A Call To Internet Evangelism
Mark Finley, now retired from formal denomination empoyment, has held several leadership positions in the Adventist Church. He was a General Vice-President of the General Conference (GC), was the Director of the Office of Global Evangelism at the GC, was Chairman of the Global Adventist Internet Network (GAiN) organizing committee, and in his last position at the GC prior to full retirement was the Special Assistant to the General Conference President on matters relating to global evangelism.
Pastor Finley is perhaps best known in his role as the Speaker/Director of It Is Written Television following the retirement of George Vandeman. When at the helm of It Is Written TV, Mark Finley was a pioneer in the use of satellite technology for evangelism purposes, reaching millions through his satellite evangelistic campaigns, such as NET '95, NET '96 and ACTS 2000, which was the first "NET" type event to be streamed live via the Internet as well as broadcast live via satellite. Thousands have been baptized as a result of these pioneering global evangelism events.
At the first GAiN Conference (then called the Global Internet Evangelism Network - GIEN), Mark Finley conducted a profound workshop on the Principles of Internet Evangelism. His insightful presentation is summarized below.
Mark Finley's Internet evangelism analogy is the growth of the Roman road system during the first century, interconnecting the then known world. The vast network of roads, built for military and commerce, was key to the rapid spread of the gospel. Consider the following statistics (in 2004):
- The world population is at 6.3 billion people.
- 3.2 Billion have not heard the name of Christ.
- A billion people are using the internet and growing every single day.
It is incredibly important that we take advantage of the rapidly growing internet to reach the otherwise unreachable.
Mark Finley offered several quotations relating to the internet:
- Revelation 3:8 "I know thy works, I have set before thee an open door and no man can shut it." This open door is the internet in that governments cannot keep their people from logging onto the internet, they can no longer keep the gospel away from their people.
- I Corinthians 9:22 "To the weak became I as weak, that I may win the weak: I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some." The church would be derelict in our duty to the gospel if we bypassed the use of the internet. Profoundly convinced that the internet is a powerful means for evangelism.
- Evangelism page 123 "Let every worker in the Master's vineyard, study, plan, devise methods to reach the people where they are.
- Evangelism page 70 "Men of varied gifts to be brought in to the work.
Pastor Finley tells the story of how he was strongly advised against doing satellite evangelism. He was warned that people won't respond to an screen alter call, it will be a big flop for It Is Written, a great embarrassment for your reputation and for It Is Written. That was 1995. Recently 200,000 people in Rwanda watching their satellite evangelism series, at least 1 million across Africa, a great success. Millions and millions are watching via satellite and tens of thousands are being baptized. Internet evangelism needs to do much the same, to reach millions that the other media do not or cannot reach.
An article titled "Give Me That Online Religion", by Brenda Brasher, about the future of the church and of Christianity. Computer based religion could become the dominant form of religious experience in the next century.
Dean Craig has a small personal web based internet ministry. He contacts in a day more than the greatest evangelists of the last 100 years could hope to meet in a lifetime.
Mark Finley offered several exciting non Adventist models of internet evangelism:
- TruthMedia.com is an evangelical site, based out of Canada, serving 750,000 visitors per month. It is very intentionally evangelistic. 1400 accept Christ each month. Their sole intent is to bring people to Jesus Christ. They follow up with a team of 450 volunteers, within 24 hours, for every person who accepts Christ.
- Everystudent.com has 160,000 student visitors per month visiting the site. A Christian website based on the needs of students, offering information on eating disorders, sexuality, dating, relationships, study tips. Features chat rooms with volunteer Christian students on hand to help students get involved for Christ. Related to this, Mark Finley also talked about the Destiny Channel, for college/university students, which he was invited to join while in Rumania.
- Peggy's Place is a down home chatty website for family, kids, teens. Peggy is a house wife, with no money, no budget. She wrote to say, "I am the most thrilled woman because today I can minister to 154 countries."
Andrew Careaga has a church of about 40 to 50 members and an eMinistry website. He offers a book titled "eMinistry: Connecting with the Net Generation". His penetrating statement -- The internet is a mission field, it takes missionary minded people to be effective. It takes people with a heart for God.
Mark Finley elaborated on seven things that we can do better with the Internet:
1) Cast a bigger net to meet peoples felt needs (what they think they need) and their fundamental needs (instilled in us by God). Jesus met the physical needs of the people before meeting their spiritual needs. Jesus asked -- What seek you? He used the What Seek You principal of evangelism. That is the key principal of the gospel. Dream about your website and how you can broaden the base, for a larger net.
2) Blend comments with content (e.g. blend in health and family topics). The genius of the web is interactivity, such as on line chaplains, doctors on call and Christian monitored chat rooms. Where principals of health can be talked about and counseling made available. People with careers, in their spare time on the internet studying the Bible with people.
3) Linking evangelism with the web. Every live seminar having a corresponding web page, a follow up program to nurture new converts.
4) Develop lay volunteers. It is a big challenge to develop a well qualified team. Too many are super legalistic or super liberal, or too quick to be overbearing. Careful screening is vitally important.
5) Add audio appeals and stories of lives changed by the gospel. Click here for Christie's audio testimony. We have not been using the power of testimony on the web page. Bible lessons about the Sabbath, sharing about how we enjoy the Sabbath, starting Friday night. The internet has a far greater capacity than we have ever imagined before.
6) Internet based church. Examples of the Anglican Church and it's declining church attendance, setting up successful web based churches. Transforming the way Anglicans do church. Churches in Europe are doing similar Web-based church projects.
7) We need Web-based ministries for former Seventh-day Adventists.