17 December 2012
"God, I'm depressed."
"God, I'm depressed."
These three words were typed into Google by someone in the depths of despair – a man who had been trapped inside his home by agoraphobia after a bullying incident at school 10 years before.
He was someone desperately searching for hope.
And his Google search led him to a page about depression on the Christian Enquiry Agency website and from there he started to engage in an email conversation with co-ordinator Peter Graystone.
Every week, hundreds of people are finding out more about hope and the Christian faith through this innovative website.
The Christian Enquiry Agency was re-launched in 2010 and now has more than 1,500 visitors a week.
"What I long for is that people who would never set foot inside a church will discover Jesus Christ – who means so much to me – in their homes," says Peter Graystone.
"God has given us a phenomenal tool – the internet.Like the air we breathe it gets everywhere, even behind closed doors.So people can find out about Christianity safely behind their computer screen.
"Our website is like an encyclopaedia of everything you might want to know about the Christian faith. There is information about what Jesus did and said, and a Christian viewpoint on topics such as worry, money and falling in love."
But can't people read about this in a book?
Peter says: "We do something a book can't.If people click 'Find Out More' they are immediately in touch with a real person and we respond in an individual way.We can send them a Gospel of Luke. We can pray for them, because 200 men and women have committed to praying once a week for whatever they ask. We can find them a local church, answer a question about faith, or start an email conversation that continues for as long as they choose."
Every week, a variety of different questions are posed by the public who visit the website.
"Recently I've been asked: 'What makes you think there is life after death?', 'Isn't religion the cause of all the world's violence?' and 'Can I have my children christened if I haven't been christened myself?'These questions bother people.It's brilliant that there is somewhere they can ask them confidentially."
People find the website because it comes close to the top of any online searches that use the word Christianity. However, most visitors find it because churches are publicising it in their own materials.
"One person got in touch with us because a church had printed it on serviettes wrapped round hot cross buns they were giving away," Peter says. "It's the easiest evangelism you will ever do."
But are people actually becoming Christians online? Peter tells the story of a recent contact through the website.
"We chatted for weeks about what God could do for someone after an experience like that – about forgiving and being forgiven.Then he asked if I could find him a local church.It was a pleasure to give him the email address of somewhere nearby.I heard nothing for some time.
"Now to my utter surprise I've had a message saying that he has invited the pastor for a cup of tea.Just imagine the courage that has taken. Please pray about that meeting and whatever happens next."
Find out more about the Christian Enquiry Agency at www.christianity.org.uk or write to them at FREEPOST WC2947, South Croydon, CR2 8UZ, or call 020 3490 3315. If you would like to receive a weekly message and pray for people, send an email to email@example.com with 'Prayer partner' in the subject line.