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
  • 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.

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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