April 17, 2020

Virtual Evangelism

“Nearly every morning, I enjoy morning prayer time with a group of friends.”

Three years ago, those words began my Vital Practices blog post about a virtual community of faithful people who regularly read and comment on Forward Movement’s daily prayer meditations published online at Forward Day by Day.

Today there is a new dimension to my gratitude for this ministry and my friends who meet me there. The constancy of this place keeps me grounded while my home church is closed. Thanks be to God for new platforms for community worship such as YouTube, Zoom and Facebook. But let’s face it, it’s been a learning curve to find them and get used to them.

Even as we become comfortable with the new ways, there is a feeling that we’re just settling for less. Internet services, prayer chat rooms, drive-in worship in parking lots “will have to make do” until we can get back to what we miss and really want.

My Forward Day by Day experience encourages me to quit whining about what I am missing and embrace online opportunities to share my faith and my church with others.

As a virtual evangelist, I don’t have to get up the gumption to invite friends to “visit our church.” There’s no resulting awkward silence, no excuses of “Sunday is my only day to sleep in,” and no resistance based on some bad church experience years ago that made them swear off organized religion. All I have to do is share a link! I can add a testimony of encouragement: “This is a beautiful experience that will lift you when you watch it.” Or, “what a beautiful song of hope.” Or, “this message really settled my nerves today.”

People may or may not click on the link. But if someone is hurting, struggling with despair, or fearful, he just might. And he won’t need to wait for Sunday morning. One click at 3 am on a Tuesday could open that heart to Jesus.

Online platforms for ministry will become increasingly important in the new normal of post Covid-19. Let’s not look at them as temporary emergency fill-in only-because-we-have-to last-resort ministry options. It’s time for lay people to step up to help clergy develop and maintain these platforms into the future.