Venezuela, Egypt and the Bronx, New York. Though they span time zones, cultures and languages, at least one person from each of those places indicated a decision for Christ within minutes of each other on April 14 through BGEA’s Internet evangelism ministry, Search for Jesus.
Search for Jesus reached another milestone Tuesday, celebrating 6 million people who have indicated a commitment to Christ online since BGEA launched the ministry in the spring of 2011. The 6 millionth decision came from the country of Jordan at 7:04 p.m. ET.
But it’s the people part, Internet Evangelism Director Mark Appleton said, that’s the most important thing to remember when talking numbers.
“The biggest challenge in online ministry,” he said, “is bringing people offline, so to speak, or bridging the gap of anonymity to really connect with people in an impactful way.”
Lately, Search for Jesus (SFJ) has reached more and more people in the Middle East, a hotspot for recent news headlines. A handful of comments from people there show a hunger for truth and direction:
Maria, for example, found SFJ’s evangelistic website, PeaceWithGod.net, and wrote, “I want to serve God but I don’t know where I start.” Another woman, Josephine, wrote, “How can I meditate on the Word of God?” Randyll wondered how he can be saved, and Keneth asked, “How can I really turn away from my wrongdoing to God’s will?”
In fact, 2014 alone saw more than 224,000 indicated decisions for Christ throughout 18 Mideast countries—and more than 67,700 in Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population worldwide—all through PeaceWithGod.net.
Since BGEA launched Search for Jesus nearly four years ago, more than 28 million people have visited PeaceWithGod.net (and its Canadian counterpart PeaceWithGod.net), which explains the Gospel in four simple steps, gives people a chance to respond to it and allows visitors to connect with a real person online. That’s where online evangelism goes from a Gospel-centered website to one-on-one ministry.
SFJ has more than 370 trained volunteers—including 20 with the Spanish ministry—who offer a personal connection with online visitors across the U.S. and around the world. Each volunteer must complete in-depth training to join the Search for Jesus team and serve in one of three volunteer roles: chatting with people live through PeaceWithGod.net, responding to spiritual questions left on PeaceWithGod.net or guiding new Christians through a free online discipleship course called KnowJesus.
Volunteers are eager to reach out to people from all walks of life and show them how to meet their greatest need—Jesus Christ. The ministry can also point online visitors to free follow-up resources like GoingFarther.ca, which includes articles on faith-related topics, or a stream of 12 weekly emails called Living in Christ, which offer practical tips on prayer, reading the Bible and more.
“We want people to know that someone is there and available and cares,” Appleton said. As an ordained pastor, he wants to be sure people not only experience the Gospel but receive quality follow-up and discipleship. That’s why SFJ volunteers are critical to the ministry, he said.
David Price of North Carolina volunteers as a discipleship coach, guiding people through the KnowJesus discipleship course, which shows participants what it means to be a Christian. From his quiet home surrounded by farmland and his neighbors’ chicken coops, he’s been communicating online with Omar*, a man from the Middle East who is working his way through the KnowJesus lessons.
Omar is from a Muslim family but wrote to David that “I really need forgiveness of the Lord Jesus.” He had tried finding a Bible in his language, but to no avail and told David he had no Christian friends to turn to. His family broke his cellphone when they found out he was pursuing something outside of their religion, yet Omar said he was just grateful they didn’t take his life.
“In America,” David said, “we have so many freedoms … yet we fail to utilize all we have to learn and grow in our faith.”
Then there’s someone like Omar, he said, who is risking his life to learn more about Christ.
Since the cellphone incident, Omar has found another way to access the Internet to continue the online discipleship course. David pointed Omar to an online Bible in his own language and said he has done very well in the course. So far, Omar has completed three of the five lessons.
With support and direction from the Search for Jesus team, David said the interaction with Omar has been “one of the best experiences I’ve had” in ministry. With Omar recently fleeing his country, David continues praying for his safety and the ability to complete the course online.
And online doesn’t just mean computers anymore, either, Appleton said. Most people impacted by SFJ are mobile users who access the Internet through smartphones, tablets and so on—all devices which give online evangelism an ever-widening mission field.
“The Internet has become a social norm and we just have to be there,” Appleton said.
* Name changed for security reasons
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