Internet Evangelism Idea #20: The Local Church Solution
This post is part 20 in the series 20 Ways to Share Your Faith Online leading up to and following Internet Evangelism Day on April 25. We encourage you to tweet, share, blog & discuss these ideas in your church & circle of influence.
Echoing the sentiments of Dr. Bourgeois, I would also like to thank Paul for organizing and hosting the series. This excellent collection of ideas on Internet Evangelism has the creative juices flowing. It’s an honor to share the platform and present the final idea of the series.
This is the story of how God gave one man a vision for making Internet Evangelism a core ministry option in churches all over the world. Adapted from conversations with Ed Thomas and Cindy Brannon of Global Media Outreach.
Since its inception in 2004, Global Media Outreach (GMO), the media arm of Campus Crusade for Christ (CCCI), has seen the number of people visiting its 102 websites grow to 67 million in 2009.
God has been tripling the size of the ministry every year.
By early 2009, it was apparent to ministry leaders that enlisting online missionaries and supporters, one at a time, wasn’t an effective way to keep up with what God was doing.
Leverage and legacy
About this time, Ed Thomas, a longtime resident of Houston, Texas and business entrepreneur, was invited by a former Campus Crusade VP who had served with CCCI founder Dr. Bill Bright, to attend a conference in Dallas to learn more about GMO. Thomas went, even though he really wasn’t interested in adding anything more to his already full plate.
Shortly after the conference Thomas says, “God found a way to put sideboards on my plate.”
Now working as an “entrepreneur for God,” Thomas used his two filters to determine if he should get involved with the ministry.
The first filter, leverage, represents maximum utilization of resources for the kingdom. The second filter, legacy, represents maximum return from those resources.
Thomas says, “I had never seen anything like the leverage and legacy that GMO was experiencing. I knew that God was putting it on my heart that I needed to be involved.”
When Thomas first crossed paths with GMO, 125,000 people a day were visiting its websites. 20,000 of that number were making decisions for Christ. About 4,000 of those were asking for follow-up.
“Those numbers, occurring day in and day out, made the tool the best I had seen since the ‘JESUS’ film,” marveled Thomas.
A tool for the local church
Thomas quickly concluded that GMO wasn’t just another ministry that God was raising up for Campus Crusade.“I am certain that GMO is a tool to be used for the local church.”
That’s why he recommended that the ministry work even more directly with churches, not as another ministry, but as a technology provider, giving churches a new tool for their tool belt.
At the end of May 2009, Thomas scheduled meetings with pastors and business people in Houston to tell the GMO story and what God was doing.
“We had nearly a hundred leaders fill out comment cards when we were done,” Thomas explains, “and 100% of those in attendance wanted to be involved in some way. I had never seen that level of immediate commitment before. That was a large confirmation by God.”
To get a taste of the vision that inspired the leaders, visit GMO Always Ready, Involving Your Church.
The ball was rolling now. Thomas asked God to bring the people forward needed to operate GMO Houston on a daily basis.
One of the attendees at the early meetings was Cindy Brannon, a former executive with Compaq Computers who had been involved in building a large team there.
Brannon felt like God had called her to volunteer a couple days a week. “Little did I know it was going to be full-time,” she says. “God committed me really quickly.”
Cutting-edge evangelism for churches
Brannon reports that churches are already adapting the tool to their ministry programs in creative ways.
One church is using it in their church school. Another church is literally using it as part of their discipleship training, having the tool as one of the steps people go through to learn how to share their faith. Their first step is to become an online missionary.
“I’ve never seen a paradigm like this,” Thomas exclaims. “We’ve all been trained in the Evangelism Explosion, The Four Spiritual Laws, The Roman Road or whatever evangelism track is preferred. We’ve always knocked on other people’s doors to see if we could tell them about Jesus.”
Thomas says church leaders need to understand that seekers are literally knocking on the door of churches wanting to be told about God.
“This has never happened before in the history of the Church,” he states.
A pastor in his 70’s involved with a church heavily engaged in evangelism said, “This is the cutting-edge of evangelism. This tool is God’s gift to the body of Christ.”
In the last year, God has increased the number of church partnerships and online missionaries allowing GMO to triple the number of people visiting its 102 websites to over 300,000 daily. Between 40-50,000 decisions for Christ are being made every day.
“That is a brand new paradigm,” says Thomas, “and the local church is the key to completing the Great Commission.”
Thomas learned about the Google data that indicated two million people search the Internet every day looking for answers to spiritual questions.
To Thomas, missions leader and business man, that meant 1.7 million people searching for God were being left in the water.
“A hole had been burned into my heart,” was how Thomas expressed the impact of that number.
Thomas believes God will provide the resources for reaching the whole two million through GMO partnerships with local churches.
The two million is not a stagnant number though. It’s growing.
The church program will only be developed as God raises up people and resources. Currently, GMO has representatives on the ground planting seeds for City Teams in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Southern California.
“What we learn in Houston and other select startup cities, we hope to spread across the world eventually,” Brannon said.
GMO’s number one priority
Prayer is becoming an integral part of GMO’s work with churches.
God has put it on the heart of Colin Millar, a prayer strategist in Houston, to be the CPO – Chief Prayer Officer – of GMO. Millar is developing a prayer strategy for Houston and the ministry nationally.
GMO’s number one priority for church involvement is to encourage churches to start a prayer action team. To pray on a regular basis about using the tool. GMO knows every church won’t use the tool. God has to put it on the senior pastor or missions pastor’s heart.
We have to start talking with God about how He’s going to get churches involved,” Millar believes.
When asked what has created the most momentum for the church strategy, Brannon doesn’t hesitate, “Honestly, prayer!”
“We have to be in the throne room on a regular basis asking God to overcome obstacles through His power,” Thomas says with the firm conviction of an entrepreneur for God.
Contact GMO to learn more about implementing an online missions program – call 408-358-3470 or sign up for an online demonstration.
Gordon Marcy is a media and communications executive with two decades experience building media platforms for greater Kingdom impact. He is focused on the intersection of Internet evangelism and church missions. He can be reached at gordon (at) gordonmarcy (dot) com.