The messages are simple enough.
Some include a prayer, others offer stories or pictures.
Then, slipped into the cyber-epistle, the kicker: If you love God and/or are not ashamed of your religious beliefs, forward the e-mail to a particular number of people.
"Sometimes they are genuine witnessing tools and some of them have a very good, theologically sound, powerful message," said Doug Wilson, assistant professor of Christian studies at the University of Mobile in Alabama.
Others, he said, are lacking in biblical perspective.
"I believe in sharing our faith and doing it openly," Wilson said. But, he added, he doesn't know that forwarding e-mails is an effective method.
While modern technology allows the messages to circulate far and wide, religious chain mail is hardly a new phenomenon.
In her book Not in Kansas Anymore: A Curious Tale of How Magic Is Transforming America, author Christine Wicker noted the popularity of a chain letter circulated in the early 18th century. The missive, "supposedly written by Jesus, promised that those who carried it could not be damaged by guns or swords, but anyone who did not copy and pass it on would be cursed by the Christian church," Wicker writes.
Although those inclined to circulate such letters might consider their actions more hallowed than hoodoo, the idea that a blessing is the result of human action is a magical one, according to Wicker.
"Religion tends toward supplication, whereas magic sets forces into operation, commands, and demands," she explains in Not in Kansas Anymore. "It relies on the power of objects, of symbols, of numbers, of words, and of human will. It empowers human experience over doctrine. Religious people wait on God; magical people push."
By forwarding messages, senders may be hoping for a particular result. But Wicker said such actions may be a way of witnessing and spreading blessings.
Wilson said his decision to share an e-mail "has everything to do with the content, not the blessing or cursing that may be in that tagline."
Furthermore, since Wilson doesn't want to be recipient of numerous forwards, he rarely passes along such e-mails, and if he does so, it's not necessarily to the number of people stipulated in the messages.
"God's blessing comes from obedience to him and to his word," Wilson said, not from the receipt and transmission of e-mail.
While Wilson has found some of the e-mails meaningful, Ray Russell of Mobile said the messages rub him the wrong way.
For one thing, Russell said, he had a problem with questioning someone's love of God. The messages, in Russell's view, also trivialize God.
"Like God is sitting there with a pager," said Russell.
Russell, who has his e-mail forwarded to his Blackberry, said the message that really bugged him was one that buzzed him about 2 a.m.
"I texted back," said Russell, who's on the waiting list for a heart transplant and was not feeling well when the message arrived. "I think this is very inappropriate to play with God this way."
Monsignor Kenneth Klepac of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Mobile said he shies away from chain e-mails.
"In some cases, you know, I think about them," he said. But most of the time, he said, he deletes the messages.
While the Rev. Philip Chance, pastor of Dauphin Island United Methodist Church, said he typically sees the e-mails as spam, he doesn't think that they're dangerous.
"I just think it's bad theology," he said. "It's not what I understand the Scripture to promise."
Kristen Campbell is a staff writer for The Press-Register of Mobile, Ala.