Electronic Church

By Wayne Jackson

In recent months numerous articles have focused attention upon the phenomenal value of the World-Wide Web as an evangelistic tool. A recent issue of the popular denominational journal, Christianity Today, was devoted entirely to this medium of communication as it relates to religious information. Twenty percent of those who use the Internet do so for religious purposes. During the final quarter of last year, twenty million people accessed various web sites seeking metaphysical data. Two million Americans visit the Web every day for spiritual guidance. Surely Christians should see the value in teaching the gospel of Christ via this increasingly popular medium.

At the same time, there are dangerous pitfalls associated with the Web.

An Avenue for Error

There is a vast range of false teaching that clutters the World-Wide Web. Everything from Eastern mysticism, to religious agnosticism, to sectarianized “Christianity” is available. They can be invited right into your home – with but the click of a “mouse.” Some sites are very professionally done and therefore, are slick avenues for promoting error to the unsuspecting.

The Web also accommodates a wide variety of “church nuts,” providing them with an opportunity to peddle their wares, when they could never secure an audience otherwise. Anyone with the right kind of technical skill can get a web site going, whether or not they know anything at all about the Bible. In the minds of some, their very presence, via such a sophisticated medium, legitimizes their endeavor. This is a part of the “price tag” for “freedom of the press.”

Unfortunately, some Christians, unwittingly or otherwise, assist with the propagation of error by their “links” network. Some web sites, operated by members of the church, have elaborate link connections to other sites. And yet, virtually every link directs the viewer to a denominational source – some of which are rank with false teaching. Apparently, there is not a solitary Christian web site worthy of their recommendation. What message does that convey? A revealing one for those who consider the matter thoughtfully.

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A news service recently quoted Brenda E. Brasher, a theology-philosophy professor, and author of the book, Give Me That Online Religion, who says that, “One of the best-kept secrets of cyberspace is the surprising amount of religious practice that takes place there.” Brasher has found more than a million religion-oriented web sites, with many of them virtually functioning as temples and churches.

For many people, sitting in front of a computer and accessing a religious web site, has become a spiritual exercise that fulfills their need for a worshipping experience. A new study by the Barna Research Group suggests that “by the end of the decade, we will have in excess of 10 percent of our population who rely upon the Internet for their entire spiritual experience” (emp. added).

For a long time anemic Christians have rationalized their slothful religious devotion by appealing to the use of various media or electronic devices. Some churches, for example, broadcast their Sunday morning services; a few perfectly-healthy, though lazy, members rationalize remaining at home on the ground that “we can tune-in the services on the radio.” Many a preacher has heard this line during a gospel meeting: “We can’t be at the meeting on Friday evening; we’re having a family outing. But we’ll get the tape!”

As wonderful as the new tools for electronic evangelism are, they can never function as a substitute for assembling with the people of God at the prescribed times for engaging in corporate worship. There are Bible commands and principles that obligate us to “come together” when we are able to do so, and no “flip of a switch” can satisfy those demands upon able-bodied people.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.