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Internet’s rapid growth prompts her witness as ‘Connected2Him’

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Dawn Witherspoon uses her Internet chatroom password for more than just a key to unlock on-line conversations with people who hold similar interests. She uses it as a tool to share the gospel.

When the minister of missions and evangelism at Simeon Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., logs onto one of her favorite on-line chatrooms about movies or theater, she enters with the user name, Connected2Him.

“If someone asks me what that means, then, ‘Bam,’ I have an immediate way to start talking about Jesus Christ,” said Witherspoon, who led a conference on Internet evangelism during Black Church Leadership Conference at Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center June 28-July 2.

Witherspoon, also a production specialist in the youth Sunday school ministry department at LifeWay Christian Resources, said the explosive use of the World Wide Web makes it necessary for churches and Christians to consider the Internet as a “viable and important evangelism tool for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

To demonstrate the immediate pervasiveness of the Internet, Witherspoon cited the number of years it took for radio and television to make it into 50 million households (30 and 13 years, respectively). The Internet is in 50 million households after only four years, she said.

Research projects that by the year 2000, more than 100 million computers around the globe will be connected to the World Wide Web, she said.

The story of Christ has not changed in 2,000 years, but the tools Christians use to tell it must progress with the times, Witherspoon said.

“The Internet’s pervasiveness is unmeasured in terms of anything we have seen before. What this means is that we must rethink our ministry strategies. It behooves us to claim this medium for Christ,” she said.

Quoting Christian researcher George Barna, Witherspoon read: “It will be increasingly difficult to convince the unchurched, and those who are questioning Christianity, that our faith is pertinent to the 21st century if the tools of our trade are from the last century.”

Witherspoon, who has written a book titled, “Internet Evangelism,” cited immediate ways Christians can begin using the Internet as a witnessing tool.

She said people who use e-mail should begin building an e-mail database that includes addresses of family, friends, church members and evangelistic prospects. When someone sends them a thoughtful e-mail story relating to Christianity or that would provoke thoughts about faith, they should forward it to people they have entered into their database. She calls this “e-mail for Jesus.”

Witherspoon said she once sent a friend who was not a Christian one of these types of e-mails He wrote her back telling her the message touched him, asking her to tell him more. Later, she led him to Christ. “Seventy percent of evangelism done on-line is done through e-mail,” she said.

Witherspoon believes it is sometimes easier to witness to friends and family via e-mail. “I can write messages that are more clear and thought out than if I were talking to them face-to-face.”

When using chatrooms as a venue for evangelism, Witherspoon gave the following hints:

— Don’t be misleading when choosing a name. “Don’t represent yourself as a male if you are a female, and don’t use a name so obviously Christian that no one will want to talk with you.”

— Maintain your integrity. Be honest.

— Begin by asking questions.

— Look for opportunities to share the gospel.

— Don’t be afraid to mention your faith.

— People who visit chat rooms want to talk.

— Always ask to exchange e-mail addresses.

Another way people can use the Internet to share Jesus, Witherspoon said, is through evangelistic websites. She cited the testimony page (example: www.heinvites.org) and the subtle site. The subtle site, she said, is designed as a parable. It does not blatantly talk about Christianity, but it might mention faith issues by highlighting Christian sports figures or addressing nature as God’s handiwork.

Black Church Leadership Conference was sponsored by five Southern Baptist Convention Agencies — LifeWay Christian Resources, North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, Woman’s Missionary Union and Annuity Board.

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  • Terri Lackey