The cyber world is a big place. It nearly reaches every person on the planet, which is every person with access to the Internet. We live in a phenomenal age.
The gift of the Internet for the Christian has opened an effectual door that was not imagined centuries ago. The development of the web world has provided Christians with even greater opportunities to share the good news of Christ.
In traditional missional approaches, where a missionary goes to a foreign soil to share the good news, the missionary takes an almost exclusive active approach in presenting Christ to his/her audience.
The missional approach in the cyber world is both active and passive. The missionary (any Christian with a computer or mobile device) can be actively pushing the Gospel around world, while being accommodating to passive missional strategies.
In the traditional approach, the targeted people group for the Gospel are rarely looking for Jesus. Christ is taken to them. In the cyber world it is the opposite: the Internet is a place where people are searching for something.
This means anyone with access to the Internet can come to you, read your message, and decide if you are interesting or helpful enough for them to hang out with you. While you are actively pushing your content to the world, you are just as wise and strategic in receiving those who are looking for answers.
Traditional missionaries are rarely passive because people are rarely seeking. Traditional missionaries are actively penetrating their culture with the message of the Gospel. Cyber missionaries are big on penetration too, but they are also aware how the Internet can bring millions of people to their cyber doorsteps.
Passive strategies in a cyber world
Recently one of our Members asked why I did not have the word Christ in our Mission Statement. Our Mission Statement says, “Our mission is to help people by providing practical tools and ongoing training for more effective living.”
Our website is specifically setup for Christ to be the one who offends people (1 Corinthians 1:18), not any unnecessary language or images that hangs on the walls of our website. Our hope is for any person (lost or saved) to feel free to come into our world and not be “put off” by the decor or the signs hanging on the door.
I do not need to let people know that this is a Jesus site by the imagery they see when they visit with us. Jesus paraphernalia was something invented after Jesus died; it was the fruit from religious systems rather than from a bibliocentric hermeneutic. Jesus presented Himself as a normal guy, who was at times not that easy to pick out of a crowd (Matthew 26:47-50), or at least not until He started talking (John 7:46).
My hope is that any person, regardless of their affiliation, will come into our world, kick off their shoes, and stay a while. The goal is for them to encounter Jesus, who will either confront them or compassionately help them.
You may be surprised to know that we have a lot of non-Christian people coming through the doors of our website. Some of them stay long enough to drill into our content.
Occasionally, I will receive hate mail from some of them because they were offended by the message of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:23). Others will come in and receive help because the same Christ, who was an offense, became the one who brought compassionate and competent help to others (Luke 5:32).
- To some, Christ becomes an offense.
- To others, Christ becomes an encouragement.
Either way, I do not want anyone to be put off by our website before they get to Jesus. If they have to be put off by anything, then I want Christ to be the offender of men and women. I want the word of the cross to do the offending rather than the images of the cross.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)
Two practical illustration
A few years ago I was counseling a teenager, who was about seventeen years old. He was “made” to come to counseling by his parents, and he intuitively knew that he would “have the Bible rammed down his throat,” which was his preconceived perception of how things were going to go for him.
Therefore, he came prepared to be confronted by his parent’s hired gun. During our time together we talked for about two hours, and I never said a word about God, the Bible, Jesus, or any other religious thing. At the end of our meeting he asked,
“Are you ever going to talk about God?”
To which I asked,
“Well, since you brought it up, what do you think of Him?”
We met many times after that and built a wonderful and redemptive relationship.
Sometimes it is wiser to be more harmless and passive than over-the-top and aggressive. That is not an unusual thought to the Gospel because it has the ability to go beyond what we might think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
If I had a Christian exclusive, Member’s only, my-four-and-no-more website, built for Christians like a private club, then I would consider painting all the doors and walls according to religious expectations, sentimentality, and Christian-eze. Jesus paraphernalia would be everywhere.
Honestly, I do not want that kind of website. I want a website that looks like what Jesus looked like in His day.
Jesus was an everyman kind of man. He had an attractive quality that appealed to the masses (Luke 14:25). It was only after He started talking that people were called to make a decision as to whether they wanted to follow Him (Luke 14:26-27).
I want a website that has an outreach that is open as wide as possible without compromising the Gospel in any way.
As you know, you do not have to read long on our website before you are confronted with a challenge from God’s Word. There is no compromise of the Gospel in any way, and by the grace of God, there never shall be.
If a person is not walking in line with the Gospel (Galatians 2:14), then that person will be called out, either by the Spirit of God (John 16:13) or their conscience (Romans 2:14-15)—or both.
In 2013 I had a gay guy write to me, who said that he believes he can be helped by our site. He went on to say that even though I call his lifestyle sinful, I do not come across as a person who hits people with the Bible, or as someone who thinks he is better than any other person.
That would be accurate. I put Jesus on the cross, so how could I think I was better than him or look down on him or treat him as a worse sinner than I am? Apart from the transformative power of the Gospel in my life, we are the same. My gay friend was confronted, as he should be, but it was by Christ, not by me.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. – Matthew 10:16 (ESV)
Human responsibility in a Sovereign world
Cyber strategies are different from traditional missional strategies for two reasons: (1) You’re not reaching a unique people group, but the whole world and (2) people will come to you quicker in a cyber world than they would come to a traditional missionary.
Because I am a cyber missionary, I want to learn from people who are successfully penetrating their cultures. This is why I take many of my missional strategies from companies that are actually penetrating their cultures.
These companies have learned a thing or two about how to reach their audiences. Companies like Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Apple Corporation have persuaded the public to come to them. Occasionally, I will walk into Whole Foods and ask, “Why?”
- Why do people like to be here?
- Why are you drawing folks to your building?
- Or, how can Starbucks charge so much for coffee and be so wildly popular?
There is always this interplay between primary causes and secondary causes. God is the Primary Cause, who has the sovereign prerogative to do what He please, when He pleases, why He pleases, and how He pleases.
This does not leave me to presume on Him or His ability. As a secondary cause agent, I am called to cooperate with the LORD in this great Gospel adventure. I do not want to be slack regarding my human responsibility. I want to always be trying, failing, experimenting, learning, succeeding, and practicing.
If somebody is reaching their culture, then I want to know why. This is why I study companies that are hitting the mark; it may not be my mark, but they are doing something well and I want to know why.
- I want to be a student of the Word.
- And I want to be a student of the world.
[Jesus] knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. – John 2:24-25 (ESV)
Missionaries go into countries to learn the culture so they can communicate the Gospel in ways that the people can understand (Acts 17:28). Missionaries begin dressing like the people they want to reach, while learning how to talk like them, eat with them, and spend time learning their ways. That is, in part, what it means to be a missionary.
I’m a missionary. My culture is the world. The Gospel I carry is carried on the wings of a website. Therefore, I have to learn how to “carry the Gospel” into all the cyber world through the means that they know, enjoy, and will imbibe.
When you enter into a community, whether as a missionary on a foreign field, a missionary in your neighborhood, or a missionary through cyberspace, you must understand your audience (culture). If you do not, then they will not listen to your message.
If you stumble out of the gate due to a lack of cultural awareness, then the Gospel you carry will be circumvented. Good missionaries spend hundreds of hours learning the language and the customs of the cultures they want to penetrate.
I want to a good missionary. I want to do my part. So far, by the grace of God, it is working. The LORD has taken our content into every country in the world for the past two years. I think this is remarkable. My prayer is that He will continue to teach me how to relate to our global cultures, while never compromising His transformative Word.
If you would like to partner with us in this great endeavor, you could do so in two specific ways: (1) You could support us as a Member of our website or (2) you could donate to our work. Here are the links to do that: