How to start in evangelism
Millions of people around the world visit chat rooms every day. They are wanting to communicate with others – so this gives you many opportunities to share your faith.
“I love being able to tell people about Jesus online,” says Lucy, 15However, we must tell others the Good News in the right way or we may actually turn people away from Jesus. 1 Pet. 3:15 stresses the use of sensitivity when we share the Gospel with others: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...” (NIV) An insensitive or argumentative attitude will completely compromise the message you are trying to communicate.
It is wise to ask your Christian leader for their opinion as to whether you are suitable for this sort of ministry. Even if they say you are, it is in any case good to do this sort of witness with the encouragement and prayers of your church's leaders. They may also be able to help you with classes on personal witnessing or suggest books on the subject – see also our book recommendations.
We must also understand the potential personal dangers, especially for younger people.
- If you have never been in a chat room, first learn by visiting different types of rooms without saying anything. Watch how people write and the abbreviations they use. Some chat rooms are just for teens or students. Others are for different age groups, special interests or those of a national or ethnic background.
- Build up a short list of good evangelistic web-sites. Paste the URLs into a word-processor page on your computer, and keep it open when you are in a chat room. Also add to this file Bible verses which relate to the Gospel. Then you can quickly paste an URL (CTRL + C then CTRL + V) into a chat message when appropriate.
- There are also Christian chat scripts to help with quick Bible verse look-up.
- Understand the essentials of the Gospel and how to present it meaningfully to non-Christians. Most people find it hard to understand that the Gospel is free and that there is nothing they can do to earn God's favor. That's what 'grace' means!
- Inform yourself about what other religions and cults believe, including the New Age Movement which is becoming the dominant belief system in much of the West and beyond.
- Read evangelistic books – see how other people present the Gospel in a relevant way.
- Study your Bible, and highlight verses in it that are helpful.
- Be prepared for the types of questions that people ask – prepare yourself using these resources: Faith Facts.
- See How can I share my faith without an argument
- Common questions – things people ask, and how to answer them.
- More apologetic-type answers
Before a chat session
- Pray for wisdom, the right words to say, and that God will lead you to people who are ready to discuss.
- You could arrange in advance with a friend to visit the same chat room at the same time – this may help to get a discussion going.
- Another option: ask a friend could sit with you at the computer – one pray, the other write. Or ask a friend to pray for you at the time you plan to be online.
Important things to do
- Pray while you are online – for those you speak to, and how to reply effectively.
- Respect and understand other people’s views, cultures, and religions.
- Even if you disagree with something they say, try to identify with part of it.
- Be ready to share how you became a Christian, and how God helps you in your life right now. Remember, you are offering other people a relationship with the living loving God. You are not trying to sell them a religion or even a set of morals or beliefs. Non-Christians do not understand this – they think that trying to obey certain rules or going to church is what makes people 'Christian'.
- Many chat rooms offer the facility to jump from the main room to a ‘PM’ (private meeting) in a 'one-to-one' room. This can be useful when a chat room is crowded. It may well be wise to limit 'PM' sessions to those of the same gender as yourself.
- If someone wishes to talk again about issues later, exchange email addresses so that you can maintain contact.
What NOT to do
- Don’t choose an inappropriate nickname. It can be funny, but not sexy or completely bizarre. Don’t choose an obviously Christian nickname, like 'Prayer Princess' or 'godlovesyou' etc. This makes you sound preachy before you start, and some people will not even speak to you.
- Don’t pretend to be somebody else. If a chat room requires a personal profile, write it honestly.
- Don’t pester people who Don’t want to talk.
- It is counter-productive to be pushy or try to force people into a decision they are not ready to make.
- Don’t argue about anything, especially...
...avoid getting sidelined into arguments on non-essential or controversial things such as the age of the earth, evolution, politics, alcohol, abortion, or denominational practices and doctrines. You may have firmly-held views on these things which flow out of your Christian faith, but they are not essential to the Gospel. Be humble and realize that even godly, experienced Christians take different views on some of these things. Also no one is likely to change his or her mind on for example, abortion, until after becoming a Christian. Some chat room users may deliberately try to steer you into these sidelines and provoke you into argument on these issues.
- Don’t get angry, even if you are personally abused or people criticize the Bible and God. They may only be trying to see how far they can push you anyway! "A gentle answer turns anger away. But mean words stir up anger." (Proverbs 15:1) If you find that you always argue in chat rooms, this sort of witnessing is probably not suited to you!
- Don’t use Christian jargon words – it’s a ‘foreign language’ to non-Christians. If you must use a word, explain it. Almost every Christian concept can be expressed in ordinary language.
- Never criticise other people‘s views or beliefs.
- Don’t pretend to ‘know it all’. Admit when you don’t know an answer to something. You may have heard the saying, "A Christian is just one beggar telling other beggars where to find bread."
Not everyone in a chat room is what they seem. There are pedophiles and other predatory people who visit teen (and other) chat rooms pretending to be nice. Young people in particular should follow these guidelines. Older Christians too have sometimes been sucked into wrong relationships online.
- Never give your last name, address or phone number to anyone else in a chat room. Make sure those things do not appear in any profile you make available to chat room members or on your email signature (or email provider/ISP personal profile if you have one).
- Never ever arrange a face-to-face meeting alone with a chat contact.
- If you do wish to meet someone, Don’t do it till you have written to them by email for a long time, and discuss it with your parents and a youth leader first. Even then, Don’t do it alone: take a friend and meet in a safe public environment, for instance a cafe or church youth meeting.
- Don’t treat chat rooms as dating agencies!
- If someone in a chat room starts trying to find out too-personal information about you or wants to talk about sex, leave and find a new chat room.
Learning from othersWe can learn from others who are experienced in chat room evangelism. Maybe there is someone in your church or neighborhood who would give a seminar about it. It is a good activity for a youth group to be involved in. Why not start learning about chat in a predominantly Christian environment. For instance ACTS on the Net have a page of advice and chat abbreviations. Then when you have learned some of the procedures, you can branch out into secular chat rooms. If you have some understanding of other religions (and here is a good opportunity for returned/retired missionaries), you can visit chat rooms in even semi-closed countries. One man speaks of “witnessing in Kuala Lumpur every Saturday night” – by chat room.
It is also possible to visit chat rooms which have a defined subject area – for instance a hobby or a special interest. These people are there to talk about the defined topic, and will not welcome attempts to force conversation over to religion. See this sort of chat room evangelism as similar to joining a club on something that interests you, rather than going witnessing on the streets. Only join if you share the hobby or interest, and wait for opportunities to arise, rather than taking the initiative.
Read a personal account of chat room witness from Dave Tatham.
There are several ministries who can give advice and help:
Larger Christian groups sometimes use their own chat rooms both for evangelism and discipleship as part of co-ordinated approach, with trained moderators.
• Detailed explanation of chat – from Wikipedia