For more than 60 years, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has ministered to people around the world through Crusades, books, faith-based movies, music, televised sermons and radio programs. BGEA also includes the ongoing ministries of The Cove in Asheville, N.C., and The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C.
Then, three years ago, the organization added another form of outreach: Internet evangelism. There are no crowds and no building, yet this ministry alone has reached more than 21 million people worldwide.
As director of this relatively new and quickly growing outreach, John Cass has seen firsthand how God is using the Internet to change lives. He also knows that his job involves much more than this one ministry.
Cass regularly refers to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as “Team BGEA.” All the BGEA ministries are part of one family, he says, and “we’re better together.”
That’s why the digital team is working to connect the Internet evangelism ministry, called Search for Jesus, with other ministries—to broaden BGEA’s outreach and to integrate with ministries that have been around much longer than Search for Jesus.
Every day, as millions of people turn to the Internet for answers to their spiritual questions, Search for Jesus is there to direct them to PeaceWithGod.net, an evangelistic site that guides web visitors through a simple Gospel message. From there, online visitors can ask a question or indicate that they have invited Christ into their lives. More than 330 trained volunteers are available to chat with visitors online, answer their questions through email or lead them through an online discipleship course.
Many of those volunteers are also chaplains with BGEA’s Rapid Response Team.
Most recently, Rapid Response chaplains responded to deadly tornadoes that ravaged parts of the South and to massive flooding in the Florida Panhandle. But when chaplains aren’t deployed, Search for Jesus gives them an opportunity to use their training online, ministering to hurting people around the globe.
Chaplains are already trained in listening skills and crisis communication, chaplain manager Jeff Naber said, so Search for Jesus is a perfect fit.
The online ministry also meshes well with Franklin Graham Festivals. When Festivals are streamed live online, viewers who have a question or want to commit their lives to Christ can connect with Search for Jesus.
“Technology allows us to basically double the number of people who hear the Gospel,” strategic planning director Bob Hill said.
In April, BGEA streamed the Greater El Paso Festival of Hope. The two-day event drew about 16,000 people in El Paso; the online audience reached more than 17,000 across more than 180 countries. The May 9-11 Festival of Hope in Sapporo, Japan, was also streamed online, reaching thousands in more than 60 countries.
Volunteers who are trained to counsel new believers in Festival cities can continue their ministry online through Search for Jesus once the Festival is over.
“We’re mobile. We can move with them,” Hill said.
On the flip side, Search for Jesus has learned from the Crusade ministry, which oversees BGEA Festivals, how to effectively present the Gospel online, which has been invaluable.
Last year, Search for Jesus took what it’s learned about online Gospel sharing and incorporated that into BGEA’s Ransom ministry, a website geared toward young people about how God changes lives. Now, when online visitors read faith-based stories on Ransom, they can click to read more about finding peace with God—and be connected to the Search for Jesus ministry.
To date, more than 4.3 million people have indicated decisions for Christ through Search for Jesus, with hundreds of thousands providing contact information for further follow-up. Because many BGEA ministries are closely linked, it’s not uncommon for these decisions to stem from another BGEA ministry.
Like last year’s My Hope America with Billy Graham campaign. Last fall, Christians around the country participated in My Hope, sharing their faith with friends and family through a short film called The Cross. The film was shown in homes and on cable and network TV. As viewers visited the website presented at the end of the program, they were connected to BGEA’s online ministry where trained Search for Jesus volunteers offered real-time response.
As Search for Jesus integrates with other BGEA ministries that have been in place for decades, Internet Evangelism Director John Cass says it’s important for the ministry to work as one and with one purpose in mind: to point people to Christ.
“We’re all in this together,” he said.
You can get involved in Search for Jesus. To find out how, click here.
To support Internet evangelism, click here.