Online Evangelists Tap Millions Looking for God

Global Media uses search engine optimization and ads to link surfers with sites that explain Christianity.

Who is God?

Ask, "Who is Jesus?" and CCCI pops up number 8 on the search. "Who is God?" brings up an ad for Global Media's largest Web site, Jesus2020.

After a short introduction to the tenets of evangelism, the site asks if you are interested in more information and directs you to a form providing contact information.

Searchers indicate their religious affiliation, if any, and interest level and can also sign up for a weekly prayer that arrives via e-mail.

One, a man from Tanzania who found the ministry online at 4stepstoGod wrote, "I read and I was comforted. In those days I had lost my family due to war."

A young woman in England wrote that she too, had found solace online: "My five-year-old daughter died a few weeks ago in a car accident. I was raising her alone."

Wanted: Online Missionaries

In 2008, Global Media fielded 649,000 e-mails regarding prayer requests, Bible studies and other issues.

But with those numbers and only 2,900 online missionaries, they are having trouble keeping up with the traffic.

The ministry has enlisted the support from Northland, A Church Distributed, one of Florida's mega-churches to recruit and train 5,000 online missionaries by 2010, but admits it needs about 10,000 to meet the demand.

Many are stay-at-home mothers or retirees, who like not having to travel half way around the world to do missionary work.

"It's the future of the church, and it's fun to be a part of it," said Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland, in Longwood, Fla., who has personally signed on to help.

The Spanish language portal was so "jammed" recently with traffic it was "virtually shut down" when the requests could not be answered, he said.

Hunter has made contact with God-seekers from all around the world, many of whom have never been in a church.

"These are people looking for God but they don't have a clue," he said.

Swedish Seeking God

A surprising number of requests have come from Sweden – a country where secularism has dominated for decades.

"I love it because they ask me really basic questions that Americans are too embarrassed to ask," said Hunter. "Is there really a God? In church people's eyes start to get glossed over. But when you do the basics with people it takes me back to why I got into this and it's very invigorating."

But technology can only take humans seeking spirituality so far. Because Northland has so many smaller ministries around the world, it can help religion seekers find a church or give them the resources to start their own group -- wherever they are.

"In order to grow in any faith, you need a faith community," he said. "It's true for any faith. You can't do it on your own."

"We don't care what the denomination is," said Hunter. "It doesn't matter to us. Our concern is that they don't walk alone."

Whether modern man suffers from a spiritual emptiness or the Internet just makes the number of searchers more quantifiable is anybody's guess.

"There is more open questioning going on," said Robert Gregg, professor of religion at Stanford University.

"For people with religious and spiritual inclinations, there are troubling discussions going on in the culture that may cause them to want to get a firmer grip on what they believe and who they are," he told

Still, Gregg said, searching for God "has been going on since time immemorial."

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