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The problem is – it’s free

Barriers to Web Evangelism

One problem with the Internet: it is free! How does this impact Web evangelism?

There are many ministries which produce evangelistic materials for others to use – literature, video, etc. Often these things are sold (or offered on a donation basis) so that although they may be free to non-Christian end-users, they are paid for those using them. This funds the production costs of the materials, new product development and often also pays the support of the staff producing them.

However, in online evangelism, there is no ‘product’ to sell. Neither is it usually appropriate for evangelistic websites to attempt to sell things or appeal for donations, so there is little opportunity to recoup costs this way.

The result of this is that most evangelistic sites and blogs fit into these categories:

In fact, there are still relatively few major organizations who are actually supporting staff to work in online evangelism, and not many cross-cultural missions use the Web for outreach The Internet has been mainstream for some years, there are 1.5 billion people online, yet you could probably still get all the people whose ministry is full-time internet evangelism into one conference hall.

And it is doubtful if even 1 percent of Christian websites are directly evangelistic. Most Christian websites can be defined as 'X1' on the X Spectrum.

Compare and contrast that, as exam questions say, with the numbers of people directly involved in radio evangelism, in evangelistic literature production, in audio and video cassette recording and TV. Online evangelism represents a very small percentage.

Why do we devote so few resources to online evangelism? It’s not because the church has failed to notice the Internet. There are thousands of Christian sites out there – but they are mainly written for Christians.

The poor relation

As ever, it seems that evangelism is the poor relation. Christian books published by the thousand, but mainly written to build up Christians. DVDs by the shelf-load, but mainly for believers.

And even when staff do have the opportunity to be full-time on the Internet, ministry policy may require them to raise their own support. It’s not something that many are comfortable with doing, but it has become a necessary task for many. It is often very hard for full-time workers who do not work in a glamorous overseas ministry to raise support. An additional hurdle is that the average church member does not understand what a web evangelist actually does all day.

Happily, the democratic grass-roots nature of the Internet means that evangelism is not just in the hands of full-timers. So much is done by Christians in their spare-time – writing web-pages, blogging, or just relating to the wider digital world through many forms of social networking

But full-timers are needed too. They have the time for follow-up, for research, for learning new techniques, for counseling, for designing technically-advanced specialist pages and culturally-relevant sites in foreign languages for countries which do not have the resources to produce their own.

Advocacy appeal

So here is an appeal and challenge:
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