We have more power and opportunity available to us today than entire generations who have gone before us. “Go and make disciples of all nations” is no longer an audacious goal but a reality within our grasp. In fact, it is being fulfilled.
In this season of upheaval and transition, churches are turning obstacles into opportunities as they embrace the internet as a tool of the gospel.
Social distancing has forced churches to leverage technology like never before to interact with members and share the good news. We are learning the Church can function online and reach people wherever they happen to be.
Time and distance are no longer barriers. Services can reach beyond our physical buildings and into homes, where people can access them anytime, anywhere.
To maximize the potential of online ministry now and in the future, there are five big picture questions to consider:
1. Where is your church? In other words, is it in a building or online? If we want to expand our reach, we must have a both/and attitude.
Some pastors have questioned whether watching services online is a legitimate way to attend church. Others are excited about the opportunity to speak into the lives of people who might not otherwise hear the gospel.
When churches transition back to in-person services, they should recognize the value of maintaining a presence online as well to reach as many people as possible. Neglecting ministry in either the physical world or the virtual world will cause us to fall short in reaching our fullest potential.
2. Are you willing to be be Kingdom minded? Regardless of your church’s geography or size, you can have a global footprint in the virtual world. Your ministry can reach people across the nation and around the world. But it takes investments of time and money.
Are you willing to invest your resources for online ministry to people who may never attend your church in the physical world? When someone views your church’s online content, are you willing and prepared to direct them to a local church in their city or nation?
Your ministry can reach people across the nation and around the world.
3. Who is your target audience? Viewers for online church services may include Christians who are church attenders, Christians who are church shopping online, people who are nominal in their faith, unbelievers who are curious, and unbelievers who are searching online for answers to life’s dilemmas.
Additionally, there are those who are unable to attend church because of physical or mental limitations, government restrictions, family prohibitions, or religious conflicts.
The anonymity and security of the internet makes it easier for individuals to go online to search for truth.
Recent events have awakened us to the fact that over one-half of the world’s population uses the internet regularly, and the vast majority of them do so on a handheld device. Even in third-world nations, it is not uncommon to see people using smartphones.
4. How will you turn online viewers into followers of Christ? Attracting online viewers is great, but what can you do to ensure they return and, better yet, become followers of Jesus?
First, remember you are speaking to individuals. When individuals have a genuine spiritual encounter, they will want to continue to be in relationship with you.
Second, we must take individuals from where they are to where they need to be in Christ. People search online for answers to the issues of life that trouble them. Offer resources that lead them to Jesus.
5. How can you provide discipleship? Develop a discipleship pathway for online use, with ways for people to interact with your church as they progress.
Show people how Scripture applies to their daily lives. Create videos, podcasts and devotions. Offer times for prayer online. Play recorded testimonies from people in your church. Use every available venue and opportunity to share God’s Word so people in your online church family can learn to live out their faith.
Online ministry works. Since October 2008, Network211, an Assemblies of God World Missions ministry, has presented the gospel online to 39.6 million people in 242 countries and territories. More than 1.8 million have made an evangelism response, and over 321,000 have written to begin a discipleship connection.
The mission of Network211 is to use 21st-century technology to communicate the first-century gospel by helping people discover and grow in their journey with God.
In our evangelism outreach, we help people around the world discover Jesus. We help them grow in their journey with God by providing discipleship content, such as JourneyOnline and thousands of articles helping believers apply God’s truth to their daily lives.
Local churches can partner with Network211 to use the internet as a tool of the gospel.
May we do all we can in the physical and virtual worlds to “go and make disciples of all nations.”