It's a wintry Monday morning as Jack Smith logs into his computer and
initiates an online process that instantaneously links a Wisconsin woman with a
church and other resources to support her newfound faith in Jesus.
First, Smith checks a website, www.thegoodnews.org. As an associate in the
Soul-Winning unit at the North American Mission Board's (NAMB) Direct
Evangelism team, Smith is checking for e-mails from people who have questions,
comments, requests for information or other needs.
Browsers probably found the site by entering key words such as "religion" or
"faith." Once there, they may have clicked on the link to the page entitled "We
Can Be Friends Forever If…," then checked boxes leading them through a series
of questions and fill-in-the-blanks: What do you believe about Christ? What do
you believe about God and the Bible? What do you believe about the seriousness
of sin? Do you realize you must ask for forgiveness? If they get this far, they
find on their screen a suggested prayer to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Each month several Internet surfers check a box saying they have prayed the
prayer. Smith follows up with e-mails, literature and referrals to a local
If visitors are feeling depressed or lonely, they may go to the page called
"We introduce them to basic information such as, 'Who is God the Creator'
and 'What is the Bible,' " explains Smith. "We have to give them the context,
because the 20th century is just as pluralistic as the 1st century."
Some browse through the questions and click onto hyperlinks with the Billy
Graham Evangelistic Association (www.bgea.org)
to read "Steps to Peace with God" or to Campus Crusade for Christ (ccci.org) to
find the "Four Spiritual Laws," a tract which is available on the website in 40
Others, looking to relate to people like themselves, click on the link to
view testimonies of people like Mike, an executive with an auto company, or
Mark, who owns a landscaping business, or Susan, a young professional.
Some, incensed by the site's presentation of the gospel, send "flaming"
messages which curse or indicate total skepticism. Smith prays for the
On this day he is happy to find a message from Florida: "I'm really weak at
witnessing. I've copied your foundational truths to share. Hope you don't
mind." She signs it "your sister in Christ." Smith e-mails back with an offer
to send more information.
Smith then scrolls through encouraging comments. A Connecticut man writes
that he's a new Christian, and he will point others to the website. A
15-year-old Tennesseean e-mails her joy at finding "an ad for Jesus." A man
from Ontario writes a cheerful hello, adding that he's glad to "find the gospel
online." From Taiwan comes this:
"I help train people to witness using your website."
Smith is particularly gratified to find correspondence from people who use
the interactive roadmap designed to point them to a relationship with Jesus
Today, he finds an e-mail from a Texas student. She checked an on-line box
indicating she wasn't convinced that people can be certain of their salvation.
Smith e-mails back and sends her via "snail mail" a 25-page NAMB-produced
booklet available from LifeWay Christian Resources for 95 cents, Beginning
Steps for a New Believer.
Smith goes several steps further for a Wisconsin woman who writes: "I
believe in Jesus and the forgiveness of my sin, but I still have all this
confusion and feel unsettled, and I don't know why."
He e-mails back: "I appreciate your honesty and openness. We're honored to
be able to provide Bible-based answers. It's important to nail down your
assurance that you'll have eternal life and you'll go to heaven."
Smith steps to the desk of Lynn Miller and requests that she mail to the
Wisconsin woman a list of questions and "assurance passages," including: Did
you repent of your sins? (Acts 3:19), Did you place your faith in Jesus?
(Ephesians 2:8), and Did you surrender to Him as Lord? (Roman 10:9, 13).
He then refers the woman to Doc Lindsey, state director of evangelism/
missions for the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention. Lindsey in turn writes
to her, copying both Smith and Dennis Hansen, the local director of missions
near the woman's home.
Says Lindsey: "We take as much care as possible to make sure no one falls
between the cracks. It's like the birth of a baby--new believers have to be
nourished to grow."
In this case, Smith, Lindsey and Hansen will stay in touch to make sure that
the woman received the questions and passages about assurance and that she was
hooked up with a local church.
And so it goes.
The Internet draws browsers who want anonymity for their questions and
comments but need the reliability of the truth. Smith and others, such as NAMB
prayer strategist Thomas Wright, are working to improve the electronic media as
a solid source for evangelism.
We take as much care as possible to make sure no one falls between the
cracks. It's like the birth of a baby -- new believers have to be nourished to
For example, in spring of 1999 they will launch a Y2K Survey. Browsers will
be asked: Are you really ready for Y2K? Are you ready spiritually?
"We'll attract Internet techies who love state-of-the-art technology.
They'll get a clear presentation of the gospel," says Wright.
He also plans to make the website interactive with a chat room for real-time
More 'Net cruisin'
Timothy Abraham uses the Internet as an effective tool for evangelism to a
specific target group--Muslims. As a former Muslim and now a student at
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina,
Abraham has an insight that helps him communicate clearly and a medium that
allows him to do so quickly.
"It's an excellent method," he said. Abraham bought a computer with money
earned from preaching. "Ever since, the Lord has been glorified in it, and we
consider it to be the Lord's computer." During the last two years, the Lord and
Abraham have used the computer to lead about 20 people to place their faith in
Christ, many of them Muslims.
What has it cost Abraham? He's already lost one Internet account because of
complaints from Muslims about his activity. The more vehement opponents have
threatened Abraham's life. "They can threaten as much as
they want, but may the Lord give us the strength so we don't fear those who
kill the flesh," he said. But the efforts have brought positive responses,
"Through putting my testimony on the Internet, there has been a reunion
between me and my Christian friends in Egypt," Abraham said. Romance came to
Abraham too. It was via the Internet that he met his future bride, Angela.
Cyberspace isn't just for adults. Today's children are more computer savvy
than ever, and they're using the Web almost as much as their parents.
That's the whole idea behind Kidzplace (www.kidzplace.org), a site created
by NAMB's Children's Mission Education unit to help children learn what it
means to be on mission. Through games, activities and cartoon-like animation,
children find out how they can be involved in reaching their friends for
The first animation uses a young boy, Max, and his narrator friend to tell
children about Jesus in a simple, yet lively presentation of the gospel story.
At the end, children have the opportunity to seek further guidance from
counselors through e-mail.
Future presentations will center around people who are on mission in North
America and around the world.
Even in an age of high-tech, big budget media, the printed word continues to
change lives. Jon Walker, editor of LifeWay's HomeLife magazine, reports
receiving five to six letters every month from people who have entered into a
personal relationship with Christ after reading the plan of salvation printed
in every issue.
"We have a high number of what the industry calls 'secondary readers,' "
Walker said. "We get letters from nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, employees
and neighbors who say someone gave them the magazine. Some letters refer to
issues that are six to 12 months old, but the power of God's message is
timeless, no matter what is the date on the cover of a magazine."
The magazine you're holding, On Mission, is NAMB's flagship publication.
Other SBC flagship magazines include the International Mission Board's The
Commission and the Woman's Missionary Union's Missions Mosaic. All have
applications for evangelism.
Some periodicals are designed for evangelization. Kathy Sharp, a LifeWay
communication specialist, says HomeLife's TODAY is written without the jargon
and lingo found in many Christian magazines.
Also, the bi-annual publication is not dated which makes it useful
"HomeLife's TODAY is an outreach tool to reach non-Christians. We can
customize it for larger churches that order at least 1,000 copies. For churches
without the budget to support a customized issue, we have a generic version,"
Sharp said. She added that the magazine works best when used with a strategy.
"It is an evangelism piece. LifeWay can mail it or send copies to churches to
hand out. We help churches with their evangelistic strategy and help them find
NAMB also offers assistance to churches and states for planning customized
periodicals for evangelism strategy. Using copy planned and produced by states
or associations, these publications usually accompany special events and
contain a written gospel presen-tation and an opportunity to respond. NAMB
provided evangelistic publications during the Southern Baptist Conventions held
in Salt Lake City and Dallas and has assisted with similar publications in
LifeWay's Broadman & Holman is one of the nation's leaders in Christian
book publishing. Whether it's through powerful studies like Henry Blackaby's
Experiencing God, gripping thrillers like Voices from the Titanic by Jim Walker
and Final Witness by James Scott Bell or timely titles like Character IS the
Issue by Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and The Financially Confident Woman by
Mary Hunt, there's plenty to interest almost any reader. And possibly point him
or her to Christ.
One of Broadman & Holman's series, the Summit High series for teens, by
Matt Tullos, has made a mark on young readers. One teen writes of the book
Wrong Turn in the Fast Lane: "One thing about Wrong Turn though. I can really relate to
Kandi and her extreme loneliness and her extreme emotional battle to find love.
What I think is awesome though, is that she doesn't find true love until she
turns fully to Christ!"
One way to use books to share Christ with others is to pass them along to a
friend after reading. It's easy and effective, as one teen found out. "My
friend read it, then passed it on to my other friend, she then passed it to me.
It is now going through my whole youth group, which is about 20 people," she
Broadman & Holman also publishes Bibles. Some are customized for
evangelism like the Share Jesus Without Fear New Testament and the Here's Hope
Bible, which outline the steps to accepting Christ as Savior in scripture.
Not just an idiot box
Television often earns a bad rap. But it can be a powerful way to get godly
messages to a large audience.
The Broadcast Communication Group of NAMB, located in Fort Worth, Texas,
reaches across the continent and around the world with radio and television
broadcasts. In addition to working on such exciting projects as a new
documentary on Billy Graham and producing first-rate TV spots promoting the
gospel, the western arm of NAMB produces scores of programs aimed at specific
target audiences. One of the most widely known radio programs is the
contemporary Powerline, a mix of interviews, testimonials and wisdom
wrapped around the music of Christian artists who appeal to a younger
Of hundreds of responses Powerline receives each year, this one is
typical: "Hi, I listen to your program as I drive to work. This morning you
said to e-mail with any questions one may have. My question is how does one
know there is a God? Since leaving home I haven't found a church that I feel a
part of. I just don't have that blind faith. I'm not sure there is a God. I
don't dare say that to anyone for fear of what they may think. What do people
mean when they say they've been reborn? What do they feel? At any rate, thank
you for your time and your program."
One of TV's legends, The Baptist Hour, evokes similar responses.
Katie wrote this about her encounter with the program: "I had a long
conversation with a friend about the price I would have to pay to accept
Viewers have credited shows like "Swan's Place" from halting their plans
I would be shunned by the LDS [Mormon] church. My LDS friends would have to
desert me. My family would turn against me. All the time the question I have to
ask is, 'It is worth the cost?' Every time I think of giving my life to Jesus I
feel a sense of peace and contentment.
I can't go on living a life that is so void of love and freedom. I prayed to
receive Christ this week. I have to admit that when I prayed I felt no change.
However, when I went to bed, I overwhelmingly felt the sweetest presence come
over me. I knew then I had made the right decision. I look forward to the
adventure in Jesus Christ, and I hope that you will help me to understand what
accepting Him means to me now."
In NAMB's first year of operation The Baptist Hour received
numerous letters from viewers expressing their acceptance of Jesus as a result
of the program's presentation. Raymond said: "I just got out of prison and am
accepting Jesus Christ as my savior." In all, during NAMB' first year, 1,045
viewers and listeners are known to have placed their faith in Christ as a
result of interacting with broadcast media.
Viewers have credited shows like "Swan's Place" from halting their plans for
suicide. Humorist Dennis Swanberg hosts the variety talk show with a homespun
feel and an evangelistic edge. Thousands of responses come in from people who
were helped through depression or struggles with specific problems in their
lives as a result of tuning in.
Just one of the many ministry supports offered by NAMB is the HelpLink
website. (Find HelpLink at www.namb.net/helplink.) HelpLink has a topical
listing of helps for people looking for guidance when facing difficult
circumstances such as drug abuse or grief. It has an active e-mail link for
The site is publicized in NAMB's media productions.
One HelpLink visitor wrote: "I think your page and your whole ministry are
great. I was really helped by your site that is dedicated to sexual addiction
and pornography. God is great, isn't' He? I thank Him for breaking the bondage
that I once suffered from. I also thank you for the help and support you gave
Local Baptist churches also make their way onto the airwaves with radio and
TV broadcasts of services. Some churches even produce their own special
programs. This Christmas First Church of Cullman, Alabama, broadcast a
Christmas special featuring their choir and the Christian female trio Sierra.
The TV program was carried on the FamilyNet and Odyssey networks.
JESUS across the country
Partnering with evangelical groups outside the SBC has opened other venues
for media ministry, such as working with Campus Crusade for Christ to
distribute their JESUS video across North America and the world.
Churches are taking up the challenge of using the video for outreach. The
project commitment includes purchasing the videos, supplying or
delivering them to people and following up after people have viewed them. An
Alabama doctor, Robert Cosby, donated enough money to send the video to every
home in the state, all 1.7 million of them. The reaction has been so positive
that plans are in the works to distribute the videos to every home in another
Dennis Hampton, pastor of Sandhills Baptist Fellowship in O'Neill, Nebraska,
knows the power of the JESUS video. During a showing at Hampton's
church, a woman accepted Christ. She had been involved in a cult that had
encouraged her to abandon her family. One week after her decision her husband
and mother became Christians, too.
Puttin' it all together
As Southern Baptist churches join arms to target cities for specific
evangelistic outreach, sometimes putting many different efforts into one
cohesive evangelistic thrust is the best way to take Christ to a large area.
Evangelistic efforts to reach cities during SBC conventions (such as 1998's
Crossover in Salt Lake City and the upcoming Arms Around Atlanta planned for
1999) use multiple media approaches to make inroads for the gospel. During
Crossover, Salt Lake City residents saw and heard the gospel presented all over
the city--on billboards, in newspaper advertisements, on TV and radio
spots--all offering the opportunity to receive a free copy of the
JESUS video. One prominent TV ad featured Olympic-gold-medal-winning
gymnast, Mary Lou Retton, sharing the source of her strength --Christ. NAMB's
evangelistic tabloid, Contact, reached 275,000 homes in and around
Salt Lake City.
As NAMB partners with states, associations and local Baptist churches in its
"Strategic Focus Cities" emphasis, Christian and secular media will be used in
similar ways to reach out to unchurched residents and maximize opportunities to
lead people to Christ.
The "Strategic Focus Cities" campaign is a long-range strategy to bring
concentrated evangelistic efforts to select cities across North America.
Ron Lawson, director of Media Strategy for NAMB, says media will play an
important role in the "Strategic Focus Cities" campaigns beginning in Phoenix
and Chicago in 2000.
"Media will support the strategies. Media will not be there for anything
other than supporting evangelism, church planting and church growth. Everything
from door hangers announcing a block party to TV spots will be used to deliver
the message of the gospel. But it will all be response-driven. An important
part is what we do with people who are reached. Are they being discipled in a
local church and will they become on mission Christians? Once they receive a
free video, these people will be contacted by local churches for follow-up. The
local church is the key for response. It is important to partner closely with
associations and local churches to reach cities for Christ," Lawson said.
Cooperation is one hallmark of Baptist ministry. NAMB and LifeWay used
HomeLife's TODAY to partner with local SBC churches in a joint direct-mail
piece in Salt Lake City. The magazine took the gospel to 140,000 homes. Local
churches again made the key connection point for follow-up from media
responses. According to Kathy Sharp, the Salt Lake City publication was
directed specifically to non-Christians and the unchurched. Still, she
emphasized, the family-oriented magazine pointed clearly to the One Who created
and maintains families, and it encouraged those who didn't have a personal
relationship with Him to enter one.
Writer Lee Weeks and Chip Alford of LifeWay Christian Resources
contributed to this story.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC