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The Christadelphian | November 2012

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial One body
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning “Timothy” | Jamie Robson
  • Solihull Bible Learning Centre | Owain Tudor
  • Christadelphians on the internet | Peter Forbes
  • A voice in the wilderness | Trevor A. Pritchard
  • Questions Jesus asks Questions of authority | Paul Aston
  • “Whatever he says to you, do!” | Andrew E. Walker
  • The German Bible School Flensunger Hof, Mücke, 2012 | Peter Colston
  • The character of God 9 – Unique | Mark Buckler
  • “Sing forth the honour of His Name” Ten years of worship from the 2002 hymn book | John Botten
  • Signs of the times Elections in the US
  • Israel and their land Pressure on Iran
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Christadelphians on the internet

WITH the development of the world wide web Christadelphians have, with enthusiasm, taken up the opportunity to spread our unique doctrine. There are countless Christadelphian websites. There are some which are ‘global’ in the sense that they are sponsored by preaching organisations within the brotherhood. They can be found hosted in the UK, the USA and Australia. There are sites which are designed to enable brethren and sisters to source preaching material and “works of the Truth”.

There are ecclesial websites. Some are ‘stand alone’ in that they are designed and maintained by the ecclesia, either by an individual appointed, or approved by the ecclesia. There are yet more written and hosted by individuals which have no ecclesial input at all, being funded by individuals. These may fall into a number of different categories. They may be preaching sites, or study sites providing material by one or more Christadelphian brethren. They may be designed to foster Bible reading by encouraging use of the Daily Bible Reading Planner devised by Brother Robert Roberts.

The purpose of this article is not to review all, or even some, of the websites run and maintained by Christadelphians, though examples will be given. Rather, the focus is to ask questions about our objectives and to discuss principles governing how we associate with others in the work of preaching using the internet.

The very nature of the web is that a person with internet access can quickly and easily view any website. It is as if anyone in the world has free access to all of one’s private library – this is designed as one of the major features of the web. Whereas one used to have to visit a reference library to find detailed information on a specific topic, the web provides anyone who can ask a question direct access to millions of sites which touch on that specific subject. To give an example: simply typing the word “Christadelphians” into Google advises me that there are about 298,000 websites that may be relevant to my search. If I were to type in “heart attack”, I am advised that there are about 258 million sites that may be of interest to me. Both of those searches took less than a quarter of a second to display the results after the request was submitted.

Like it or not

The world wide web as we know it was not invented until 1990. However, it is now a very prominent force in our lives whether we like it or not.

For example, one social network website [1] has over one billion registered users. In 2008 there were around 31 billion searches [2] a month for information on Google. This is more than ten times the number in 2006. For comparison, see the table below showing the time it took for different media to reach an audience of 50 million.

Device Years
Radio 38
Television 13
Internet 4
iPod 3
Facebook 2

If we want some idea of the rapid growth of internet penetration, we only have to consider the following: in 1984 there were a thousand internet devices; in 1992 there were one million; in 2008 there were one thousand million. Whether we like it or not the internet is here to stay.

Is the internet valuable?

There is always a danger, with a new medium, simply to resist technology. Horror stories about pornographic sites and unwanted e-mails abound. However, it is very difficult to stumble across a pornographic site and modern Internet Service Providers filter out almost all unwanted e-mail messages. I cannot remember the last time I stumbled upon an unsavoury website or looked at a distasteful e-mail. I cannot say the same about the newspapers that I see. Clearly care needs to be taken as it does with any media outlet.

Categories of websites

We may break down the types of Christadelphian websites into five categories. We shall examine each briefly, outlining how they can be used and possible areas of abuse.

Publishing sites: Sites of this nature tend to offer Christadelphian publications for sale. Their prime function is to be a resource for brethren and sisters. Whilst they are designed for the community, the nature of the web means that anyone can access such sites. Organisations within the brotherhood with such sites are, amongst others, The Christadelphian Magazine and Publishing Association Limited, Christadelphian Tidings, The Testimony. As such sites often have an option for bill payment or donation, it is important that these sections are protected by a log-in page so that the non-Christadelphian visitor to the site does not feel constrained to make any payment to us.

Discussion groups: There are a number of discussion group sites within the brotherhood. The objective, simply stated, of such sites is to allow for discussion on topics by subscribers to the group. Discussing scripture and related issues is always good: it can be a useful way to clarify ideas; it can also act as a powerful means of preaching. There is one overriding principle that obtains in such environments: never behave in an unChristlike way. Topics need to be discussed in a measured fashion. We may use pseudonyms, but never to hide behind. Anonymity will not allow us to say things that we would not like to see attributed directly to us.

Preaching sites: Sites in this category are designed with the prime objective of attracting non-Christadelphians to listen to our message. To this end they must provide clear information about us. It is not the purpose of this article to specify what preaching material such sites should use and display. Clearly if the site is an ecclesial website then its contents should be approved by the ecclesia. Further, members of the ecclesia should be encouraged to visit the site and to take part in any follow-up work that is generated.

It is important that the site makes clear who we are and provides a contact point – be it e-mail or a contact form.

There are countless preaching websites which have been designed by Christadelphians. For this reason it is sensible to provide links to other websites to expand the number of things that you offer. For example, there would be little point in producing your own preaching magazine when it is possible to add a link from your website to a publication such as Glad Tidings.

However, care must be taken when providing a link to other websites which are not run by Christadelphians. We need to ask, ‘Do the beliefs and objectives of the site owner match Christadelphian values?’ I have followed links from Christadelphian to non-Christadelphian websites whose members believe in the Trinity, encourage active involvement in politics or do not share our beliefs on the sacrifice of Jesus. We must ask the question, ‘Do we wish our visitors to see these sites and think we are associated with the beliefs expressed on them?’ We might also ask whether the owners of such a site would be willing to place a link to one of ours. It seems that churches who accept the doctrine of the Trinity want nothing to do with Christadelphians.

Study sites: Many brethren and sisters do personal study. Often such work is never seen by others. In the past it has not been practical to publish such material privately. With the advent of the internet anyone can post work for free, or at minimal cost. Some brethren have devised websites which make such material available. This is a most valuable tool. Again it must be remembered that unless access to such sites is restricted to those with a password, then potentially anyone can read the studies. For this reason it is essential that they are healthful and sound expositions of the word of God. Such sites should not be used for the purpose of criticising others. Scripture lays out an approach that should be taken when there is disagreement: the first contact must be private between the two individuals.

Resource sites: Organisations such as the CALS and CBM have much material, often in a form which enables brethren and sisters to produce their own literature with logos and material which has been centrally produced. Such material, when used wisely, will blend well with other advertising. Perhaps the site also provides information about that organisation’s activities. It may also be used for preaching. It is essential that the purpose of each element of a website should be specified. Private areas should not be accessible by non-Christadelphians. It may even be better to separate off the private community-specific material to a website which can only be accessed by those who have been given permission.

The internet provides a valuable tool for communications, disseminating information, discussions and preaching. It is wrong to categorise these technologies as all bad and unhelpful. Indeed there are elements which are godless and must be avoided. However, used wisely, following Bible-based guidelines, we can, and should embrace the opportunities provided.

Peter Forbes

[1] A social network is a place where it is possible to send messages to ‘friends’ and receive messages back. It is possible to send the same message to countless individuals at the same time.

[2] Simply a word or words typed into the computer. The ‘search engine’ displays information and links to websites from its catalogue of information.

 

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