Online Conversions

godrevLately I’ve been in a couple conversations regarding online conversions. Are they happening?

Yes and by the millions according to sites like GodRev (see Joy in Heaven). Using GodRev as the example, they take people through a process of Knowing God where visitors go through a multimedia rich 7-step engagement towards a final “as easy as a prayer” commitment to accept Jesus with a final suggested prayer:

“Lord Jesus Christ,
I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. I ask your forgiveness and now turn from everything which I know is wrong. Thank you for dying on the cross for me to set me free from my sins. Please come into my life and fill me with your Holy Spirit and be with me forever. Thank you Lord Jesus, Amen.”

From hearing the founder of GodRev at a conference, they then try to connect people who fill out this form with local churches and/or Christians.

Often I see two variations of reaction to people when the topics come up:

1. Pragmatists: Let’s save as many as we can by crafting a message and leading them to say a prayer. Often portraying Jesus as Savior but not as Lord.
2. Skeptics: I don’t really trust that there is legitimacy to most of these conversions online. The internet isn’t a place where this should be pursued.

What are the challenges with online evangelism? What is the role of using the internet as a tool for conversion? Should or how should it be done? What would be the best practices if you were to build the ideal circumstances for it to take place?

  • Kevin

    March 11, 2009, 7:10 am

    I do believe that the same Lord who can speak to Moses through a burning bush and to Balaam through a donkey can speak through a computer screen. The challenge with online evangelism is what happens after the seed has been planted. In the vastness of the internet, it is more difficult to engage someone in meaningful relationship, especially when that person has been brought to the site through effective marketing.

    The danger of this is that the “convertee” does not get integrated in a Gospel community. The another danger that can arise is that the operators behind the online conversion efforts are isolated from those that they are seeking to serve. In that environment, self-seeking motives can arise stealing those Christians’ hearts away from fully loving God and loving others. I believe that effective online evangelism effort need to no only present the Gospel message but engage the visitors of the site in relationship building that encourages face to face interaction.

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  • JD Bridges

    March 18, 2009, 9:34 am


    Thanks for mentioning this topic! I think many of us struggle in the area of evangelism, particularly in the area of methodology. Being Reformed in our theology, we know salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2) and an act of God’s grace (Eph. 2), yet we’re still called to share the Gospel (Matt 28) and do all things for the sake of the Gospel (1 Cor. 9). Based on the topic at-hand, I agree, it seems two general categories emerge with online evangelism (although I think this applies to short-term mission trips and outreaches): pragmatism and skepticism. My personal tendency swings toward skepticism, which you’ll probably hear in my answers.

    What are the challenges with online evangelism?

    Honestly, I think the first challenge is our theology allows for salvation to take place in a moment and we dare not put God in a box; yet, our hearts break for those who “prayed a prayer” and “made a decision”, but have a religion and not a Savior, Lord, and King.

    The second challenge is we often question the motives of the sharer and the understanding of the hearer. Many of us have probably been scarred by “cattle call” approaches and “get ’em saved” tactics.

    The third challenge is there is usually a strong emphasis on salvation and “making a decision”, with little or no emphasis on other tenets of the faith (ie. becoming part of a local church, and repentance as a way of life). We have visions of new believers being eaten alive by the wolves…if only we had been there to save them…

    What is the role of using the internet as a tool for conversion?

    The Internet is a virtual marketplace, similar to Paul’s experience in Acts 17. Therefore, we must understand our hearers (the culture) and contextualize our message accordingly.

    Should or how should it be done?

    Clearly, there is freedom in methodology, but if it’s done, it should be done strategically, carefully, cautiously, humbly, prayerfully, lovingly, discerningly, local-church minded, ….(my words fail me).

    What would be the best practices if you were to build the ideal circumstances for it to take place?

    I hesitate to call the following a best practice, but a lot of thought has gone into development of online resources, particularly related to evangelism. The ministry where I serve, Spread Truth Ministries, is in the process of developing a Gospel resource, called “The Story” ( Our primary concern was to address a cultural development often associated with Postmodernism: namely, there is very low biblical literacy due to the rejection of any meta-narrative that attempts to define all of life. We did this by re-introducing a concise framework for the Bible, providing a meta-narrative, which utilizes both biblical and systematic theologies and called it “The Story”. Phase 1, therefore, was to develop the resource. Our next concern was to address another development often associated with Postmodernism: namely, individualism has gone to seed at the expense of community. So, one part of our Phase 2 strategy will be to integrate the online version of this resource into the websites of local churches (essentially making “The Story” look as if it’s part of the local church), providing several opportunities for the reader to connect with the local church through the web, and hopefully make “events” within the church easily accessible to the reader. Phase 3 would take too long to explain, but our vision goes beyond what’s been written.

  • Brian Thomas

    March 18, 2009, 9:47 am

    While we cannot presume to judge the heart of the converted I think it is safe to say that the medium does affect the gospel listener/reader. I am all for using the internet, radio, print and every pathway to preach the Good News of Christ crucified and risen for sinners, but I am also skeptical about the long-term effectiveness of the i-Gospel if it does not lead to Word and Sacrament ministry in a physical community of God’s people. There is so much nonesense online admist the truth, there needs to be a church community, and especially a pastor to help the new disciple wade through it all (literally be shepherded). And for those of us in sacramental traditions like myself, you can’t be baptized nor taste the bread and wine of God’s grace through a wiresless connection – even on a Mac, which we all know is more sanctified than a PC 🙂