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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Missions 2.0

How are you involved in international missions? In the past, mission agencies gave you three options: pray, give, or go. Hopefully, you're doing at least one of these things.

I'd like to invite you to a fourth way to participate in what God is doing around the world. You may not be aware of this, but there is a way for you to build a personal relationship with an unbelieving person from an unreached people group that is free, requires no training or time off work, and doesn't require you to learn another language.

You can be a pen pal.

Thankfully, the internet has taken the old idea of corresponding with a complete stranger on another continent and made it, well, faster, cheaper, and more fun. Here's how you can get started:

1. Visit an international classifieds website like,, or
or a social networking site like,, or any of the hundreds of similar sites listed here.
Classified sites tend to be a bit easier to manage (London's, for example, actually has a section titled "pen pals.") and are especially good if you already have an idea of what people group or city you'd like to connect with. For now, let's assume you're using

2. Scroll to the bottom of the site, and select the local site of your desired country. Many countries have classified ad sites, but it people in Western Europe are so web-connected, these countries are a great place to find someone who is likely to correspond with you.

3. Register a username and password, if necessary.

4. Search through the classified ads to find someone with whom you have something in common. Amateur authors in Wales? A guitar player in Spain? How about moms in Dublin?

5. Post a response to an ad. Or, post an ad of your own. Maybe you'd like to swap recipes with someone in Basel or find a pen pal in Berlin who likes NASCAR. (Good luck with that one). Just be yourself! Remember: for you, this may be a strange and frightening way to make friends, but for them, meeting people online is a pretty normal thing to do.

6. Wait for someone to answer your ad. Many of theses sites will email you when you receive a response. Be sure to keep security in mind as you introduce yourself and get to know the person. Don't make promises you won't be able to keep.

7. Share life with your new friend. Don't treat this as a confrontational evangelism tool- let the person get to know you. For many Western Europeans, you may be the only practicing believer with whom they've had contact. Even those who know about Jesus are unlikely to have seen life in Christ lived out before them. They need to hear what a follower of Jesus thinks about all sorts of things. Tell your stories. Listen to theirs. Send photos. Have a voice conversation on Skype. You may eventually get to meet your pen pal in person some day.

Now, this isn't for everyone. If you're the type who can't stand to talk with someone with whom you disagree, please don't bother. If you're not willing or able to personally invest in a "virtual friend," this isn't for you.

I think there are a lot of believers out there who didn't even know this is an option. I imagine many of you that don't have the time or money or desire to go on a mission trip may be intrigued my the idea of meeting someone online for the sake of sharing life intentionally.

Who knows? God may use you to start an online church planting movement.


bj said...

What is an "online church planting movement?" How does one participate in an electronic church?

pecheur said...

What a great idea! I think I'll start right now. Can I let you know how it turns out?

stepchild said...

I'm not sure I was being entirely serious when I wrote "online church planting movement," but now that I think about it, such a notion makes a lot of sense to me.

More and more, people are building real relationships online. I believe that churches can follow those same lines of interconnectivity and that church can exist online (though I admit that baptism would be difficult...)

Participation in an online church would look a lot like it does with a traditional one. Multi-site churches are already halfway there. Teaching, discipleship, worship, prayer, evangelism, and service can all be done via the internet.

There are already population segments for whom this is the "indigenous" means of interaction.

Please do let us know how it goes! I would love to compare notes and hear about your experience.

Anyone else up to giving it a shot?

bj said...

I have trouble thinking of electronic relationships as real ones in comparison to face-to-face ones. Certainly technology has changed missions for the better and opened avenues of opportunity, but I cannot agree that an all-technology "church" is appropriate. (I'm not a fan of multi-site churches either.) I think we lose much when our relationships are relegated to electronic interaction and interchange. This leaves no space for accountability and meaningful fellowship. Just some thoughts ...

pecheur said...


I've only snooped around so far on the sites you listed. But plan on jumping right in soon.

Hey...I do not really have a dog in this fight and this is only my two cents feel free to disregard it.

But I feel people may be more open to relationships online especially if it involves sharing deep things about oneself (like how each party sees the world etc.) This does not take the place of "real" relationships necessarily. I am looking at this topic in my context, and it is my experience that I can get to know people better and even faster online. Now whether that is due to a personality defect or a lack of "putting myself out there" or whatever, I've seen it work.

Again this is just my opinion, but I don't think we have to worry about "electronic relationships" somehow making us less real. If anything it may make us more real. Just look at the success of PostSecret.

And "accountability" that even biblical? Or simply another form of behavior modification? I know that is another can of worms. I apologize to stepchild for opening it up. But I am of the opinion we are not loosing "accountability" with online relationships. If anything, we are being more real and more open and more honest. Or at least I am.

In working in a cold culture, I am connecting more online than "in real life". I am more real and the relationships are growing. It may not be the ideal to most, but it is how I can connect in some real way to my community. There is the added benefit that I have time to figure out what people are saying and I have time to figure out how to say back what I want. And for a language learner that is huge. Many people are not patient enough to hang around language learners long enough to develop a real relationship. So for me I can connect with people because I have time to hear them and respond where they can hear me (hopefully).

I might add that I don't mind "real" relationships. But "online relationships" are not necessarily less real than "real" relationships.

Thanks to stepchild and bj for allowing me to comment here

bj said...

Thanks for your comments. Certainly this is an avenue to explore as we increasingly live in an “e-age.” I’ve been mulling this topic for some time and observing various relationships, and I have to stick the conviction that we lose a lot in focusing on e-relationships. Yes, there are particular gains to be had, such as initially engaging people and providing opportunities to lead conversations to relevant topics. However, I think the abuse potential is huge. I only know what someone chooses to reveal about himself or herself. Our hearts can be drawn in inappropriate directions based on false information. Our impressions are based solely on what a person has said, and we do not see how that person acts in everyday circumstances. We don’t see how a man treats his wife, how parents discipline their children, how a single woman interacts with the men in her life – we only know what people choose to reveal.
As for accountability, yes, I think that’s a biblical idea. We were designed to live in community, to be “iron sharpening iron.” I need other people to help me see where I should correct my behavior and attitudes to be in line with biblical principles. I need the teaching and influence of others to help me grow. I need to be able to call these people up and say “hey let’s get coffee.” And people need me to do those things for them.
So, yes, there are benefits to online relationships. There are pitfalls and caveats as well. Thanks for the conversation – even if it is an online one … :)

stepchild said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking conversation. I think it's important for us to consider the positives and negatives of online relationships.

I'd encourage you to try what I suggest in my post. Connect with someone that you do not know "in person" and see what happens. As with any relationship, you should be on your guard and prayerful. You may not make a dear, lifelong friend, but I think you'll find that the "anonymity" of the internet might provide just the right setting for refreshingly honest interaction with people you would otherwise never meet.

Mike Stover said...

Great idea! I plan to start investigating this and also passing along the possibility on my blog. I have linked to you; I like your thinking. My God bless your work for His Kingdom.

stepchild said...

Anyone try this yet? We'd love for you to share your experiences!