Indiana Man Fears for His Life, Online Ministry Connects Him with Local Pastor

By   •   April 30, 2019

BGEA works to connect people online who have spiritual questions with local churches that have a passion for discipleship.

Choosing a church can be overwhelming.

While some live in the Bible Belt and church hop—”shopping around” to meet their expectations—others drive miles on end to be part of the nearest congregation.

Many people just want a Bible-teaching church they can trust.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) works to connect people with these local churches through its online Search for Jesus ministry. People like Tristan* who recently connected with a pastor in Indiana.

Online Ministry Fostering Offline Interaction

Search for Jesus (SFJ) aims to meet people where they’re at online and share Jesus with them. The ministry does that through various evangelistic websites that explain the Gospel, then offers a way for people to ask questions or learn more through online chat, email or a free discipleship course.

The ultimate goal, though, is to point them to a local, Biblically sound church where they can grow closer to Christ and build community.

That’s where SFJ’s online church finder comes in. This tool allows people in the U.S., U.K., Canada or Australia to search for a church near them. Churches are screened by BGEA staff.

>> Looking for a church? See what’s in your area.

It was through the church locator that Tristan was pointed to a church and received much-needed encouragement.

Living in Gary, Indiana, which has had one of the nation’s highest murder rates over the years, Tristan was scared he was going to die in the line of fire in his neighborhood. He reached out to BGEA with questions about the Bible and was asked if he’d like to be contacted by a pastor.

Tristan was excited to speak with someone nearby, and was connected with Pastor David Kiesling of Hessville Bible Church, which is listed on the church finder.

>> Is your church part of BGEA’s online church database? Find out how to be part of this ministry.

“[Tristan] would hear a lot of gunshots and he was afraid even leaving his house,” Kiesling said, recalling their conversation. “He was very concerned the next sound he heard, he could be shot—and if he died, where would he go?”

Kiesling shared with him the hope found in John 10:27-28:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Just as a shepherd protects his sheep, Kiesling explained that God is looking out and caring for us.

Over a series of phone calls, the two have spent time building a relationship. Kiesling continues to answer Tristan’s questions about God, and offer guidance in his struggle with unemployment.

Help Your Church Reach People Online

In 2018, the online church locator received an average of nearly 1,250 visits per week, with a total of 64,865 visits year-round. The tool is often used by people who have just moved to a new area and are looking for a reliable church, or by new believers who are looking to join a church for the first time. Others are simply overwhelmed with life and want to get plugged into a congregation.

More than 4,400 churches just like Kiesling’s are part of this online outreach.

Although Tristan and Kiesling are just 15 miles apart, they’ve been unable to meet in person, though Kiesling hopes that changes soon.

“I will be calling Tristan again and try to find out more how he’s doing … [I want him to know] he can still call and have a place to share anything on his heart.”

*Name changed for privacy.

>> Is your church a good fit for the Search for Jesus ministry? Learn more.