Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Aims to Take Revivals Online
By David Jenkins - Crossmap On June 9, 2012
With the success of the Billy Graham Crusade for Christ, reaching out to literally millions of people, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) aims to build on this triumph online through their new website, peacewithgod.jesus.net.
Those looking for the Truth would stumble upon the site to get answers to questions that became rocks or thorns in their heart. They are directed to the website, where they will be given the option to go through a series of readings and videos tied into John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
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Remarkably, the site is still in preliminary stages (beta) and yet reached out to more than 476,000 people who prayed the prayer introduced at the end of the four step program. In this way, the association quantifies the number of people who prayed. Additionally, a mark of light is setup on a Google earth showing the individuals who prayed at the end of the program.
It may be easy to think that there would be no step to grow in faith once you finish the prayer. Rest assured, it doesn't.
“People don’t make decisions and then show up in church the next week,” Director of Internet Evangelism John Cass said. “These same people who are hurting in this world are still walking by churches on every corner.”
These people will be spiritually hospitalized from all the volunteers conversing with them directly. Volunteers answer basic questions on God or Christianity as well as lead interested people to a 5-week discipleship course. The participants will be encouraged to attend a local church cooperating with them on the project.
“It’s taking the model of what we’ve done for so many years, with the crusades, celebrations, festivals and applying that in an online environment,” Cass said.
There are obstacles that lie ahead, and time will tell whether the online model is effective or not.
David W. Key Sr., the director of Baptist Studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, articulated the enormous challenge the internet makes for churches in several ways. One issue he addressed is that peoples has a choice to not look at anything if they don’t want to.
“I truly wonder how many non-Christians are going to be attracted by this,” he said.
The president and CEO of Need Him Global, Drew Dickens, commented on Christians trying to find a way and the proper method to reach out to them.
“Everyone wants to be the Christian Facebook,” he said, mentioning that, even then, older big name companies will not receive all the tout for succeeding.
“I think it’s going to be a couple of 18-year-olds in a dormitory somewhere that have zero seminary experience (but) completely understand how to engage their culture and peers,” .
Dickens, who came to accept Christ from a Billy Graham Crusade, speculates that the sites have the ability to draw people in through peacewithgod.net with an excellent presentation. The younger audience are more in sync with viewing videos on mobile devices opposed to text on a computer.
“I really do think the key to reaching this generation is a focus more on offering live conversation versus creative presentation,” he said.
He also questioned the actual life-changing experiences of the people who made the prayer of salvation. He doesn’t doubt that some have tasted the change, but it remains a question whether that's the case for all 476,000 netizens. The ministry doesn’t have any statistics to estimate the degree of life-changing experiences.
In spite of Dickens' concerns, the site arms extend far enough to reach even the older age folks. Meet John Preston, 54, of Lenoir City, Tenn., who ran into the site from a link "Peace with God" on a different website.
“I felt like a heavy burden had been lifted,” Preston said. “I felt more alive inside.”
Preston, a retired mechanic, left home at the age of 14 to escape from an abusive father, and since then he had struggled with drugs and alcohol.
“I lived a rough life, doing things I shouldn’t have been doing,” he said. “I didn’t realize it was wrong until I got saved.”
Later he claimed that there wasn't any specific event that drove him to seek for God in his life, but rather God patiently led him to finally meet Him using the site as a platform.
“Finally after that prayer on Peace with God, everything changed,” he said. “It’s kind of weird how it happened. ... When I said the prayer it hit me what I’d been missing. It was like I could hear God saying, ‘You’ve done what you need to do. Now you belong to me.’”