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Light in the digital darkness

Jon Turner explores how Christians bring light to the darkest parts of the internet

The internet can be used for both good and evil. Jon Turner, UK country manager at Christian Vision, reminds us that when we are confronted with darkness, we don’t have to retreat, for we can bring light and hope to the world.

The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out of your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” These are the words of Morpheus, a fictional character in the movie franchise, The Matrix.

Well, we might not be living in the Matrix, but we are living in a world where digital technology is far-reaching and it can be all-encompassing. Many of us in the UK have smart phones, smart cars, and even smart fridges. If you want to know something, just ask Siri; if you want to hear a daily prayer, Alexa will happily oblige, thanks to the Church of England’s digital team.

There is no doubt a digital revolution has swept a good chunk of the globe and forever changed many lives on planet Earth. And, it is due to one thing, the internet. The net is a massive network of connected devices in which any computer can communicate with any other connected machine. Then, spanning this global infrastructure is the World Wide Web (WWW), a way of accessing information over the medium of the internet.

Originally designed by Sir Tim Berner’s Lee in 1989, to meet the demand for automatic information sharing between scientists in universities around the world, it’s a massive interlinked network of online content. Did you know that Google processes around 40,000 search queries a second?; that’s more than 3.5 billion searches per day, and around 1.2 trillion searches per year globally.

If you want to get a flavour of what the country is thinking at any given time, just head to Google Trends on your smart device. It’s probably a fair assessment to say that a
sizeable percentage of the UK population uses the internet on an almost daily basis.

The darkside

Yes, the net has changed the world, but not all of these changes have been for good. The WWW has a dark side too. Towards the end of 2017, it was thought the online pornography industry was worth around $15 billion, and it consistently increases year on year, reaching more people and increasingly younger people. As writer Guy Kelly points out in a recent Telegraph article, the 2016 analytics report for the website Pornhub showed that videos on the site were watched 92 billion times, with 64 million daily visitors.

The net has changed the world, but not all of these changes have been for the good.


Perhaps you’ve also heard about the dark web too? The dark web uses overlay networks which require specific software to access hidden content on the web. Often, criminal activity takes place on the dark web, including illegal drug trades and media exchange for terrorists and paedophiles. The dark web has been a platform for fraud and hostile exploitations, with hackers hijacking people’s computers by planting ransomware. Last year, the NHS fell victim to the Wannacry’ cyberattack, which resulted in 6,900 appointments (including operations) being cancelled and rogue malware encrypted data on infected computers; and it is thought a third of hospital trusts in England were disrupted. The response measures put in place cost around £180,000.

Light in the darkness

Scientists tell us that on a dark night a lit candle can be seen from over a mile away. The Bible says in Matthew 5:14: You are the Light of the world.” Light shines and gives direction, and I think Jesus’ words are intended to convey the message that our lives should shine in such a way that those in darkness can be directed toward God. I believe that light can even shine in the internet.

I work for Christian Vision (CV), a global mission agency that has a vision to reach a billion people with the gospel. CV utilises digital technologies for evangelism, equipping both churches and Christians to engage missionally in the digital space. The internet provides a unique opportunity for evangelism, quite unlike anything that has gone before, and it is a space, just like the streets within our communities, where Christians should have influence.

Opportunity to shine

One opportunity that is having a tremendous impact is our CV Outreach programme. The initiative exists to help connect people searching the web with their local church. If your church is a registered charity, then it probably qualifies for a Google Grant. The grant provides an allowance of up to $10,000 of free (virtual spend) advertising each month. CV uses this allowance to target relevant adverts which appear at the top of a user’s Google search results. These adverts are links to the participating local church website, where we create a gospel landing page that hosts a variety of topical videos relevant to a user’s search parameter.

So, the concept is that when a user clicks on the advertised church link, they encounter a Christian presentation and get in touch. It’s a brilliant idea with well over 600 churches already subscribed to the programme, resulting in hundreds of non-churched’ people being connected to a local church. One pastor reports that the Google Adwords campaign has nearly doubled visits to their website, resulting in 20 gospel presentations and several email conversations each week.

Where to start?

There are some simple steps you can take that will help your church get up to speed. Firstly, your church needs a functioning website. A website is your shop window, and new visitors will have likely checked out your website before they ever visit you. Make sure your site gives your location, meeting times, contact details and says what you believe.

I also suggest you create a free Facebook page and Instagram account for your church. These are great ways to raise your profile, and, importantly, they allow your church to advertise events and keep your community informed about your activities. Finally, CV has lots of resources to help equip you to engage digitally: sign up for free video, image and training resources at cvuk​.org

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