Craig von Buseck is the author of NetCasters:Using the Internet to Make Fishers of Men, B & H Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-8054-4784-2. Read our book review.Q Why did you write Netcasters?
A The Apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthian church by explaining that in his ministry his goal was to become all things to all people.
Paul had been one of the leading Jewish Pharisees before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. After his dramatic salvation experience God called Saul to minister to the Gentiles. He was so willing to “become all things to all people” that this former Pharisee changed his name from the Jewish ‘Saul’ to the Greek ‘Paul’ in order to build a cultural bridge with the Gentiles.
In evangelism we need to look for the ways to connect with the people that God has called us to reach with the gospel. The use of the Internet and digital media is one of the most effective ways to do this today.
NetCasters was written to describe what internet evangelism is and who is doing it well – both large ministries and individual cybermissionaries. I also provide a list of resources and contacts so that someone who feels called to evangelize on the Web will be able to quickly get up-to-speed on how to get the ball rolling.
Q What are your hopes for the new book?
A My desire is to see people catch the vision to cast a net on ‘the net’ – to spark a netcaster revolution of everyday believers who go online to share the love of Jesus with seeking people all around the world.
Q How do you view the potential of social networking for sharing the good news?
A What makes social networks effective for nternet evangelism is that conversations are taking place and relationships are being built. Someone may be attracted by a video, or an article, or some sort of felt need being met. Once they are in the social network, evangelism happens person-to-person like it does in real life.
RelevantMagazine.com Managing Editor Jesse Carey says that young people are coming up with creative ways to use social networks to share their faith. “I think it’s an extension of how they communicate in general. For people that are really comfortable sharing their faith in normal situations, you can literally see it by going into their Facebook or their MySpace. A lot of times people can post files about themselves, or have their quotes, or they can have worship songs playing. They can be very direct.”
Online evangelists can use social networking tools to aid their efforts. Whether they’re trying to organize an event, or just get people together and spread a message, social networking can help make that happen.
South African Internet consultant Richard Helsby sees much promise in social networking. “It allows you to do evangelism by working within community. You’ve got people who are discussing and interacting. You can connect with groups of people that you normally couldn’t connect with.”
“Probably the most effective thing is when people move into other people’s communities,” Helsby explains, ”which is exactly the same model as real life. So you’ve got these communities, and then you can dialogue and you can get to know people. That’s a long process, building those relationships and getting to know the people that you’re interacting with.”
Typically, it’s not that a person will stumble onto a social network or Internet evangelism site, look around, and in one day receive Christ. In most cases internet evangelism is only one piece of all the things that God is using to touch their lives. It’s the same as real life. Most of those initiatives are effective because a friend is bringing a friend. So it comes back down to relationships.
Q What conceptual hurdles must people get over, in order to use the new media?
A Internet evangelism is all about helping people. It’s about helping people who do not yet know the truth that God loves them and has provided a way for them to have a relationship with him through Jesus Christ. It’s about telling them that God is not mad at them – He already poured out all of His wrath on Jesus on the cross. It’s about telling them that they can be free in Jesus.
But as Kierkegaard explains, in order to help someone you have to meet them where they are. You need to understand what he or she understands and then walk with them gently and lovingly in their discovery of the truth.
The good news is that in all of this the Holy Spirit is there to help to have the words to share. And then the Holy Spirit will bring those words to life in the heart of the person on the other end of the Internet connection or mobile phone.
There are certain methods that are being used today that may be helpful to the beginning web evangelists. As we examine these techniques it is important to remember that there is no correct way to share your faith online. The key is first to know the demographics of your audience. What are their needs and expectations online? You must also understand your own calling from the Lord. What is it that God has for you to do? Thirdly, you must understand the technical and communication skills required for your particular outreach. And finally, what are your financial and time limitations?
Once you have answered these questions then it is time to dive in. But first, make sure you bathe all that you do in prayer – for intercession is the superstructure that upholds any ministry. All internet evangelism must begin with, be sustained, and conclude with dependency on the Holy Spirit through prayer.
Q You have taught a college course on web evangelism. How can we encourage more colleges to consider this option?
A I have taught two graduate level courses online in the Divinity School at Regent University, Internet Evangelism and Internet Missions and Discipleship. These courses have been very popular with the students who recognize that the future of ministry must include a digital component in order to remain relevant in the modern world.
The old saying in business is “no sign is better than a bad sign”. The same can be said regarding your ministry’s internet presence. No website is better than a bad website in today’s world. Colleges who take serious their calling to fully equip their students to effectively minister in the new Millennium must find a way to incorporate training in Internet evangelism and discipleship, as it is not only the future of ministry – it is a major component of ministry today.