April 25, 2019

Internet Evangelism

Steve Rudd

In today’s society, Jesus might have said: “The kingdom of heaven is like the internet cast over the earth, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away” (Matt. 13).

Contrary to popular opinion, the internet is not a great tool for local church evangelism. I think every local church must have its own local church web page, but this is more a yellow pages directory listing than a tool for reaching the lost. Sure, the church’s website can be used as a secondary tool that you print on business cards, flyers, meeting announcements, and newspaper articles quite effectively. But this places the internet as a secondary contact, not a primary method of contacting seekers. They must first see your business card or read the newspaper article then notice that there is a web address, and then go there on their computers. I have used this method quite effectively. I have handed out flyers with a special page I created as an advertising front for the local church. But it is like putting an ad in the classified section of the newspaper to call a number to enroll in a Bible correspondence course.

Bible.ca clocks 6 million hits and 1/2 million unique visits by both web robots and humans. These numbers mean that about 250,000 different humans visit bible.ca every month. Now it should be no surprise that this number not only equals the population of the town I live in, but also that 99.9% of the people visiting bible.ca are more than 300 miles away! Bible.ca is not an effective tool of local church evangelism for me.

It was back in 1996 that I comprehended this and this is why I pioneered the auto-redirect data base that matched seekers with brethren in their own home town. For example, if someone living in Reno, Nevada sees something on Bible.ca to motivate them to either attend a local church or make contact by email, the server automatically matches them with the local church at 520 Queens Way, and gives them the name of an individual, along with his personal email and home phone number.

Realizing how important the accuracy of the data for the “world directory of churches” is, last year I sent out 2000 first class letters to every church in North America asking them to confirm or update their information. The result was that about 500 churches were deleted from the data base as either being disbanded, moved, or institutional. That means that one in four of the dirctory listings on bible.ca was bogus and my directory is much more up to date than the others.

Just for the record, there are 1919 different local churches in world wide. The directory of churches on bible.ca is not only the most up to date and accurate available for free on line today from any source, it removed those 500 of those annoying “fantom churches” that brethren on vacation would drive to, only to find a Baptist church had bought the building over fifteen years ago. The new geographical interface automatically maps the seeker’s home address, then shows the closest local churches in concentric rings. The gps co-ordinates of each local church are then used to tell them: “here is a church 2.8 miles from your home, and another 12.6 miles, click here.” You can add a “Find the church” link on your website by linking to this address: www.bible.ca/directory/seek.php?type=church

The data base is the primary reason that over seventy people have been baptized as a result of first visiting bible.ca as a point of first contact. Here is just one of the examples of letters sent to me:

I’m not sure if you are Steve Rudd or if he is the person responsible for this site, but whoever you are, thank you. I found your site maybe close to two years ago and after studying on it for several months I clicked on the “worship with a church in your own home town” link and visited the “South Jacksonville Church of Christ” (Florida). After a few months of studying with them I obeyed the gospel as did my wife. The congregation has just recently started to support me as a full time preacher in another church. Two weeks ago a young man called us, having found us on your web site too. The next week he obeyed the Gospel and I baptized him (my first baptism). I just wanted you to know how much your site has done for me and I continue to rely on it. I hope you are able to continue this work (Keck Lynn).

Now I am telling you this for good reasons to help you make a contribution to the Lord’s cause on a global scale like bible.ca on your own church website. I have instructed brethren to use my auto redirect data base on their own local church website. Not merely a single link from the main menu: “worship with a church in your own home town,” but a link on every single article, sermon, news item on your website. A typical local church website might have 5-100 individual html pages. Place this link at the bottom of each and every article. If you did this, your website will put seekers into direct contact with brethren in other cities and if they, in turn, do the same, their website will redirect seekers in your own home town to you. It is a simple, scriptural and very effective. Go to Mark Copeland’s “Executible Outlines” website and notice that at the bottom of every single sermon outline, there is a link that says: “Looking For A Church Near You?” Neither Mark nor myself have any way of knowing if anyone is getting baptized from this unless we get a letter telling us so. It all happens automatically in stealth. There are 18,000 html text pages on Bible.ca and each of them offers the seeker the invitation to “worship with us”. That’s a big “dragnet.” But if you added up all the html txt pages of every local church in the world, it dwarfs bible.ca. If you have comprehended this critical point, make the needed changes on your church website today! Bible.ca actually offers seekers three different ways for seekers to contact brethren in their own home town:

  • 1. Assembly locations;
  • 2. Home phone numbers of brethren;
  • 3. Email addresses of brethren;

The data base feeds this information instantly and freely back to the seekers who then pick up the phone and can call! Here is another one of my favorite stories:

We, at Valley, just got a phone call tonight congratulating us on what a fine webpage we have. You can imagine our surprise, since we don’t even have a webpage. I have spent a brief time there tonight on bible.ca and am also impressed. Who are you? Please send me a return email that I may learn more about you—webmaster! Glen Erickson, elder, Valley Church of Christ.”

Here are the three links you can put on your own each page of your church’s website:

  • “Find a church near you”: www.bible.ca/directory/seek.php?type=church “
  • Telephone hotlines in your own home town”: www.bible.ca/directory/seek.php?type=phone “
  • Contact Email study partner nearest you” www.bible.ca/directory/seek.php?type=email

So what good does a church’s local web page do for them in evangelism? Almost nothing! But it is kind of a “you scratch my back, I will scratch yours” concept.

But all is not lost. There is one very important thing you must do if you want to make sure seekers in your own home town contact you. Let me tell you what I have done. You might think that I have an elaborate website for our local church where I worship. Surprise! There is a single page. But that is all I need and it probably outperforms most other elaborate “shocked,” “java’d,” “flashes,” “twittered” pages with fancy intros and a high tech look. My page is rather crude and simplistic in comparison. There are no direct links to this site from Bible.ca. It is a single, “orphaned” page sitting like an island in the middle of the bible.ca ocean. But Google knows about it. If you want to look at it, just type in the same thing seekers type into Google: “bible study in Hamilton, Ontario.” We are the third result! I have received a number of local calls from seekers doing exactly that! I see all these complex church websites that don’t contain the key elements that a seeker is looking for.

I suggest you take this article to church next Sunday and ask the entire congregation to compose a list of the search strings that need to be on your church website in order for Google to make your webpage their first choice. If you type in “bible study in your/city, state” and the Baptists come up, but not you, this should be all the motivation you need to make the specific changes. The key is that each search string has your local city and state in it. I like to be creative and embed these search strings in the middle of sentences. It may appear monotonous to keep repeating your city and state, but Google will reward you! Now let’s go out with our modern “dragnet” and catch some fish!