Chat rooms and bulletin boards
Evangelistic websites are one way of using the Web for evangelism. But you can also interact with people directly on the Web in real time, and share your faith in an appropriate way …
Chat roomsA chat room is a web page which a number of people can access at the same time. It has a text box area in which you can type short messages to the others ‘in’ the room. A separate area of the page displays on a rolling basis the messages that are being typed.
There are thousands of chat rooms. Some are attached to larger websites. Others operate in a stand-alone mode. Most have a designation as to topic of discussion, or type of user. Chat and instant messaging (see below) are also integrated into many social networking sites, and these are increasingly the way that people prefer to meet existing or new online contacts.
It is also possible to ‘chat’ in real time with an individual using an Instant Messaging. Many IM systems also allow speech contact. One web evangelist writes about chatting with a web contact:
“I played the DVD story of Dini in the Indonesian language and let her hear it with a Yahoo Messenger PC to PC phone call. She told she could understand the story and the language perfectly.”
A woman in Canada, was not only converted through a chat room integrated into TruthMedia’s web outreach, but is going on to share her faith with others, online.
“Yesterday I had the privilege of getting to help lead a young man to Jesus in your chat room. This was such an awesome experience my life has changed forever. I was saved in your chat room in Feb 2003. It was a confusing time for me. If it wasn’t for God’s grace and women in that room who helped me get started, by not expressing their own opinions but by always directing me to seek and ask God first, I’m not sure where I’d be.”
Bulletin boardsThese are webpages where users can post a message on a particular topic, or add replies to messages that others have left. Unlike chat rooms, these messages remain visible semi-permanently. Some blog sites (short for ‘weblog’– a sort of online diary) also allow you to post comments.
Yahoo Answers and similar sites.The Yahoo Answers site has characteristics of both chat rooms and bulletin boards. It allows anyone to post a question about anything, so that others can answer it. It is very easy to use – you just need a Yahoo ID and then sign up for the Answers system. There are many questions in the religious section which give you the opportunity to provide a sensitive, relevant, biblical answer. But you will also see questions in many other subject areas which allow you to sensitively share a Christian worldview in a non-preachy way.
For instance, there are frequent questions about movies which enable us to draw out Christian parallels, in the way that HollywoodJesus.com and MovieGlimpse.com do. And personal needs and worries are often posted in various subject areas. Answers posted at Yahoo Answers do not necessarily develop into discussion and feedback – though this is possible and those who posted the question can contact you privately. Because of the popularity of the site, your answers are likely to be viewed by large numbers of people.
Charlotte, a web evangelist, writes about her involvement with Yahoo Answers:
“I have never felt so much in the middle of God’s will as I have doing Yahoo Answers ‘Religion and Spirituality’ forum three or four times a week. However, I have often felt that I was on the front lines of spiritual warfare. There are atheists, evolutionists, Muslims, Wiccans, and just plain silly people whom I must answer with love, information, and a pinch of humor. There is a lot of hatred being pointed to evangelicals. I sometimes am exhausted when I finish. But it’s a good tired. And the Holy Spirit flows through me all the way. Praise God!”There are many other sites that allow questions and answers on different topics, such as AnswerBag. It is also possible to submit comments to blogs.
Getting it rightIt is very important to understand both effective and ineffective ways to witness in these situations. Using them inappropriately could have a negative impact for the Gospel. A key is to participate in an attitude of service. The Web is all about relationships and two-way communication, not one-way dogmatic assertiveness.
Some churches have chat room teams with members who have been trained in this type of outreach. And anyone can participate in this outreach from their own home.
Learning moreChat rooms:
• Witness in Chat Rooms – detailed guide to sharing your faith in chat rooms
• The Internet Mission – team which offers training and team support for chat evangelism
• Training video shorts – range of 1 to 6 minute teaching videos explaining chat witness and follow-up
• Church-based chat teams – example of a church which has trained teams for chat room evangelism
• 10 Tips for Attracting Visitors – to your website through the forums on other sites