Invading The Wireless World
Using The Net Well
The power of the electronic media impacts every area of our lives today. Through it, world events have become a part of our individual experience.
Just when we thought the media might have reached saturation level, in the early 90s, along came the Internet revolution, followed by video-on-demand, 3G material on phones, PSP video players and much more. The Net has forever changed the way we bank, buy and even build relationships. Its size and scope are widening at an incredible rate.
It all began, of course, with the explosive growth in the PC market. Today, there are more microprocessors than there are people in the world.
If computers continue to double in processor power every eighteen months or so, as they have done for the past decade, by the mid-2020s our PCs will contain chips that are 10,000 times more powerful than the ones we have today.
Today there are more than two million known commercial sites on the web -- and millions of sites designed and maintained by everyday individuals. The blogosphere is humming as people record the minutae of their daily existence.
After its first 13 years, TV had 50 attracted million viewers. It took the 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! But that presence will have to constantly change, as we work to be heard amidst the clutter.
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.
Many Christian ministries are now hosting online TV stations for a fraction of the cost of traditional TV production and broadcast. Meanwhile, individuals are catching up fast courtesy of the ubiqitous YouTube.
The Internet has also opened new doors for discipling and leadership training. Teaching materials, articles and sermon materials are made accessible to church members and their friends -- and to people much further afield.
Through the Net, Christian leaders can maintain close contact with satellite workers: church planters, evangelists and other "sent ones" within the nation or across the globe.
Of course, one of the most exciting possibilities for Christians is the level of contact the Net allows with those outside the church. The Internet is a powerful and proven tool for evangelism.
Today there is a special need 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. (Not to "preach at people", but to sincerely develop friendships).
Traditionally, local churches and organisations 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".
To be a success on the Net, Christian individuals, churches and organisations need to remember four important things in particular:
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 most 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 personal or leadership strategy.
Used creatively it can open exciting new horizons and greater influence for you and your ministry.