Christians and the Internet

(originally published late 1995 – modified slightly for this edition)

A common no-no on the Internet is to type everything in all capital letters. It is considered to be rude, as if you were shouting at someone. There are other common no-nos on the Internet. No matter how important what you have to say or the quality of the information, if you do one of these no-nos, more likely than not, whatever you were trying to communicate, be it how to change a light bulb or how to change your life, it won’t be heard because of the method.

I am becoming more and more disturbed by the actions and activities of some people who claim to be Christians but by their actions on the Internet present a very different portrait of themselves and the Gospel.

Christ and the message of the cross are being ignored and ridiculed not because of the message that is being proclaimed but because the messenger is proclaiming the message in a manner unbecoming a Christian. Although there isn’t much we can do with false Christians and just bad theology except to proclaim the truth, we can try to keep our methodologies for proclaiming the message acceptable to all (or at least most people).

Paul makes it very clear that the message of the cross is going to be ridiculed. The first few chapters of Romans presents this very clearly. The message of the cross is foolishness to the world except for the Holy Spirit’s moving in the listeners heart.

This does not excuse those who present the message in a manner which causes the message to be rejected even before it is heard simply because they are presenting it and possibly more importantly, themselves, in a manner that is understandably rejectable. Many try to claim that they are being rejected because of their message when in fact they are being rejected because of their inappropriate method of proclamation.

Paul was very clear that he would do anything he could to keep the message from being rejected because of his actions. He became all things to all men for the sake of Christ. Of course, he was ridiculed at times for the methods that he used but they were belittlements by his Christian rivals (although by their very actions, they showed that they needed to spend more time with Christ and less time talking about Paul).

An example of this would be sending out the message through unsolicited e-mail, otherwise known as spam. Since spam is considered to be rude, insensitive and down right wrong among the majority of Internet users, for a Christian to utilize this method of proclaiming the Good News is, well, stupid and a waste of bandwidth that could have been used more effectively in the cause of Christ. The same goes for excessive cross posting to newsgroups (sometimes called velveta). The Christian message gets rejected even before it is read simply because anything that can be considered spam is rejected. This then leads to the person who did the spamming to be rejected, not because of the message of the cross which is foolishness to the world but because they did something that is foolishness to all, Christians and the World.

Christians cannot claim that they suffered for Christ because they got mail bombed after they spammed 1000s of people. They suffered because of their stupidity. To send a multitude of e-mails of your testimony out to everyone you can find on the Internet destroys your testimony before it can ever be proclaimed and very likely to have your Internet Provider drop your account.

I guess my question is why? There are so many powerful ways to proclaim the Gospel on the Internet that allow for the message to be heard on its own merits. And no, I am not talking about my Bible studies. Quite frankly, they are too boring for non-christians. But we have at our fingertips a multi-media format that allows us to proclaim the message, hopefully in a way that will get people to listen and not get in the way of the Holy Spirit’s moving on their life.

I would love to see more and more Christian sites become some of the most heavily visited sites on the Internet. There is so much junk and nonsense that is getting a lot of traffic. It is time for the Christian web sites be given the same response. My challenge to Christians is to create and publish web sites [ed: or produce excellent podcasts] that are awarded a “Top 5%” site or one of the other prestige honors.

It can and is being done. Here are some examples: [ed: here in 2008, I had to remove several links from the original article because they were no longer valid, a sad commentary in and of itself.]

  • Not Just Bibles – A Guide to Christian Resources on the Internet <bill: very complete site, tons of links and well categorized>
  • The Ecole Initiative. The Early Church On-Line Encyclopedia (Ecole) Initiative is a cooperative effort on the part of scholars across the internet to establish a hypertext encyclopedia of early Church history (to the Reformation) on the World-Wide Web. <bill: Since I am a Early Church History nut, I have to mention this site. :-)>

I will leave it up to Not Just Bibles to provide the comprehensive list, and a very long list it is. I encourage every Christian that want to proclaim their faith on the Internet, to follow these examples and do a quality presentation of the Gospel.

Now I can hear some of you saying, “But I can’t create a web site!” I am not saying that the only way you can proclaim the Gospel effectively is with a Web Site. No, there are many appropriate times and places to do so that have nothing to do with the World Wide Web. For examples, there are multitudes of opportunities in the newsgroups to proclaim the Gospel in one way or another. IRC can also provide you an opening to give your testimony. And personal e-mails to people that you have been communicating with for other reasons can be done effectively and appropriately. [ed: ok, this is almost funny 12 years later, since newsgroups and IRC have fadded into minority use – substitute podcasts, both audio and video as a good choice, and creating web pages has become very simple now days]

But we have to be sensitive to the fact that just as many people will be aggravated because you typed everything in all CAPs and so won’t read your message, no matter what you had to say, the same goes for when you proclaim the Gospel. If we don’t figuratively type in all caps, then the message can stand on its own. Then when you get mail bombed you can rejoice – and then apologize to your ISP if it caused problems on their mail server 🙂

This lesson was written by William Reveal, ©1995. Enjoy, Bill

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