Each day, about 5 million people take their spiritual questions to the Internet. They are searching for answers, for hope, for something they can believe in.
Six decades into the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s history, a new ministry is rapidly reaching thousands of people with the Gospel. Search for Jesus, an Internet evangelism ministry that started last April, has taken off, exceeding BGEA’s expectations and breaking boundaries.
Two projects fall under the Search for Jesus ministry: PeaceWithGod.net, an interactive website presenting the Gospel in four easy steps; and a site that will introduce new believers to the basics of Christianity, ready for launch later this year.
“[Internet Evangelism] will probably be one of the biggest things we’ve ever done … things that my father only dreamed about,” said BGEA President and CEO Franklin Graham. “We can go to countries where we’ve never been. We can go behind closed doors where we’ve never been. We can go anytime, day or night.”
About 1.1 million people around the world have already visited PeaceWithGod.net, with more than 148,000 of them making decisions for Christ. But it isn’t about the numbers.
“What is my purpose in life? Why am I lonely? Can God really forgive me? These are some of the questions that we are seeing on a regular basis,” e-chat volunteer and team coordinator Mimi Brady said. “People want to know if they are valuable and if they are loved.“
”We have an amazing opportunity,” Internet evangelism partner Erik Célérier said. “We have to go for it. It’s urgent.”
The ministry isn’t a form of mass media, Célérier explained; it’s reaching one person at a time through his or her own Internet searches. A person, for example, might type into Google: “Does God exist?” and click a link that leads to a landing page on that topic. After reading content related to his original search, he can then click a button that directs him to PeaceWithGod.net.
Other popular Internet searches speak to financial problems, finding purpose in life and answered prayer.
The site has reached people throughout the United States and around the world, from Norway, Spain, Australia and the Philippines to India, France, the U.K. and Nigeria.
Internet Evangelism Director John Cass has spent 15 years traveling domestically and abroad. No matter where he goes, he meets people in search of love and forgiveness. PeaceWithGod.net is based on John 3:16 and speaks to those basic needs.
One site visitor, a 53-year-old retired mechanic from East Tennessee, found PeaceWithGod.net during a web search on salvation. He was touched by video testimonies from others who committed their lives to Christ.
“I just had the desire to give my life to God,” he said.
He prayed a prayer of salvation and knew his life had changed. He started reading the Gospel of John and went to church with his wife who was “tickled to death” about his decision. They started devotions together, and he is excited about prayer and worship.
But Internet Evangelism doesn’t end when a person accepts Christ. New believers have access to discipleship materials, and the Search for Jesus team is working to incorporate e-counselors and discipleship coaches. E-counselors will chat with site visitors to answer their questions, and discipleship coaches will mentor new Christians. About 2,600 people have expressed interest in volunteering for those roles.
“The most exciting part of my job is the opportunity to build a bridge between an almost limitless online mission field and thousands of faithful, able and willing Christians who could minister effectively in this field,” discipleship coach coordinator Mark Appleton said.
Search for Jesus is also working to connect new Christians to local, biblically sound churches that will nurture them in their walk with Christ.
“By next year, we would like to have the cleanest and most accurate database that’s filled with Bible-believing churches across the U.S.,” church referral coordinator Tameka Thomas said. Search for Jesus will make contact with churches through mailings, Skype, video presentations, Facebook and at conferences.
Last month, the Search for Jesus team launched an updated English version of PeaceWithGod.net, as well as a Portuguese version. Spanish ministry coordinator Jessica Romero is working on a U.S. Spanish site, and with 50 million Hispanics nationwide, she says it will be “explosive.”
The sites include videos that add a personal touch.
“Through high-quality, audiovisual storytelling, we are capturing hearts, impacting minds and changing lives 24/7,” video producer and editor David Acuff said. “Franklin Graham is not going to come knock on your door at 3:37 a.m. in Portugal to lead you in the sinner’s prayer, but if you’re ready for that step, there is media online where he does just that. We have extended his reach and the reach of BGEA into homes around the world.”
A man from Queensland, Australia, recently rededicated his life to Christ after visiting the site. “I have always thought of myself as a Christian, but in the last few years had rarely prayed,” he said. “My family, including my children, are nonbelievers, so my faith has often been a lonely one.”
The man recommitted to his faith and said he talks to God like a close friend.
“I am free,” he said. “It amazes me how simple and how completely profound our faith in God can be.”
Looking ahead, Internet Evangelism Director John Cass sees Search for Jesus blending into other ministries. The Rapid Response Team can use the Internet evangelism ministry to deploy chaplains online. And this new arm of BGEA can provide the Crusades ministry with ongoing evangelism and discipleship opportunities with partnering churches. Search for Jesus is also researching ways to reach people on their cell phones for those who don’t have a computer or smart phone.
“We have to be that forward-thinking if we’re going to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth,” Cass said. “People, we know, are changed when they find Christ.”
Visit SearchforJesus.net to find out how you can be a part of this exciting new ministry.
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