Loving Your Neighbor Over The Internet

Have you ever considered using the Internet to help others? In this broadcast, I’ll give you several examples of how God has been working on the Internet. I specifically want to encourage YOU to think about ways you might help bring the love of Christ to others as well. I hope you’ll join me, not only for this broadcast, but also in loving your neighbor…over the Internet. (Recorded March 15, 2002)

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Hi, this is Eric Elder and welcome to The Ranch.

I talked with a pastor Friday night who shared with me that he didn’t like the idea of an “Internet Ministry.” That wouldn’t have been a problem, except that he told me this five minutes before we were supposed to go on the air on a local radio station for him to interview me on, well, my Internet Ministry! They had another guest scheduled, but when that fell through they called me in to do the show. So neither of us were exactly sure what we were getting into.

But during the hour-long conversation, he was able to share his concerns and I was able to share what God has done through our own ministry. By the end of the program, he was eager to get his own church on the Internet and wanted to order a copy of the class that I’ve just developed for that purpose called “How to Create a Website for Your Ministry.”

I felt that it would be helpful to share with you some of the thoughts I shared with him about how God is using the Internet to help reach out to people all over the world. Ultimately, I’d like to encourage you to consider if God might want to use you to reach out to others as well. Even though we currently have several thousand visitors a month here at The Ranch, it hardly touches the millions of people who are searching for answers to life’s questions. So one of my desires is to help flood the Internet with the Words of God as found in the Bible, and how those words have touched real-life people like me, and like you.

Since you’re watching this on the Internet, I probably don’t need to convince you of God’s ability to use the Internet to help others. But I do want to spark your thinking about ways you might use the Internet to reach others as well. In the examples I’m about to give you, I think you’ll be encouraged to know that God can use you, regardless of what you’ve been through or what you might be going through right now, and you’ll be a blessing to others.

Before we go on, I’d like to give you a minute to pray and ask God to speak to your heart during our time together. I’ve put a verse in the text of this message below that I’d like you to read from Matthew, chapter 5, verses 14 through 16. I hope you’ll consider that verse carefully right now as you pray, then we’ll continue with the message.

Scripture

(Music: “I Just Want to Praise You” written by Arthur Tannous)

Matthew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Can God really use the Internet?

One of the reasons the pastor who interviewed me was skeptical of doing ministry over the Internet was because it wasn’t a “face-to-face” ministry. Although I love face-to-face ministry, my life has been forever changed from reading the writings of men who lived over 2000 years ago. God has spoken volumes to me through the writings of people like Paul, and John, and Moses, and a host of others whom I’ve never seen and won’t ever see until we meet them in heaven. I believe this is because distance and time are immaterial to God. He says clearly that He will never send out His Word without accomplishing the work He sent it to do.

Isaiah chapter 55, verses 10 and 11 say:

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

God is not limited to speaking through people thousands of years ago either. He still speaks through people today, and He even does it over the Internet. Here are a few examples.

When I first published my testimony on the Internet in December of 1995, I remember clearly the first email that came to me as a result. It was from a man in Athens, Greece. I was astounded. He needed prayer for a situation in his life, but didn’t have a local church at the time. We were able to pray through his situation and we still keep in touch years later. He was the first of many, many people who have written us searching for God’s help in their lives, but didn’t know where to turn next.

Another email came from a man in Egypt who was being threatened with his life. He had become a Christian but the pastor who lead him to the Lord had since been killed. This man was told that he had thirty days to leave the country or he too would be killed. He wrote to me, not asking for money, not asking for a visa to leave the country, but to ask for prayer as he had no one there to pray with him. We prayed and shared many tears via emails over the next thirty days. After that, I never heard from him again. I wish I could tell you what happened to him, but I do know this: he was able to pray with another Christian when he was at the point of his deepest need.

We’ve since had so many people write in to our website that we’ve enlisted 20 volunteers from around the world to help us correspond with and encourage them in their faith.

Just last summer, a man from Latvia watched one of these broadcasts recorded right here in this living room by a friend of mine, Bill Allison. After watching the broadcast, this man said he wept for an hour as he repented of his sins and put his faith in Christ. He went to his local church and was baptized, a church where his brother happened to be the pastor. Although he had a local church nearby and even relatives in the ministry, God used an Internet broadcast from half-way around the world to help him to make his final decision to surrender completely to Christ. He now runs the website for his church, which has been responsible for drawing others into the church and into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

What about you?

Are there things God has put on your heart that you would like to share with others, (or that God is prompting you to share with others even if you haven’t agreed yet to do it yet?) If so, I want to encourage you to use the Internet to reach out to those around you, whether in your own country or half-way around the world.

You can start as simply as sending you testimony to us here at The Ranch and let us share it with our visitors. Or you can send me a note if you’d like to be one of our volunteers to help us answer one or two emails each month. Or maybe you’d be available to talk to people in a chat room about their questions about their faith.

If you’d like to start something on your own, maybe you’d like to start with a simple mailing list to people who share a common interest with you, or struggle, like my friend did who shares a mailing list with others who struggle with panic attacks. He writes 7-10 paragraphs each week, including a scripture and a prayer. He started sending it to a few people and over the years, the list has just continued to grow. He now has several thousand people who receive his weekly emails…some are Christians, some are Hindus, Buddhists and some are Atheists.

But each week they receive a scripture from the Bible, a prayer and a word of encouragement to help them through their situation. And whenever my friend shares a gospel message on the list, several people respond saying they have put their faith in Christ as a result. And this is from a man who is a gifted writer, but would be nervous if he had to share the gospel face-to-face. But when he shares on the Internet, he sees incredible results. He now has a book he’s about to publish from all of his writings over the years. If you want to visit his website, it’s called www.season.org. My encouragement to you is to start small, but be ready to watch God use you in a big way.

Or maybe you want to create your own website for your ministry. You see the potential of the Internet and are willing to let God use you, but you don’t know where to start. If that’s the case, I’ve put together a class to show others step-by-step how to create their own website for their ministry. I taught this three-hour class at a Sunday School convention here in Illinois. It went over so well that I put the full text of the class on CD-ROM to make it available to others who would like make a website step-by-step. You can find out more about the class at www.ericelder.com/training.

These are just a few of the many ways that God might want to use you to reach out to others over the Internet. The nice thing is that you don’t have to start big to have an impact. The main thing is to just start.

I remember an article I read a few years ago about the importance of exercise. I’ve never made exercise a priority in my life, but when I read this article, it freed me to realize that I don’t have to start a big exercise program to see results. Whether it’s taking a walk, or swimming a few laps, or playing a sport from time to time, the important thing is to just start. So I started swimming at the local YMCA and I try to do it twice a week. It’s not a rigorous training schedule, but it was enough to get me started and begin to see some results.

What’s the future of ministry over the Internet?

After doing this type of ministry for many years now, I’m fully convinced of it’s value. But I was surprised last summer to see two leaders of two of the most influential churches in the world coming to similar conclusions about the Internet.

Listen to these words from a conversation between David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the largest church in the world in Seoul, Korea, and Rick Warren, pastor of one of the largest churches in America. David Yonggi Cho said:

“We couldn’t handle the situation without computers. We computerized everything in the church – every facet! We also make use of the Internet. Right now we are offering an Internet church where people participate in services through the Internet. I want to take people to the Internet.

“Korea is very small – not like in America with a lot of space, so we can’t enlarge our church buildings. Besides, every year we have 20,000 new converts in our churches, and we can’t put them all in our church building or even our branch churches. So now we have an Internet church and many of the young generation participate in the services at home. They send in their offerings on the Internet. They can do on-line giving…And they also give us feedback about sermons and services. It is silly to build larger and larger church buildings. It is silly to spend more money on (branch church) buildings! You’ll never have enough.

“I really believe this, and I have already announced to my people and ministers that the next step is to go into total cyberspace ministry because it is a real waste of money to build larger buildings.”

Rick Warren replied to this by saying:

“Well, no matter how much land you have it eventually fills up. We have 120 acres and in the first 20 years my goal was to bring them in to our campus. But now, in the next 20 years, our goal is to Decentralize — to send them out.”

Then Warren added:

“Just think of that money and how you could be using it for missions!”

(You can read the full interview of this interesting interview at: www.pastors.com/pcom/specials/ChoInterview.asp)

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1452, he had a vision for how the technology could be used to spread the gospel. The first book he printed was the Bible. Listen to what he said about this invention…this was over 500 years ago:

“Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall soon flow, in inexhaustible streams, the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of men! Through it, God will spread His word. A spring of pure truth shall flow from it; like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men.”

“God suffers in the multitude of souls whom His holy word cannot reach. Religious truth is imprisoned in a small number of manuscript books, which confine instead of spreading the public treasure. Let us break the seal which seals up holy things, and give wings to truth, in order that she may go and win every soul that comes into this world, by her word, no longer written at great expense by a hand easily palsied, but multiplied like the wind by an untiring machine.”

(from Alphonse De Lamartine, Memories of Celebrated Characters, Vol. 2, 2nd ed. (London: Richard Bentley, 1854), 323, 324.)

Gutenberg not only had the vision, but he was RIGHT! The Bible was not only the first book published, but continues to be the most published book in the world, year after year, over 500 years later!

Just like the printing press, the Internet offers a similar leap in technology to “give wings to truth.” I hope you’ll get over any hurdles you feel you may have in your own situation and get started sharing God’s truth on the Internet. You don’t have to start big to make a big difference. You just have to start.

Before we conclude, I want to give you a few minutes to pray and ask God what He might want you to do. As I play the piano and you pray, remember the final words of Jesus before he ascended into heaven.  These are from Mark chapter 16, verses 15 and 16:

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”

Take a few minutes to pray and then I’ll conclude with a prayer together.

Prayer (Music “Go Into All the World” by Eric Elder)

Lord, I pray that you would use this message to spark the hearts of those you’ve called to reach out to others over the Internet. Give them your wisdom where to go next, and how to get to where you want them to go. Lord, if there’s anyone watching or reading this who has never experienced your life-giving, life-saving power, I pray they would put their trust in Jesus Christ today, asking Him right now to forgive them of their sins. Help them, Lord, to turn away from the things that are killing them, so they can experience Your abundant life, both here on earth and in heaven with You forever. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclusion

Well, the pastor who skeptical at the beginning of our interview was convinced by the end of it that God could use him to reach out over the Internet as well. If you want to be a part of what God’s doing, let us know how we can help. Whether you want to send us your testimony for use on The Ranch, be a volunteer to help answer emails, or you want to request our CD-ROM on “How to Create a Website for Your Ministry,” just let me know. You can write to me or visit www.ericelder.com/training for more information about the class.

God IS using the Internet. Will you let him use you?

Thanks for coming and I hope you’ll join me again here at The Ranch.

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