Internet Evangelism Day and the challenge of online evangelism

Andy Rau

We've plugged Internet Evangelism Day here at TC before--if you're not familiar with it, definitely take a look. I mention it not just to endorse it again, but because there's an interesting discussion about it going on between several good bloggers.

Ed of the In a Mirror Dimly blog starts off the discussion with a somewhat critical post about IE Day. He writes:

Internet evangelism day is May 7th, and I only wish that Christians would leave their computers unplugged lest we mess things up any more than we already have. Would you like to be "evangelized" by a Jew, Muslism or Buddist? Would you like them to use "strategies" and "proven techniques" to hook you into their faith systems? .... No. Perhaps internet evangelism day doesn't have to be about aggressive proselytizing, but I can guarantee that it will quickly become this in the wrong hands.

Scripture talks about being a light and an aroma. It's what you are, it oozes out of you.... It's not a presentation, it's not a focused day to proselytize. It's simply living with him and letting him show.

I think what Ed is getting at is that there is a certain uncomfortable gap between "share the Gospel" and "practice sound evangelism strategies"--while the intent behind each is the same, the former sounds like a natural outpouring of personal faith and the latter sounds a bit... mechanical and artificial.

Responding to this is Andrew Careaga at the e-vangelism blog. Careaga notes that IE Day not a day set aside to proselytize. As I see it, the purpose of this day is to raise awareness of how this medium can be used as a means for sharing that "aroma" [that Ed] writes about on a broader scale. Much of the information posted on the IE Day website is actually intended for offline use, in a church, Bible study or small group setting.

Tony Whittaker, the IE Day coordinator, adds his own thoughts in the comment section.

Some of the critiques of IE Day seem to be based on a simple misunderstanding of its purpose, but the questions raised here are good ones to keep in mind. If, in our minds, the task of sharing the Gospel becomes a mechanical process instead of a grace-inspired impulse, something's gone awry--and you can bet the people you're "evangelizing" will notice. Working at a Christian internet ministry myself, I can certainly say that this is a special challenge for online evangelists--so much is made in the internet world of website page views, email list subscription numbers, blog readership stats, and other statistics that it's a real challenge to understand how to do web evangelism without reducing the entire endeavor to a "numbers game."

And now that I think of it, that sounds like a great topic to discuss in the context of IE Day. So check out the discussion, mark your calendars, and see what your Bible study or church congregation has to say about the challenge of doing online evangelism with integrity.

Topics: Online, Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Evangelism