God so loved the world. Click. That He gave His only Son. Click. That whoever believes in him. Click. Shall not perish. Click. But have everlasting life. Click. What do I have to do to go to heaven? There! It’s done! Five easy clicks.
Did you know that in 2014 the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) shared the gospel with almost 9.5 million people around the world? Of the total, 180,000 heard the gospel as part of a live audience, and the rest accessed the good news online. In fact, according to the March 2015 Christianity Today, “Of the 1.6 million people who told the BGEA they had prayed to ‘accept Christ as their Savior’ in 2014, less than 15,000 did so in person, while more than 1.5 million did so with the click of a mouse.”
Intrigued, I go on the website PeaceWithGod.net, part of the BGEA group of evangelistic websites. I mean, what’s not to like about becoming a Christian in five easy clicks? Confirmation and church membership classes could become a thing of the past!
I explore every part of the website, click through the five steps of John 3:16 and watch the videos. At the end I take the plunge and pray the prayer, “Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior. Guide my life and help me to do your will. In your name, amen.” I click “save” and am saved!
The BGEA says that 20,000 people access one of their websites every day, just like I did. Wanting to learn more about online conversions, I then decide to live chat with Cameron.
Laurie: Can I become a Christian online?
Cameron: Yes, you can. Do you know about Jesus Christ?
L: I know who he is. What do I have to do?
C: Do you understand that we have all sinned against God – done things we know are wrong (lie, cheat, think hateful thoughts, etc.). The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Do you agree with this?
L: Well, I think I am a good person.
C: Have you ever told a lie?
C: God gave us the ten commandments to let us know what is right behavior and what is not. Not lying is one of the ten commandments. Have you ever had a hateful thought about anyone?
C: Exactly. We all have, although we think of ourselves as “good people.” When we compare ourselves with the ten commandments, we realize we have broken all of them and are guilty of sin before God. That is why Jesus came to die for our sins, so that all who put their trust in Him and what He did for us would be forgiven. Does this make sense?
L: Is the only point of being a Christian getting to heaven?
C: No, but that is one BIG benefit. God created us to have a relationship with Him but when we sinned that broke the relationship… When you understand you are a sinner before God (step 1) … And realize that the only way God will forgive your sin is if you will put your trust in Jesus Christ and what He did for you on the cross (step 2) … then can I pray with you right now?
C: Excellent! God loves you so very much, Laurie. Let’s pray together. Dear God, I know I am a sinner. I am sorry for my sins, and I want to turn from them. I trust Christ alone as my Savior, and I confess Him as my Lord. From this moment on I want to serve Him and follow Him. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.
L: I just prayed the prayer. Does that mean I am (cyber) saved?
C: Yes it does! Do you know of a good church near you where you can go and talk to the pastor, telling him what you just did?
L: Why should I do that?
C: He will help you to know how you can grow closer in your relationship to God – your Heavenly Father. You can also meet and interact with others who have made the same decision you have made. The Bible tells us that you are “born again” – a new baby Christian and you need to grow strong and healthy in your relationship with your Heavenly Father.
L: OK. I’ll do that. Thank you, Cameron. God bless you.
C: God bless you, my new Sister in Christ! God loves you so very much. Talk to Him each day and I would suggest reading the book of John in the Bible — it will really help you. Do you have a Bible?
L: Yes. I have to go now. Thank, you my brother in Christ.
Admittedly, it was a very interesting experience. I came away with a better understanding of how effective online interactions can be with people who need to talk with someone about faith but are hesitant about approaching anyone in person.
- God’s love was emphasized, and there was no mention on the website or in the live chat that if you don’t believe you are going to hell.
- Charles urged me to talk with a live pastor to follow through on my decision.
- The videos on the website are well done and meant to reach today’s young people.
On the other hand, some aspects of the online conversion experience were uncomfortable.
- The God language was all male, and the pastor with whom I was supposed to connect was clearly male.
- I am not convinced that the click of a button qualifies as a conversion. Christianity is a lifestyle, not a one-time decision.
- Digital decisions do not put us in community, which is where authentic spiritual growth takes place.
- Where is the discipleship? There was no mention of taking up our cross and how giving our life to Christ is a very costly decision. At the same time, being a Christ-follower offers more peace, joy and grace than any other decision we will ever make.
Online evangelism plays a critical role in 21st century Christianity. The front door for most people to the Christian faith today is our church’s website. We cannot minister effectively to our communities and those who are seeking hope, meaning and healing without a well-thought out and compelling online presence.
Live streaming is also a great way for seekers to become acquainted with our church before they make the decision to attend worship in person. What does our website say about who we are (vision, purpose, mission and core values) as well as how we connect with God personally and engage our communities with the love of Christ? We must not underestimate the ways in which God works through technology.
Heaven in five easy clicks? I honestly don’t know how many times I was actually saved last week. I watched the videos. Is that one? I went through the five steps and prayed the prayer. Is that two? I chatted with Charles. Is that three online conversions? In any case, I did receive a response to my clicks: “Congratulations – we are excited that you made a commitment to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior! This is the most important day of your life!”
Ultimately, all I know is this.
- Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
- There is nothing more precious than my relationship with Jesus.
- Following Jesus means a continual emptying of myself and a giving away of my life.
- Every day you and I have the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with others in a myriad of ways, even through five easy clicks.