Last week, I had the privilege of spending a few days in Istanbul, Turkey talking to pastors about technology, faith, and evangelism. There were only about 70 people in attendance, but since Turkey around 4,000 believers those men and women represented an fairly sizable portion of the country’s Christian leadership.
The Exception to the Rule
In discussions about technology and faith, we often address the legitimate worry that when people spend too much time online they risk becoming too anonymous and too disconnected from “real life.” We’ve all known people addicted to technology who have trouble unplugging and connecting in person. But in Turkey this anonymity allows Muslims who are curious about Jesus and Christianity to explore it safely.
Unlike countries like Iran, it’s legal in Turkey to be a Christian, to have a church, and to preach the gospel on the street. However, it is still socially dangerous to hang around a church or carry a Bible, so websites, facebook, and chat rooms provide a safe space for Turks to find out more about Jesus.
From Technology to the Table
The men and women I met at the Turkey Internet Evangelism Network (TIEN) use every conceivable technological means to connect with their Turkish neighbors and help them find out more about Jesus. Some have large Facebook followings, some work in the bowels of IRC and other chat rooms, some have YouTube channels full of testimonies, some buy ads on Google directing people to evangelistic websites, others have followup “courses” for people they met on the street.
The amazing thing is that they are all working to draw Turks along a path from an anonymous seeker to a faithful follower of Christ connected to a local church body. On the final day of the conference, we met some people who had come to faith in a chat room and then asked, “What’s next?” They were immediately connected to a local church which happened to be the one hosting the conference.
I loved seeing how these Turkish Christian leaders were intentionally using technology not just for conversion, but for the table (i.e. Christian community). The missionaries, programmers, and pastors all seemed to work together amazingly well, drawing Turks deeper into the body of Christ. They are a powerful example of God using any an all means to draw people to himself.
More about Internet Evangelism
If you’d like to know more about Internet Evangelism and how you can be involved, you could check out the twitter feed from the event (#TIEN2012) or take a look at some of the English websites like http://www.webevangelism.com/ and http://www.internetevangelismday.com/ which help coordinate