Next Wave International Next Wave International™ is a faith-based communications group which is
training organizations to engage the future & move society forward
in a positive direction. Founder / Director: Mal Fletcher

Invading The Wired World

Mal Fletcher
Added 18 April 1999
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The power of the electronic media impacts every area of our lives today. Through it, world events become a part of our individual experience.

Just when we thought the media had reached saturation level, along came the Internet revolution. The Net has forever changed the way we bank, buy and even build relationships. Its size and scope are widening at an incredible rate.

After 13 years, TV had 50 million viewers. It took the ubiquitous Internet only 4 years to gain the same number of users.

Experts say that the most popular sites on the net today are those built around so-called "adult content" -- that's industry code for porn online. The second most visited sites are those based on gambling. Predictions are that both will grow exponentially over the next few years.

Does the Christian church need a presence on the Internet? The answer must be a resounding yes!

21st century Christians will need to stay in touch with this rapidly evolving new media. If we fall "out of the loop" and lose touch with cutting edge systems, we may never again be allowed back in.

For the church, this new technology has provided new opportunities for promotion of church programs and strategies. Many churches are already using Web pages to share their vision and strategy. That, however, is just the most basic use of this new media.

Some ministries are beginning to develop streaming TV for the Net. The Web makes it possible for churches -- or groups of churches -- to run online TV programming for a fraction of the cost of traditional TV production.

The Internet also opens new doors for discipling and leadership training. Teaching materials, articles and sermon materials can be made accessible to church members and their friends -- and to people much further afield.

Through the Net, we can also maintain close contact with satellite workers: church planters, evangelists and other "sent ones" within the nation or across the globe.

One of the most exciting possibilities for the church is the new level of contact it allows with those outside the church. The Internet can be a powerful tool for evangelism.

Today there is a special place open for "net missionaries" or "wired warriors"; people of all ages who will invest the time to build relationships via chat rooms and the like in order to share Christ.

Traditionally, we have used a three-stage strategy for outreach based on event, group (or congregation) and cell. Today, we can add a fourth strand to our outreach: "cyber".

A number of churches are now providing a taste of their style and vision for view on the Net. Viewers can listen to worship, watch preaching clips, read teaching materials and even give money online. Cyber church does not replace the local church, it simply lets the cautious, anonymous outsider check us out before they step in the door.

In our growing work across Western Europe and beyond, we have a strong commitment to the Internet. Our talented Web designer, an Australian, was born again as a result of researching Christianity on the Internet. How many millions of others like him are out there waiting for the church to speak where they are listening?

To be a success on the Net, churches need to remember just four important things:

1. Stick to core competencies. The Net is service-based. Don't try to offer everything that once. Focus on offering services you can perform really well with your vision and resources.

2. Use simple interfaces. What looks incredibly impressive to you or your designer may not be easily accessible to boast average computer users. Keep it interesting but simple.

3. Upgrade constantly. The Net is fluid and fast-moving, people will come back only if there is constant growth and change on your site. You don't need to change everything at once; just "tweak it" enough change to keep things moving.

4. Promote! Promote! Promote! People need to know you're there. You need to have a presence on major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Excite etc.) and a simple URL, which you use on all your promotional materials.

The Internet is a great servant. To succeed with it, it must be a high priority in your strategy. It is not a shortcut to growth for success -- nothing really is. Used properly, however, it can open exciting new horizons and greater influence to your church.

© Mal Fletcher 1999

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