more than one hundred countries and inspired an explosion in global evangelistic outreach.
Just a few years later, Graham perceived the need for a larger, more diverse congress to reframe the Christian mission of evangelization in a world rife with social, political, economic, and religious upheaval. He shared this idea with one hundred world Christian leaders, and the affirmation of the need for such a congress was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
In July 1974, twenty-seven hundred participants from more than 150 nations gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland, for ten days of discussion, fellowship, worship, and prayer. The congress achieved an unprecedented diversity of nationalities, ethnicities, ages, occupations, and denominational affiliations. A reporter from Time magazine described the Lausanne Congress as “a formidable forum, possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held.”1
The outcome was a unification behind the vision to reach the world for Christ, and also the production of the groundbreaking Lausanne Covenant, which declared the statement of faith and goals of the Christian evangelical community.
Today, the Lausanne Movement continues to inspire collaboration and cooperation among Bible-believing Christians around the globe. The Lausanne Web site gives leaders access to current and historical information on global evangelization; information about national, regional, and international gatherings; and theological and practical research and information.
The Connect section on the Web site offers ways to interact regionally with Lausanne Movement leaders. In addition, visitors can learn more about a wide range of global issues related to world evangelization in which Lausanne is engaged, and find ways to connect with others involved in those issues.
To receive current information about the Lausanne Movement, and evangelization efforts, subscribe online at www.lausanne.org. There you can subscribe to the Lausanne Connecting Point e-newsletter, a free monthly publication. Lausanne also provides the free monthly online magazine Lausanne World Pulse (LWP), offering missions and evangelism news, information, and analysis from leaders around the world.
LWP is a collaborative partnership between Lausanne and the Institute of Strategic Evangelism and the Evangelism and Missions Information Service (Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois). Lausanne World Pulse is offered online, through an RSS feed or e-mail alert, and as a downloadable executive summary print version for reading offline.
For more information, visit http://www.lausanne.org.
Recommended Networking and Web Evangelism Help Sites
Web Evangelism Tools
Internet Evangelism Day: http://www.internetevangelismday.com/index.php
Internet Evangelism Network: http://www.webevangelism.com
CBN.com Evangelism Resources: http://cbn.com/spirituallife/ChurchAndMinistry/evangelism/index.aspx
CBN.com Share Your Faith: http://cbn.com/spirituallife/shareyourfaith
GUIDE Network: http://www.internetevangelismday.com/guide-network.php
Web Evangelism Guide by Tony Whittaker: http://www.web-evangelism.com
Internet Ministry Conference: http://www.internetevangelismday.com/events.php
American Tract Society: http://www.atstracts.org/internet
Apologetics Toolbox: http://www.apologeticstoolbox.com
Online Training for Online Evangelists: http://www.webevangelism.com/otoe/index.php
E-vangelism by Andrew Careage: http://www.e-vangelism.com
Evangelism Toolbox: http://www.evangelismtoolbox.com
Preparing Your Personal Testimony: http://www.5clicks.com
Ron Hutchcraft Ministries: http://www.hutchcraft.com
Leonard Sweet: http://www.leonardsweet.com
Pew Internet and American Life Project: http://www.pewinternet.org/index.asp
Quentin Schultze: http://www.quentinschultze.com
Top Chretien: http://www.topchretien.com
TruthMedia Internet Group: http://truthmedia.com/index.php
Way of the Master with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron: http://www.wayofthemaster.com
Probe Ministries: http://www.probe.org
Evangelism Explosion: http://www.eeinternational.org
Gospel.com Apologetics Index: http://www.gospel.com/topics/apologetics
Bryan Turner Evangelism 101: http://www.bryanturner.org/evangelism101/index.htm
InterVarsity’s QuestioningFaith.com: http://www.ivpress.com/questioningfaith/resources
Apologetics Index: http://www.apologeticsindex.org
Software, Webmaster, and Technical Advice
Christian Web Masters: www.christian-web-masters.net/forums
Webmaster Talk: www.webmaster-talk.com
Great Church Websites: www.greatchurchwebsites.org
SiteProNews’ Webmaster articles: www.sitepronews.com/article-archives
SitePro newsletters: www.sitepronews.com/archives.html
StockExchange graphics: www.sxc.hu
Firefox browser Add-ons: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox
International Conference on Computing and Mission (ICCM): www.iccm.org