BOONE, N.C. (Christian Examiner) – Since last November, at least one million people have determined to put their trust in Jesus, sometimes at life-threatening cost.
These new converts – and the five million who came before them in the fewer than four years – made professions of faith in Christ through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's internet portal SearchForJesus.net.
"The internet commands the largest and fastest-growing audience segment on the face of the earth," BGEA Vice President Duane Gaylord said. "We at BGEA realize that to share the Gospel, you have to find ears to listen and eyes to watch, so you have to go where the audience is gathering."
SearchForJesus.net was launched in May 2011. On Nov. 10, 2014, the five-millionth person had logged their newfound faith in Jesus Christ. On April 14, 2015, the six-millionth person had done the same.
"Five million is exciting, but a second later, a minute later, somebody else is going to make a decision, and that's just as exciting," John Cass, BGEA's director of internet evangelism, told the Christian Examiner last November.
"But it is significant because we're following Billy Graham's legacy of taking the most advanced technical capabilities available and reaching people where they are with the hope of Jesus," Cass continued. "Internet evangelism has given us the opportunity to go to the ends of the earth."
Among those who made professions of faith on April 14 were people from Venezuela, Egypt and the Bronx, New York, as well as a man from Jordan, who was named the six-millionth person to have put trust in Jesus through the BGEA's social media ministry.
Since BGEA launched SearchForJesus.net, more than 28 million people have visited it or partner websites PeaceWithGod.net and PazConDios.net. The Gospel is explained in four easy steps and people are given the opportunity to respond and if they choose, may participate in a live chat.
That is where the online outreach to the masses morphs into a one-on-one ministry.
"The biggest challenge in online ministry is bring people 'offline,' so to speak, or bridging the gap of anonymity to really connect with people in an impactful way," said Mark Appleton, BGEA's new internet evangelism director. "We want people to know that someone is there, and cares."
At least 370 people – including 20 Spanish speakers – have undergone thorough training to volunteer with Search for Jesus in one of three ways: live chat, responding to people who leave questions on PeaceWithGod.net, or guiding new Christians through Know Jesus, a free online discipleship course.
Other free follow-up resources include online articles about faith-related topics, and a stream of 12 weekly emails called "Living in Christ." These emails offer practical tips on prayer, reading the Bible and other Christian growth-related topics.
Appleton said a growing number from the Middle East are responding. In 2014, more than 224,000 people from 18 Middle Eastern nations indicated they made decisions for Christ.
"Omar" was one among those who believed.
His name changed because of the danger of retaliation, he wrote "I really need forgiveness of the Lord Jesus," to PeaceWithGod.net, according to David Price, who volunteers as a discipleship coach out of North Carolina.
Omar said he had looked for a Bible in his language, to no avail, and he had no Christian friends to help. His father had destroyed his cellphone, he added, after finding out Omar had used the cell phone to learn more about Christianity.
Price pointed Omar to an online Bible in his native tongue, and the man had completed three of the five initial lessons, so far.
"In America we have so many freedoms," Price said, pointing out that Omar faced punishment by death for looking outside of Islam for spiritual answers. "Yet we fail to utilize all we have to learn and grow in our faith."
"The internet has become a social norm, and we just have to be there," Appleton said.
Based on a BGEA article by Tiffany Jothen and previous reporting by Christian Examiner.
For more information see www.bgea.org.