Do We Really Need “Internet Missionaries”?
by Greg West
Not long ago I met with a local pastor who had heard about The Poached Egg from a third party and was interested in finding out more about what I do. I was more than happy to oblige. One of the obstacles I commonly face with meetings like this is that I often have to start with an explanation of what apologetics is (yes, even with pastors) before I can even begin to get into why we need it, and more specifically, what my role in apologetics ministry is. Fortunately, this pastor was familiar with what apologetics is, but had thought of it as a discipline limited mostly to higher academia.
Although I had to correct him on that misconception, I was glad that I was able to skip the definition. Once we got past why apologetics is integral and necessary for discipleship and evangelism (as it always has been), I began to dive into what would normally have been a rather lengthy explanation of exactly what my role in the field of apologetics is, he jumped in when I stopped long enough to take a breath and said, “Oh, so you’re a missionary!”
YES! Finally someone had “got it” before they got tired of listening to me trying to explain it. Thankfully I was able to relax a bit after that and we had a great conversation on the role of apologetics ministry in the church. After another meeting a few weeks later, he invited me to speak on that topic at a Pastor’s Luncheon he would be hosting, which of course I was more than thrilled to do. I’m thankful that when I did, they were all gracious enough not to mention the fact that I went fifteen minutes over my fifteen minute time-limit.
Now, some of you might scoff at my identifying myself as a missionary, thinking something like, “Missionaries are those who go out to third world countries, sometimes at the risk of their lives, to take the Gospel to those who have never heard, and you’re just guy who has a website.”
While both of those statements are true, missions are not limited to those who go to other countries. A mission field can be your own neighborhood, your workplace, a university campus, a homeless shelter—just about anywhere… and yes, even on the internet.
In 2013, I attended an apologetics conference where I heard Josh McDowell give a lecture during which he spoke about what the church is up against in regards to the internet in today’s culture. Check out this excerpt from an article The Christian Post did on Josh’s lecture:
In 1991, 51 percent of evangelical young adults said there is no truth apart from their own views. Today, that number is 91 percent,” said McDowell.
The respected apologist also says the Internet’s “exploding information” plays a major factor in challenging the way young people view culture, the church and their moral views. According to his research, millions of youths take in about 34GB of Internet data each day, which is equivalent to the amount of lyrics found in 8,160 songs.
“Every pastor, youth pastor, and every parent is in competition with the Internet and the information it is spreading,” said McDowell. “Most young people don’t get their news from CNN or CBS, they get it from bloggers. There are about 181 million bloggers vying for the attention of your children.”
The unlimited amount of online information that people have access to has caused an increase in skepticism that will only continue to become more pervasive, says McDowell.
“If you don’t believe me, go around and talk to young people in colleges and in junior high. Go and make ‘truth statements’ and you’ll hear them say, ‘How do you know that’s true?’ There’s so much out there,” said McDowell. “[For] every kid, even Christians, the age of the Internet is wearing down their convictions because they think tomorrow they’ll find something else.”
He continued, “Fifteen to 20 years ago, the questions that you used to hear at universities about faith, Jesus and the Bible, about skepticisms, questioning what you believe in; questions that you used to hear in the last two years of college are now being asked by 10- and 11-year-olds. It’s coming all right down through Facebook.”
During his message, he also told pastors they cannot pastor the same way they have been for the last 20 years while telling parents they cannot raise their children the same way they were raised because the Internet has changed “everything.”
“Twenty years ago, the phrase was, ‘if you don’t reach a young person by 18, you probably won’t reach them. Now, atheists and agnostics have the same access to your kids as you do, it’s just one click away. The internet has leveled the playing field…
I cannot argue with that because I see it everyday. I personally know two people where I live who were regular church goers and identified themselves as Christians who said they walked away from their faith after watching the anti-Christian YouTube movie, Zeitgeist, which together with its sequels has had tens of millions of views. The sad thing is, that while I can’t speak for the sequels having never seen them myself as I could barely make it through the first one—the original movie, which makes claims that Jesus was not an actual historical person but was a made up copycat from earlier pagan religions, is so full of straw man arguments that even the most amateur of apologists could knock them down with little effort (you can find our featured articles on Zeitgeist here).
Although great strides have been made in recent years, and Christians and theists still far outnumber atheists in the U.S., the number of websites and articles by the so-called “New-Atheists” and other anti-Christians still far outnumber the resources we have for those who wish to investigate beyond the rhetoric and propaganda—which finally brings me to what I do. I gather as many of those resources I can possibly find and bring them all together in one place here at The Poached Egg.
Yes, I am a missionary, and this is a mission field—and like all missions and missionaries, doing what I do takes financial backing from people like you who are willing to give to keep the work going and growing. Just about anyone can have a website or blog at little to no cost, but it’s never a matter of “build it and they will come”. In the first few years before our ever-growing-in-importance partnership with Ratio Christi, when I did TPE tent-maker style, my awesome and beautiful wife and I spent several thousand dollars of our own money into promoting it to give it a boost in visibility and accessibility without any compensation and would gladly do so again.
Behind each day’s new batch of featured articles and recommended resources, there are countless hours of research, promotion, p.r., technical learning, and editing that goes into the final result that you see on your computer or mobile device (we finally launched The Poached Egg Mobile earlier this year). In fact, the demand in work hours to keep TPE optimal has grown beyond what I can handle by myself. I could literally work 24/7, 365 days a year and the work would still not be done. I think the last time I checked I had over 6,000 unopened e-mails, and that’s not counting other messaging platforms. Needless to say I’m in desperate need of a full-time assistant here at TPE. I’m not complaining as I think that’s a wonderful problem to have. I’m just letting you know that is currently our biggest financial need right now with a promotional and advertising budget being second.
This Christmas season, will you prayerfully consider making an investment in helping to build confident disciples and evangelists by coming on board as a monthly financial partner or by blessing this ministry with a special gift? Whether it’s $5, $50, $500, or anything in between, each gift will be greatly appreciated and put to good use. You can make a tax deductible donation to this ministry right now by going to our donation page here. Thank you for your consideration.
Many Christians unfortunately are still either unaware or apathetic to the need for apologetics ministries and missions (some are even outright against it) and we need your help to change that. As food for thought, I’ll leave you with another quote from Josh McDowell:
“You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-37). The problem with many people is that they seem to love God only with their hearts. The truth about Christ never gets to their minds. We’ve been given minds enabled by the Holy Spirit to know God, as well as hearts to love him and wills to choose him. We need to function in all three areas to have a full relationship with God and to glorify him. I don’t know how it is with you, but my heart can’t rejoice in what my mind has rejected. My heart and mind were created to work in harmony together. Never has anyone been called on to commit intellectual suicide by trusting Christ as Savior and Lord. —Josh McDowell