Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN Staff
“How relevant are we?” This question, aimed at the Seventh-day Adventist church, is one communication delegates hope to answer in the affirmative at the fourth annual Global Internet Evangelism Forum.
The event—slated for August 31 through September 3 in San Diego, California—aims to equip delegates with the “information, inspiration, and motivation to develop Internet evangelism to its full potential,” says John T. Banks, associate communication director for the world Adventist church and co-chair of the Forum.
Few would dismiss the import of Internet connectedness in a world propelled by technology. In fact, in a recent Fortune magazine article, top Microsoft technologist Gary Flake equated the Internet explosion with the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution in terms of societal impact.
Accordingly, Adventism’s future may very well depend upon the extent to which church leaders and laypeople capitalize on this dynamic global network.
Co-chair with Banks, TAGnet director Dan Houghton welcomes the opportunity to empower the global church and reach some 1 billion people online worldwide by networking technologists.
“While technology people are never at the forefront of evangelism—they may never preach a sermon, teach a Sabbath School class, or sing a song—they play a vital role in creating a communications framework within which to spread the gospel,” says Houghton.
Banks reiterates the importance of networking to reach joint goals. “Both church officials and laypeople have a common interest in using the Internet as a delivery tool to package the message of hope to a secular audience.
“We want to develop a global Internet community,” Banks adds, “that will go beyond the traditional borders that evangelism creates and place the church in the marketplace where it belongs.”
Hoping to catch the trajectory of technology, the Forum will “harness group energy to outline specific strategies, not just dream about possibilities,” Houghton says. After all, preaching the gospel “to the ends of the earth” will be less of a catchphrase when the church’s virtual backyard stretches from Bangkok to Berlin and everywhere in between.
To that end, Forum topics will range from technology in developing countries to guarding against Internet abuses, and from blogging, podcasting, and other self-publishing tools to writing for a secular Internet audience.
Michael Dabrowski, who works in the technology field, will present “The Internet: Are We Relevant?” He anticipates the Forum will spark “a conversation designed to transform [the church’s] relationship to the Internet as a medium for communication by examining our limitations, assumptions, and barriers to effectiveness.”
The weekend will conclude with technology reports from around the world and a panel discussion led by Mark Finley, one of the church’s vice presidents and sponsor of the Internet evangelism initiative, during which delegates will learn how best to turn web contacts into spiritual friends.
For more information or to register see: <a >www.gien.adventist.org</a> or <a >www.plusline.org</a> for program and registration information.