Reaching the World Without Leaving Home:
 Ministry on The Internet

(Mark 16:15 KJV) And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

By Dr. Ken Matto

One of the most convenient forms of ministry which God has brought into existence is the Internet. The Internet differs from every other form of ministry outreach, in that, it is now possible to reach every single country in the world with the Gospel without a person leaving home. Not everyone can have a radio station in their home! Not everyone can have a TV station or Short-wave station in their home! Yet, it is possible for every Christian to have a personal website with articles for downloading.

When studies or articles are uploaded they become instantly available to anyone, anywhere in the world. A person in a different country may download a study and then share that study with many others. One study can reach hundreds of people plus they can help by equipping the nationals in those countries with material they can hand out or preach from. I wrote an article after the 9/11 tragedy and it was downloaded by a man in Germany and handed out in his congregation to over 100 people, after he translated it into German.

Christians in different countries need materials to help explain the Bible. Many governments are very repressive and will not allow Christian materials to enter their country. It is almost impossible to get a Bible into the Muslim countries of the 10-40 Window. On our website we have a full King James Bible and a full Spanish Bible which can be read or downloaded. This electronic Bible can get into places that book copies cannot. This is why we encourage Christians to seriously consider beginning an outreach on the Internet. This monograph will give you some principles to help you begin your own world wide ministry. Keep in mind that once you upload your material, it is available 24 hours per day, every day. Even while you sleep, you are fulfilling the Great Commission.

The following excerpt is from the publication “Voice” published by the Bible Broadcasting Network in Charlotte, North Carolina. The article is entitled “Why Are We Using The Web To Broadcast The Gospel?” It is in the August 2002 edition.

“A Mass Outreaching - The world wide web has become a great way to communicate. It also provides us a great outreach to the world to share the good news of our risen Lord Jesus Christ from our station to every computer around the world. According to statistical studies, 182.24 million computers were used in the states, 54 million in Japan, 35 million in Germany, 32 million in China and 18 million in Korea. We can reach millions of people with the Word of God, 24 hours a day…” At this time there are 560 million Internet users worldwide. That is approximately 1 out of every 12 people on the earth

 

Planning Your Website

Before you even start getting into the hardware end of planning your site, there are some things which must be considered.

Goal or Purpose
What is the goal or purpose of your website? In other words, what do you want to accomplish?

1) Do you want to see people saved? Then it would be evangelistic in focus.

2) Do you want to disciple those who are already saved? Then your site would feature studies which would be specifically geared toward spiritual growth.

3) Do you wish to advertise for a church? You would place all your church’s beliefs plus a history of the church. The pastor can write a welcome message and you may place directions to the church. You can place anything on the site which pertains to the church.

4) Do you have a ministry you would like to promote? Let us say you are a starting a speaking ministry focused on Singles. You would gear your site toward the singles ministry. When you send out your letters of introduction, you can include your website which will give a biography of you and your ministry. You can also upload some studies for the folks to look at so they get to know you a little better before they call you. I would counsel you not to initially promote your ministry by means of e-mail as it may be viewed as SPAM and deleted. Have nice letterhead with a corresponding business card and make your mailings via snail mail. You can do your research on line to find churches. Sending out a personally signed letter keeps the personal touch alive and presents you as more than a cheap e-mail. However, do not neglect to place your ministry description and your availability on your site, because someone might find you via a search.

These are only four examples of how you can utilize the Internet to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the world. It is also a very cheap investment. The Scion of Zion website is paying $209 per year to our web host. Now when you consider that on our site there is probably over 1000 articles and using about 100 megabytes. We are getting approximately 110,000-147,000 page views each month. So $209 per year comes out to $4.02 per week - 57 cents a day - 2 cents an a hour. Where else could you reach the world for Christ at these low rates.

 

Website Content

Once you have decided what type of website you are going to pursue, then you must begin to determine the content of the site. I am not speaking of the theological content of the articles, but I am speaking of the type of material that you will place on the web site.

Copyrighted Material
Every article has an author and some choose to copyright them which means before you post them on your site, you must get the author’s permission or else there may be copyright violation. None of the articles on the Scion of Zion website are copyrighted. This is because the Lord Jesus Christ gave us a principle for ministry. (Mat 10:8 KJV) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. If an author contacts us about placing one of their articles on our site, the first question I ask is if it is copyrighted? If it is, I will refuse it or else the author must allow downloading without his permission. Now do we do this because we are mean? No, we do this because our site is following the biblical guidelines of Scripture. Let me say there is no Christian article written that is so profound that it should be copyrighted or sold. God is the one who gives us the wisdom and knowledge to write, so we must use it to the glory of God and allow anyone anywhere to download those studies. I realize that copyrighting should prevent plagiarizing, but we are in the Gospel business. Our responsibility is to flood the world with Christian material and that will not happen if everyone has to get permission to use someone’s materials. If you feel that you still want the article, even though the author refuses to allow downloading without his permission, then I would suggest that you link to their website instead and let your readers do the leg work in appropriating the article for their usage.
Links
Here you must be very careful. A link is a connection to a site that you are unable to control. It is important that if you link to a site, you make sure they are as sound as possible. You should also place a disclaimer on your links page stating that the content of these sites may not be as biblical as you would like them to be. What you want to do is to make sure your readers are on their toes when they go to another site. If a site has one or two good articles but the majority is junk, then I would not even consider linking to it. Remember, we are responsible before God where we lead other Christians. Just because we do not know who is coming to our site, that does not absolve us from being as faithful as we can to the mandate of feeding the Lord’s Sheep. There are sites out there purporting to be Christian, which in reality are nothing but rubbish.
 
Audio Files
With the software that is in existence, you may place audio on your site. A church can place the sermon of the week or a ministry can place the study of the week. Then when your visitors come to your site, they can listen to a study and if they like what they hear, they will definitely come back. Keep in mind, that a 30 minute message may eat up about 10 megabytes of space. There are some Christian sites out there which play background music as you search their site.  You can even have live broadcasts through your site.
 
Video Files
There is even software out there that can allow you to place video on your site. You may have a church website and the people will not only hear the pastor, but will see him also. Sometimes it is nice to place a face with the voice. This addition is a pretty expensive venture but it might be worth it as you show the world your church, organization, or even your own ministry.
Heavy Graphics Versus Text Only
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Internet is the different graphics on different sites. I enjoy looking at them and sometimes I download them and use them for different purposes. Now the problem with heavy graphics usage is that it takes longer to download. This is something to consider for those in foreign countries. If you use graphics very heavily, our brothers and sisters in foreign lands may not have DSL, Cable, or even dial-up at 56 kbps. They may still have 1990 connection speeds of 9,600 or 12,000 plus old computers. The heavy graphics would hinder them from viewing your site and would defeat the purpose of having a site. If a person cannot view it, they cannot benefit from it. While graphics are nice, they can be a hindrance to outreach. Our site is predominantly text only. Our desire is to convey the teachings of Scripture, not our talent in building a site. Whenever you make an addition to your site, always do it with the thoughts of your poorest visitors.

There are also sites out there which offer many articles that have graphics imbedded in the body of the article. If a person tries to download it, they might run the risk of low memory and that would hinder download. Keep your articles as text only and as short as possible. I use Arial 12 font with straight black type. If there is color fonts mixed in, the printout will not be uniform and the colored fonts might create a breach in the text. Also by keeping the articles as short as possible, you may be helping a poorer Christian who does not have much paper to spare for downloading. Again, do everything to your site with the poorest Christians in mind. This is because we in the west, interpret everything according to our own situation. I am sure that in many poorer countries there is not a Staples or an Office Max every two miles as there is here. Since the Internet crosses political boundaries, we must think in those terms.

Your Own Studies
I did not own a computer until 1995. Before then I was using a typewriter and then graduated to a Smith-Corona word processor. I had done mega studies and sermons before that time but they were sitting in folders and in files which were just collecting dust. In1996 I had AOL but in May of 1997 I switched over to Earthlink. It was November 20, 1997 when I had begun a website. This was for the purpose of placing all my studies on there for the world to see. This was the meager beginnings of the Scion of Zion website. “Do not despise the day of small things,” says the Lord through Zechariah. Since 1997 I have been writing articles and studies for the Internet. I even uploaded about 80 of my sermons for free distribution. If you are a writer and have good subject material that can edify the Body of Christ, then by all means start a website.

Getting on the Web

Before you can post your studies on your website, you must begin to build the physical website. This requires a few things which I will list to help you on your way.

ISP Free Website Space
At the time I had AOL in 1996, they offered 2 megabytes for your own personal website. When I had switched over to Earthlink, they had increased their free offer to 6 megabytes. This was my first website address:  http://home.earthlink.net/~kmatto    It is no longer operational. Now those ISP (Internet Service Providers) who offer free sites, normally offer the tools to build your site with. Then as your site increases in size, they will then extend an offer to you to sell you increased storage on their server. If your ISP gives you free space, then by all means, take the offer. You can place a lot of textual material in a two or six megabyte block. Plus this will be your training ground for expansion of your outreach ministry.
Domain Registration
Let us say that you are ready to take the plunge and begin the process of starting a ministry website. The first thing you want to do is to pick a name for your site. Let us say that your ministry focuses on singles. You were just reading the Bible in Matthew 6:22, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” You would like to name your singles ministry, ‘The Single Eye.” So you would go to a website which offers domain registration. You would do a search to see if http://www.single_eye.com is available. If it is, then you may reserve it for your ministry. This way no one else will be able to take it. Now just in case it was taken already, you may do a variation on it so there would be association with your ministry name. A variation could be: www.the_single_eye.com or www.single_eye_singles.com. There is a cost for registration which varies with each company.
Building Your Site
Once you have searched and bought your new domain name, you need to begin to start building your website. It is not necessary for you to have 100 pages to upload. You can start with a few pages, namely your index page and maybe you can begin a Table of Contents, along with a few studies. Now we use Microsoft Front Page 2003 for Scion of Zion.  If you are starting from scratch, make sure that when you are purchasing this software, you are not just purchasing the update. There may be other software on the market for building a website but I am just familiar with Microsoft Front Page. If you do buy Front Page, then you must ask your prospective Web Host Company if their servers accept Front Page Extensions. Your Web Host company will go over all the other technical jargon with you.
Finding a Web Hosting Company
When looking for a web hosting company, if you can find a Christian company to deal with, that would be optimum. Scion of Zion is hosted by “EMWD.” I have been with Brian for quite a number of years now and am happy with his service. Their URL is: http://www.emwd.com/
Start with the smallest package you need from the web hosting company. You may only need to start out with 50 Megabytes. As you grow, then you can go to the next level but at the present, don’t buy more than you could use. As you grow and pass the upper limits of your present package, they will automatically place you into the next category. If your need surpasses what these smaller companies offer, do not fear, then you can go with the big boys like Earthlink. All you would have to do is transfer the site to the new server.
Search Engine Submission Services
After you begin to upload some of your studies or articles, your next step is to make sure people can find you on the Internet. This is where a Search Engine Submission Service comes into the picture. This service will submit your site URL to the search engines using keywords. A keyword is an identifying item for the search engine to match up your site to a person searching for information. Let us say you are a Singles Speaker. When your Service asks you for a list of keywords, one of them might be, “Singles Speaker.” Now a person is seeking a Singles Speaker and goes to Yahoo or Google search engines and enters in “Singles Speaker.” Now depending upon the amount of Singles Speakers there are and how good your website submission service is, that person may come across your site and then click on it. Monthly submission is necessary since search engines change their parameters and may cause your site to be excluded or placed lower in the ratings. When you sign on with a web hosting company, they may offer this service to their clients at a reduced rate.
E-Mail List Services
I would recommend that you stay away from these services. You may receive an e-mail which states that you can have one million e-mail addresses for $99. The problem is you have no idea who is receiving your e-mails and the integrity of those addresses. E-mails change like the weather because people are making up phony names on free e-mail accounts like Lycos and Yahoo, so when they become defunct, they are out of service but they may remain on someone’s sales lists. Let us say that you find a good service and they guarantee you 500,000 names for $149. What would you do if you receive a 1% response. How are you going to handle 5,000 e-mails? These e-mail services are best left to businesses. A good search engine submission service plus a stable presence on the web will yield you a good return.
E-Mail for Respondents
If you have a good Internet Service Provider (ISP) which offers you an E-mail address, stay with it. Do not change your e-mail because people who are used to contacting you at your present e-mail will get an “undeliverable” and they will think you are off the Net. I had the same E-mail address for over five years. I was with with Earthlink for over five years.  I suggest that you get an ISP that is national in structure, like Earthlink or Comcast. If you move, then you will not be affected by the move since they are in every state. If you sign on with a local service and then you move, you can be severely affected. You will then have to change your e-mail address with every one of your previous contacts. If you have letterhead and business cards with your e-mail address on them you will have to print new ones. Smaller ISP can go out of business unexpectedly and then you are left to pick up the pieces. You also have to load your website through their computers and if they have substandard equipment, then you will be unable to access your website.

 

Now That You Are Up and Running

Now that you are up and running, there are some situations that you are going to be faced with as you minister to the world.

E-Mail Response
You are definitely going to receive e-mails which are both pro and con to your teachings. This is to be expected. It is no different than if you were on a radio show receiving letters of the same type. There will be times that you will receive caustic e-mails and normally just hit your delete button on those. There will be those who disagree with your doctrinal stance but are sincere in wanting to know why you or your church believes that way. As you receive e-mails in your ministry, you will become familiar with those who are truly seeking versus those who are just trying to instigate trouble.

You may also be tempted to return “tooth for tooth” and it is easy to do that since you are the only one sending the e-mails. Satan will try to get you to lose your temper and attack back. I would say this from the outset that if you feel that you cannot handle those type of e-mails that may cause you to return angry responses, then stay off the Net in the capacity of ministry. It is better not to take a chance to bring reproach on the name of Christ. Many of those that will attack are unbelievers but there are also many antagonistic Christians out there with a very low level of biblical understanding who dwell on the Net and just wait to cause trouble.

The Internet is Impersonal
The computer along with the Internet are very impersonal objects. When the Internet is used for good, then a person may be happy. When it is used for bad, then people become angry. As a representative of Jesus Christ on the Internet, you must make your site and responses of a personal nature, thus conveying the care and love of Christ through your communication with those who come to your site. We have a tract at Scion of Zion entitled “Where Will You Be After Death.” Whenever I receive a nasty e-mail from someone, instead of continuing the battle with them, I send them a copy of the tract by return e-mail. Most of the time I never hear from them again. Although it is hard to admit sometimes, there is a human on the other side of that e-mail you are sending. So send your e-mail to them as if you are the one receiving it.
Evolutionary Website
The word “evolution” is hideous to Christians, but evolution does have a part to play in the life of your website. As you go along in your ministry, you will be making adjustments, adding and subtracting articles, links, backgrounds, etc. As I stated before the temptation to add graphics and other things is strong. However, for a ministry or church website, I would counsel you to keep it as simple as possible. Simple can look good. Allow your site to evolve into a simple, practical site. Make your site as easy as possible to navigate and always fix dead links or hyperlinks as soon as you know about them.
Basic Things To Place On Your Site
Not only will you want to place your ministry information on your site, but there are some optional things that you may want to consider placing there:

1) If your hometown and state has a website, you may want to include that link so those in other countries may know a little about where you live.

2) Your Telephone Number - To date I have received no calls off the Internet which were not legitimate.

3) Maybe a weather button from the weather channel www.weather.com

4) A picture of yourself and/or your family which will place a face with a website.

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