Why the Web is a Different Medium

( [email protected] ) Aug 25, 2004 10:19 AM EDT

It is essential to understand the nature of the Web if we are to use it effectively for evangelism.

The Web is not designed to send out generalized information to a relatively random audience (like the local radio that people may listen to with half an ear, all day), but to draw selected people to very specific information on thousands of subjects. The difference is critical. There is no automatic audience. People usually only go to pages on subjects they are searching for. Unless you understand how to draw people through a network of links to your website you can end up with zero visitors.

The Web is most like a vast library and generally surfers do not visit web-pages by accident any more than they take out a library book by accident. The Internet is not passive like listening to radio, rather the surfer is always active – clicking, searching, reading, browsing and intentionally navigating through cyberspace. Thus the web surfer is a self-directed seeker driven by curiosity traveling through a community of hyper-links. So you have somehow to be connected to where that person is now if they are ever to reach you.

But do it right, and the incredible advantage of the Web is that it is global: anyone, anywhere - in China or the Middle East – can find in a few seconds a page that matches their interest. For the first time in history, using the Bridge Strategy, we can target any affinity group, any ethnic/linguistic grouping, any interest, any need, on a worldwide basis.

The other unique property of the Internet is interactivity. Not only are users in control of which pages to visit, they can also send feedback to a webmaster. They can easily ask questions, receive help and advice, leave comments in a guest-book, or discuss issues on a Bulletin board or an email discussion group. This option to build community around a website is very important. It helps people feel wanted and that their opinions are valued. It gives them a place where they can ask questions in a safe way, when perhaps they would not do that face-to-face. It can be a place where their deepest heart needs for relationship can be met, at least to a certainly level, in a non-threatening environment.

For evangelistic websites, this interaction is very important. Very few people become Christians just by reading something. Conversion is usually a long process, and involves friendly interaction with people who are already Christians. Think back to how you became a Christian. For most people, seeing the life of Jesus in someone else, usually through experiencing friendship, is the most powerful witness. And finding out that Jesus can meet our felt needs is very often a big step in the journey.

So too the Web should not be seen as just another way of delivering tracts or sermons. It is a revolutionary medium which can be used for evangelism if we understand its unique dynamic and develop strategies which understand this interactive medium where the user is in control.