The Internet Church

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With rapid technological advances and the increasing impact of the internet, the world is literally at our fingertips. Yet many churches have yet to discover how to tap into this powerful resource. The Internet Church shows church leaders how to start from square one in creating an interactive website that can greatly expand the ministry potential of a church. Walter Wilson, an internet expert and committed Christian, describes how technology can enhance evangelism outreach, and challenges leaders to take ...

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Overview

With rapid technological advances and the increasing impact of the internet, the world is literally at our fingertips. Yet many churches have yet to discover how to tap into this powerful resource. The Internet Church shows church leaders how to start from square one in creating an interactive website that can greatly expand the ministry potential of a church. Walter Wilson, an internet expert and committed Christian, describes how technology can enhance evangelism outreach, and challenges leaders to take advantage of unprecedented opportunities in the new digital age.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Take 12 back issues of Wired magazine, add one large dose of evangelical missionary zeal, carefully remove all qualms about technology (except for an obligatory nod to the dangers of pornography) and stir enthusiastically. You've got the recipe for this Silicon-Valley-meets-evangelism manifesto. Wilson, a technology executive, helped his California church move from zero to full speed on the information superhighway, and he urges his evangelical peers to do the same. Much of this book is a Christian retread of the now-familiar litany of impending technological revolutions (instantaneous communication, constant connectivity, global interconnection) with dramatic social effects (the end of totalitarianism and the rise of customized "communities" based around interest, not geographical location). Net-savvy readers would be better served by going straight to the source (such as MIT's Nicholas Negroponte, whom Wilson credits), but Wilson is addressing church leaders who are unlikely to be familiar with primary texts of the Internet culture. Each time Wilson seems close to addressing the complexities that new information technology foists upon its Christian users--how, for example, does one observe the Lord's Day in Internet time?--he lapses back into more rapid-fire predictions. His theology seems shaped mostly by information technology itself: "The church is in the information business," he says with little further elaboration. Ultimately, this book teaches more about the religion of technology than about the technology of religion. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780849916397
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/8/2000
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


THE CALL OF GOD


Within the next several years there will be one billion people on the World Wide Web, according to forecasts from the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That estimate represents one-sixth of the world's population, and it will continue to grow. In the United States alone, MSNBC reports that more than 150 million people are online, and hundreds of thousands more are being added each month. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates electronic commerce will outgrow every other segment of the economy and total up to 8 percent of the country's gross domestic product in the next several years. In 2000, it is estimated that 1.5 million new and used car buyers will make their purchases on-line.

    During the Christmas season of 1996, measurable sales on the Internet were very small, close to nothing. One year later, sales were reported at $1.5 billion. By 1998 that figure more than doubled to $3.5 billion in revenues. Dell Computer sells more than $30 million in computers every day on the Internet, and Charles Schwab moves $2 billion in securities each week. Yahoo! serves up 1.4 million Web pages per day, and the travel industry now reports sales in excess of $2 billion annually. International Data Corporation reports that in the next several years the Internet will amount to $3.2 trillion in on-line sales.

    The American Management Association reports that business reliance on the Internet will jump by more than 500 percent this year. The embracing of this technology across the world is creating a greater impacton society, economics, and politics than anyone ever imagined possible.

    Networked personal computers are causing a revolution that has not been seen since the industrial revolution. In fact, computers are no longer about computing, but communicating, obtaining, and sharing knowledge. They dictate how we conduct business and how we live.

    The World Wide Web is in the process of linking billions of people without requiring the approval of any world government or political authority. No one is in charge of the Interact; it's just happening. Never in the history of the world have we seen anything like it. From a Silicon Valley perspective, we think we're changing history with our technology, but nothing could be further from the truth. From a Christian perspective, God is doing something historic, and we need to pay serious attention to the tools He is giving us. There is no doubt He intends for us to use them to spread His Word.

    Emerging technologies are shifting markets, redefining economies, and creating new rules. The business community has learned that it can react in one of two ways: live in denial and ignore it, or leverage it to an advantage to create new and highly successful models. In this newly emerging era, denial forecasts steep decline while acceptance translates to unprecedented growth. Churches have the same options and in all probability will face the same potential outcomes. This does not mean that the church in America will fail if it does not embrace this method of communication. But what it could mean is that if the church does not move quickly into global communication on the Internet, God may raise up another church to do it. Either way, His Word will be proclaimed.


Moses Called


Throughout history, God has called many people to speak for Him. With the clear exception of Jesus Christ, through Whom He communicated Himself in perfect unity, these were mostly ordinary people. Some were less than qualified. Others were reluctant and fearful, some of whom doubted their own abilities and even the call itself. We see examples throughout Scripture. One of these was Moses.

    Moses was chosen by God to be a great leader of a great nation, and he became almost all that he was meant to be. His early resistance to God's call may have cost him something. There are lessons for us in the seeming indifference of Moses to the dramatic plan of God to intervene in the affairs of history.

    The greatest call given to Moses was no delegation of communication, for God Himself was doing the calling. As we pick up the story in Exodus 3, we find a reluctant Moses actually structuring arguments before God as to why he could not follow His calling. Principally, Moses put forth five points:


    1. He felt incapable and unqualified

2. He felt people were ignorant of God and would be skeptical about the Lord's power, which would reflect on Moses

3. He felt that his people would not believe or accept him

    4. He felt he was not eloquent, articulate, or a gifted orator

    5. He asked God to send someone else since he didn't want to go


    Based on what we know about Moses, we might conclude that his logic was reasonable—to him. But we also know that God's ways are not man's ways, because another prophet noted, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8).

    Three of these points raised by Moses, however, are worth a closer look.


He Felt Incapable and Unqualified

Moses was a simple man, a shepherd from Midian, a rural community far from any city or seat of government or cultural center of his day. He did not see himself as one who could shape society, although earlier he had received the benefit of an Egyptian education. After all, who was he to go before the king of Egypt to build a case for action? Who was he to go before the people of Israel and proclaim that God would deliver them from slavery and to the Promised Land? Moses felt unqualified and inadequate for such a task. "Who am I, that I should go?" (Exodus 3:11).

    It's easy for us to be critical, because we have the benefit of knowing the end of the story and the insight that God had for bringing about what seemed to be impossible at the time. But if we could put ourselves into the flow of events and truthfully analyze what our reactions would have been, wouldn't we have also measured ourselves against the task and concluded that it was impossible? Wouldn't we have concluded that we lacked the talents needed to pull it off? After all, we're just plain people.

    It is likely Moses didn't speak well, was not fluent or articulate, and lacked persuasiveness. He took the position of a man who did not envision himself as the leader of a nation. Note God's response to these arguments in Exodus 3:12: "I will be with you" (NIV).

    God was saying He would give Moses the inner strength and the courage to lead. He would awaken the confidence, faith, and assurance needed to accomplish the task. Above all, God Himself was committed to do the leading and to produce whatever result He pleased in dealing with Pharaoh.

    So often we are guided by our feelings about ourselves and a situation. Is it possible Moses was simply fearful of the awesome responsibilities of having to do what he had never done before? It is often simple fear that keeps us from trying new things and communicating with people we don't know.

    What are the arguments we hear today? "I don't know anything about computers." "I'm too old to learn these new things." "I've never been trained to use software." "It's all a mystery to me." These may be true, perhaps, but they are grounded in the doubt that an adult cannot do what any eight-year-old can do.

    These are the excuses of the present day. God was with Moses, with Isaac, with Joshua, with Jeremiah, and with Israel. Nothing has changed, nor has His response changed. He is with us today in the person of His Holy Spirit.


He Was Not a Public Speaker

"O my Lord, I am not eloquent.... I am slow of speech and slow of tongue," Moses argued (Exodus 4:10 NKJV). This is an understandable objection in human terms, because no one is qualified to serve God. No one is eligible, adequate, or sufficient in his or her own strength. No one has the intellect, education, or skills to serve the living, Almighty God.

    Let's not use the crisis of skills, as Moses did, as an excuse for not answering God's call to speak for Him. God will provide whatever skill is needed to carry out His will.

    I am always uncomfortable speculating about other outcomes when it comes to Scripture. God doesn't deal in probabilities but in absolutes. His plan is always perfect, but our response is often imperfect. With these things in mind, perhaps we could speculate about another outcome had Moses responded with a higher degree of enthusiasm to this conversation. In verse 11, God states that He makes mouths, further stating in verse 12, "Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say" (NKJV). Is it possible God was prepared to create a perfect mouth and out of it would have come perfect speech if Moses had acted in obedient faith? Perhaps he even could have sung with the voice of Luciano Pavarotti. This side of eternity, we'll never know.

    Dr. Bryce Jessup, president of San Jose Christian College, tells of a student who felt called to be a pastor. The problem was that he had a terrible stutter. Bryce talks about the faculty's devising a plan to convince this young man to go into Christian writing, because his speech defect was a barrier to a successful pulpit ministry. But this aspiring pastor went for professional speech therapy, and with hard work and much prayer over a period of years, he is now leading a very successful church ministry in Oregon. Explained Dr. Jessup, "There is absolutely no trace of a speech defect anymore." Why should we be surprised by this? When God calls men and women, He equips them for that calling, no matter what it takes. If you can drive a car, you are more than qualified to operate a computer, especially something as simple as Apple Computer's new iMac. Plug your phone line into this desktop appliance, and you're on the Internet. Not only has God called us to spread His Word across the earth, but Apple has made it so easy that we are now without excuse.


He Wanted Someone Else Appointed

Moses pointed to his brother, Aaron, as the one who was better qualified. This was really reaching and perhaps the poorest excuse of all, because it challenged God's selection and knowledge. It is little wonder that we read in verse 14, "So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses" (NKJV).

    There are many Christians who believe they suffer from a lack of skills when it comes to computers. I have watched with great amusement how seven-year-olds become computer literate almost instinctively. They don't slow down for instruction; they just seem to figure it out on their own. I am equally impressed to see a class at Senior Net, made up of progressive oldsters, some in their eighties and even nineties, just get in there and start using e-mail and exploring the Internet. When you look at the growth demographics of the Internet, there are two groups making great progress: young people and elderly people. Those who live in the middle can be referred to as the digital homeless. Unfortunately they sometimes are the very people who run missionary organizations, religious institutions, and churches. They have the capacity, but for reasons of their own are all too content to say: "My brother understands technology. Let him do it."

    That excuse was not acceptable for Moses, and it will not be acceptable to God today. The world is in spiritual hunger, and we have the tool to satisfy that emptiness by communicating God's love. Jesus called us to make disciples of all nations. Discipleship means having knowledge of Him. So the question is, What is my reasonable response to the "go" imperative of the Great Commission, given that I have a global communications network readily available to me and very easy to learn? People are using it to ask pointed spiritual questions about Jesus Christ. The Exodus encounter provides us with a lesson worth learning. Beyond that, an extra incentive has been added by the Great Commission. We, the church in America, have no excuse.


Paul Called


Paul stands in strong contrast with Moses. On the road to Damascus, breathing threats and murder against the followers of Jesus, armed with a letter of authority to arrest Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem in chains, he is struck down by the divine light of Jesus Himself. Acts 9 describes this encounter. The King James Version states in verse 6, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"

    This is an interesting moment and a remarkable conversation. This zealot who expressed his hate for Christ and His followers did everything he could to silence them, but suddenly he calls Jesus "Lord" and is ready to move in an opposite direction. He is ready to do the bidding of the Lord. In a moment, he has been changed completely.

    God was about to do something dramatic. It was a watershed moment in which He was poised to alter the course of history. He called Saul to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. Only this time, and unlike Moses, the apostle did not offer excuses, just compliance.

    In a message on Paul's ministry, Dr. James Boyce pointed out that God is able to reach into the most evil places in the world. (The Internet is one of those places.) Paul preached to every kind of person, from the synagogue to the occult. He stood before business leaders, political leaders, and people from every walk of life. He conducted follow-up visits to build relationships, wrote letters, provided written lessons to encourage spiritual growth, and preached to correct wrong thinking and behavior.

    Writing was the cutting-edge technology of that day, and Paul took advantage of it to bring God's Word to those with whom he came in contact.

    The Lord does not bring us to His way in order to leave us on our own for the remainder of the journey. He brings us to the final destination consistent with His vision and His plan for us. God has not raised up this great communications technology to have the church ignore it or remain indifferent to its use. He has allowed the spread of a personal network that will soon link billions of people to each other for a reason. He is at work in providing the church a global communications platform. Like Paul, we must be willing to take hold and use it.

    Jesus said, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14). Preaching the gospel to "all the world" has historically been viewed as one person being in front of another person or perhaps a group. But we are fast approaching an entirely new world where preaching to "all the world" (all having it available at the same time) will become an electronic reality. Every desktop, every Internet appliance, every information system will enable the gospel to be available to the entire world—"a witness to all nations"—just as Jesus said it would be. It is now, at this moment in history, that we can see the real meaning of His statement. All people and all nations will see His Word at the same time.

    God is doing something dramatic in these final days. The communication of God's truth—the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ—can now be delivered to every person across the world in a way never before seen. The World Wide Web is here, and history may be shifting into high gear. He has already commissioned us, His church, to get about the task of sharing that news. It is our job, in obedience to Jesus' Great Commission, to grasp the tools at hand and continue the work of evangelism. Paul's response was to get in a boat and go. After considering his calling, it was possible that he could have responded like Moses. Patti could have said to God, "I could get shipwrecked out there." "I could be arrested by the authorities." "I could even go to prison." Instead, he obeyed. He did not analyze the pros and cons of going. He did not build self-imposed barriers in his mind based on his perception of his communication skills.

    Our response must be nothing less, but now the boat is digital and global, across a borderless, timeless world. We have a first-century imperative in a twenty-first-century mode. The world is in spiritual darkness, and we have light. We have the Light. We have knowledge of His Word. We have the spirit of the living God within us. We just need to go.

    Before the four hundred years of silence between Malachi and the New Testament, God repeatedly called the people of Israel to return to Him, but their hearts were elsewhere. We see a record of their indifference in Malachi 3:7 (NASB)—"`From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes, and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,' says the Lord of hosts. `But you say, "How shall we return?""'—and then a prolonged dark silence.

    God was not idle during this period. He was at work preparing the world to hear something so revolutionary that it would never be the same again. It would be so significant that all of history would be marked—before Christ and after Christ. During that silent period, He raised up a political superpower in the region.

    Alexander the Great had a vision to conquer the world and colonize it. He was driven by a desire to create a worldwide culture and philosophy. Greek would be spoken throughout the world, and all would be united under a common language for communication. He was dead at the age of thirty-two, but not before a common language had spread across the ancient world.

    Then came the Romans with plans for world domination. Their empire was so vast that their chief concern became the management of the occupied territories. Roman troops slipped into Judea and Jerusalem during a civil war, knowing they would have to extend their military influence across great distances. Rome had been busy over the years building a network of prime military roads. They were in the process of bringing control to a rebellious, war-weary world. Rome was the police force of the day, bringing order to the world by way of military and economic power.

    It was now all in place. A common language and a network of roads to move troops and communication. Then out of the darkness, out of the four hundred years of silence, a voice arose, crying in the wilderness. It was not the voice of another conqueror. It was not the voice of a general. It was a man whose diet was locusts and wild honey, a man who lived humbly before God. The long, dark silence was broken when this man proclaimed, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2 NASB).

    God was not idle; He was preparing the world to hear a message. Certain things had to be in place. He prepared a common language that would report the ministry of Jesus and record the writings of the New Testament. It was a language that most spoke and understood, so the good news would travel quickly

    The Roman roads carried the feet of those who would spread the gospel. The network was built by a power that had the economic and military muscle to accomplish such a task. The network could only be built by Rome, but it would be used by armies of Christians. It was all put together so that out of the silence the world could hear, "Repent!" And out of the darkness they would see the Light of the World: "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world" (John 1:9 NIV).

    Once again, in human history there exists a military and economic power that brings momentary stability to the world. Once again, there is a power that has created a network. But not a network of roads. It was designed by the U.S. Department of Defense as a military tool to facilitate the communication links required to move American troops. A common language is now technologically possible. So much of the world can read and understand English, but this language can be changed from one tongue to another with the click of a mouse.

    It is hard for me not to be startled by the parallel nature of these events.

    There is a darkness in the world today as there was two thousand years ago. People are looking for light today as they were then. The network was in place then, but in reality it was prepared for the church. It was across that military network that God sent His good news throughout the world. Again the network is in place. Now it is our turn.

    When Jesus issued the Great Commission, He concluded with a comment of enormous significance. Anticipating our excuses in the twenty-first century, He said, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20 NKJV). No greater words of comfort can be spoken. These are words that remove all fear and doubt from our journey. These are words that enable and empower us for the task. Christ is with us always, wherever we go and whatever we do. "Emmanuel, God with us." He is with us to forgive, to sanctify, and to strengthen. We are His chosen instruments to bring the good news of God's redemption—grace and love—to a fallen race. There can be no better consolation or assurance than we have already been given.

   The commitment of Jesus was to the whole church in every age. The apostle Paul writes in Colossians 1:16-17 (NKJV): "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist."

    John declares in Revelation 4:11: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."

    Debating the merits of emerging technology as though we can stem its progress is fruitless. We are the people of God entrusted with His message and empowered and commissioned by Him to spread it. Why would we do any less than communicate that message by every means available? We, of all people, should be early adapters of any communication technology that will spread the Word of God. Keeping pace in human skills and application is vital for the future. Jesus knew, when He spoke the words recorded in Matthew 28, what we would be doing with silicon in the year 2000. He's not surprised nor awed by our technology. When He said that He would be with us until the end of the age (or throughout the ages), He most certainly saw the information age.

    Understand, however, this is not about technology; it's about the Great Commission and our obedience to our Creator and Redeemer.

    God periodically moves directly into our affairs. In freeing His people from slavery in Egypt, He called Moses. He accepted no excuses from the one He chose for the task. At another point, He moved to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. His chosen instrument was the apostle Paul.

    The Internet is changing everything—society, economics, business, and politics. While God is and has been in control of history all along, there are moments when His direct intervention can easily be seen. This is one of those moments. You can't miss it. We are witnesses in this generation to history being directed by His mighty hand. He has already commissioned His church as the chosen instrument. I suggest that we as Christians not view the Internet as technology, but as God's moving to bring the gospel to every man, woman, and child upon the earth.

    I can think of no more exciting time to be a Christian.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction xi
1. The Call of God 3
2. Atoms to Bits 17
3. The Speed of Change Accelerates 29
4. Managing Unexplained Change 43
5. Social Trends Affecting Society 57
6. Instant and Everywhere 69
7. Calvary Church 79
8. Ministry 89
9. Learning Is the Highest Skill 99
10. Toward the Future 109
11. The Christian Internet Initiative 123
12. Application 135
Appendix 157
Glossary 159
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2000

    For Those Who Are Serious About Really Touching The World

    Walt Wilson caught my attention with his first line, 'within the next several years there will be one billion people on the World Wide Web,' and kept it til the final exclamation, 'with God all things are possible.' This book meets four needs at once - (1) it gives a glimpse of the power and potential of the internet for the cause of Christ; (2) it helps non-techies understand the basic history and principles of the internet; (3) it provides examples and resources for churches and ministries who want to effectively utilize the internet for their message; and (4) and IMPORTANTLY, gives a motivational vision for Christian leaders to take hold of this most powerful tool capable of reaching the entire world with Good news and lasting hope. Easy to read. Thought provoking. Excit

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