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Southern student ministers worldwide via World Wide Web

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–No one really knows how big it is. The experts just know it’s growing. And as the Internet continues to spin its web worldwide, it also entangles more and more people in pornography, deviant pathologies and defective philosophies.

Many would contend Christians should avoid the Internet and its hazards. They see the Web as a dangerous place. Joshua Perkins sees it as a burgeoning mission field.

And because of Perkins’ Internet ministry efforts, the Holy Spirit is now reaping a bountiful harvest of “surfers” across the globe.

“I felt like there were too many people that I knew who said, ‘Christians need to stay away from the Internet. It’s full of bad stuff,'” said Perkins, a student at Boyce College, the undergraduate program of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “But that’s exactly where we need to be. That’s the harvest field. …

“We’re not just going to give Satan a threshold and say, ‘Here, you just take over the Internet.'”

Perkins’ ministry began four years ago. While still in high school, the Flemington, N.J., native saw a need to infuse the emerging medium with the gospel message.

“I knew I wanted to use my gift on the Internet to benefit Christianity,” said Perkins, a B.S. student at Boyce. “I wanted to make a difference in the little bit that I could.”

The plan started small. Several friends. A knowledge of web design. Tender hearts wanting to encourage others.

From their America Online accounts, Perkins and two partners began e-mailing daily devotions — a verse, a heartening anecdote and a few comments. The mailing list only included about 30 friends.

But an interesting trend developed. Friends began forwarding the messages to other friends. Surfers began wanting the devotion sent directly to their desktops. The demand grew to the point that Perkins and his partners decided to invest in a website.

Thus, www.thedailybread.net was born.

“Back then, the Internet was just starting to get big,” Perkins said. “It was neat to see how God was working through thedailybread to minister to people on the Internet.”

Originally, the site provided only a simple mailing list sign-up form. Soon, interest in thedailybread.net began to rise.

“It got to [the point] where we saw significant numbers of people coming to the website and wanting to subscribe to the mailing list,” Perkins said.

The numbers of subscribers grew — 50 to 100 to 1,000 to 2,000.

“We were just floored at how God was using this [site] to minister to these people on a daily basis,” Perkins said.

The volume expanded to the extent that the owner of www.thedailybread.net’s web server told Perkins to purchase his own server. The reason — www.thedailybread.net was hogging too much of the host’s mail server. So, despite the expense, Perkins and his friends decided to purchase another server at a monthly fee.

With that server, the ministry has continued to develop. Perkins recently created an accompanying site, www.agapecity.com — a website through which Perkins could design and host other sites for Christian organizations, churches and businesses.

“We have a large vision for thedailybread,” Perkins said. “We wanted to host Christian websites for ministries and churches for a really low price.”

The service is a stewardship, Perkins said. The money earned from the hosting and design goes only to pay for the cost of the server.

“It is not a business for us. … We want to help anyone who has a vision, a passion to make God known on the Internet,” Perkins said.

Some 25 Christian ministries now utilize www.agagecity.com’s services.

Perkins will soon add another ministry to his Internet evangelism efforts. In the next few weeks, www.bibledebate.com will launch, offering surfers a chance to discuss and find answers to theological questions.

“There’s not many places on the Internet that you can come and get good theology,” Perkins said. “People have a lot of good questions that they want to have answers for, or sometimes they just want to know why you believe this.”

And while these other ministries form and expand, the www.thedailybread.net continues to experience much success.

Another site has ranked www.thedailybread.net as 35 on the “Baptist Top 1,000” website listing. Nearly 9,000 people currently receive the www.thedailybread.net’s devotions. An average of 20 to 30 subscriptions come in each day. And Perkins and his partners usually receive numerous positive responses.

Replies have come from as far away as Singapore. Some have even related testimonies of rededications made because of the devotions. Most just find daily encouragement.

“A lot of people will e-mail us, and they’ll say, ‘Man, I just really appreciate this. This really got my heart motivated for today,'” Perkins said.

Also, www.thedailybread.net features a forum where “members” may post questions about faith and submit prayer requests. Nearly 1,000 members post messages regularly, Perkins said.

“It’s really encouraging to go there from time to time and see what’s going on in people’s lives,” he said.

What’s going on in Perkins’ life is a growing ministry and a growth in his own walk with Christ. He believes Boyce College has helped him in both areas.

“Aside from the knowledge I’m gaining at Boyce and how incredible it has been, I think God is really molding me in this stage of my life,” Perkins said. “I’m just floored at what I’m learning. … And at the same time, I can see that our ministry with thedailybread is benefiting.”

And Internet ministry will probably always have a place in Perkins’ service to God. He said he hopes to continue the ministry part-time throughout his life.

“Because God has gifted me, I want to be able to use that [gift] for the Christians online,” a gift that, like the Internet, keeps on growing.
(BP) graphic posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Graphic title: THE DAILY BREAD WEBSITE.

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  • Bryan Cribb