The First On-line Ministries Conference was lightly attended but there was
good geographical representation with brethren from 5 different states attending.
The conference was a time for encouragement, information sharing and the voluntary
coordination of efforts.
From across this great land we gathered. There was only enough time to attract those who were ready to stand in the gap (Ezek 22:30). Knowing full well that if we prepared for a year, there would have been many more willing to make the trek and lay hold of the great opportunity which awaits those who are willing to take the Word of God to any and all who would listen. We pushed forward with this effort. As was outlined in the invitation which was sent out, we did not believe it was prudent to wait any longer to have "On-line Ministries Conference" #1.
"CyberSpace (or the InterNet): A new universe, a parallel universe created and sustained by the world's computers and communication lines. A world in which the global traffic of knowledge, secrets, measurements, indicators, entertainments, and alter-human agency takes on form: sights, sounds, presences never seen on the surface of the earth, blossoming in a vast electronic night." -- (Benedikt)
Let's "Just Do It":
In May, 1995 one individual decided he could wait no longer. He had the knowledge and the faith to create a presence for the Church of Christ on the InterNet world-wide web and he did; this made the Church of Christ the 14th religious group to register worldwide. He did all of the work himself and paid the costs from his own pocket. Within days his web pages were attracting thousands of readers: church members, members of denominations, and the unchurched. In many cases direct communication was opened by way of electronic mail (e-mail) with those visiting this pioneering web site.
Distance means nothing on the InterNet and some of the visitors were from foreign countries. Those of us who had been waiting for something to happen were quick to cheer his efforts - someone had done it! We began to coalesce around this page to talk, get acquainted and help one another as never before. Within a few months more pages appeared. Most of them were simple in content and bore a sign reading: "Under Construction", but their appearance was encouraging. The magic of the world-wide web allows any web page to "link" to another. This means that if you find one Church of Christ web site you have found them all!
However, our enthusiasm did not bring the needed financial support for the pioneer site, nor provide an eldership to oversee it. Hundreds of questions needing careful and thoughtful answers were arriving daily with too few to answer them. Questions and criticisms arose from a few. Many of us sent our supporting words and prayers, but a heavy burden was weighing on the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of our pioneer "web masters"... What would happen? (The SPIRIT was moving!)
A brother from Albuquerque, NM, Rex Moore, approached his elders at the Netherwood Park congregation asking them to sponsor a face-to-face meeting of members of the Church of Christ to talk about how to use the InterNet for the Kingdom of God. Aware of his on-line efforts and having already agreed to financially support a portion of his on-line hours each month, they said "yes".
With the help of Christians on the InterNet, the invitation went out all over the world by electronic mail. Many responded with words of support and said they would be praying for the success of the meeting. The number who could actually travel to New Mexico was quite small. However, it appeared that a number of key InterNet brethren would be able to come, so with faith and prayer that the SPIRIT was guiding us, the Netherwood brethren went ahead with plans for the meeting.
Some may have questioned the method and timing which drove each day's activities, but there was a goal in mind. Rex realized that this might turn into just a sharing conference where everyone simply told everyone else what he was up to and tried to garner as many believers as he could in the process. This is not altogether bad, and may be built in to "On-line Ministries Conference" #2, but this phenomenon is too large and moving way too fast to have allowed these talented and committed individuals to walk away from each other as just that -- "individuals".
The goal was to form a team that could "stand in the gap" and hold the line against the power of darkness until enough other devoted Christians could be attracted and/or trained (Isaiah 6:8) so that the presence of God could be felt in every corner of this parallel universe we call CyberSpace. (The SPIRIT was moving!)
Our Shared Experiences and Goals:
Among the estimated 50 million individuals on the InterNet at the time of this conference, probably thousands are members of the Church of Christ. We are on the InterNet because of our jobs, our knowledge of computers, our curiosity, to have fun, or a combination of these. If we take time to look we find hundreds of religious groups have established a presence in CyberSpace since May of this year. God has given us an edge which we need to keep.
Each person coming in to the meeting Thursday seem to have a story of how something happened to make it possible for him to come, or how things had gone badly and almost turned him aside. Final preparations on Thursday morning had become a comedy of errors and almost miraculously began to fall into place. I think the other conferees will echo my sentiment when I say that there was the feeling that God was watching us, not "from a distance" as the popular top 40 song says, but right inside the room. (The SPIRIT was moving!)
Our First Meeting:
Five InterNet brethren arrived in Albuquerque from other states to begin this conference with the brother based in Albuquerque during the 2nd week of October, 1995. We were joined by interested members of Netherwood, including several of the sponsoring elders. At the Wednesday worship service a visiting InterNet brother presented a lesson that was to set the tone for the week's meetings: For the first time since Pentecost it is practical for members of the church to meet on a worldwide basis! We have an opportunity to use this powerful new medium for the glory of God. (The SPIRIT was moving!)
Netherwood Park brethren welcomed their visitors with open arms, providing transportation, housing, food, and serious interest in our discussions. We worked intensively each day, Thursday through Saturday. Two of the elders stayed with us for every session. Every session was punctuated with prayer and every day had a devotional.
During the first day we attempted to explain some of the technical side of the InterNet to help everyone who was interested understand the background for our discussions. Computers were available and we accessed the world-wide web to show the Church of Christ web sites belonging to two of those in attendance. After supper each evening we returned to the church building for a devotional and then continued work for several hours.
Our discussions were wide ranging and at times difficult. Difficult because we had such a huge subject to discuss in such a short time. We found it necessary to continually narrow and refocus our discussions so that we could reach some agreement on what to do as we went home. Each person with a presence on the InterNet was asked to tell of their efforts to use it for the Lord's work. The stories and exchanges were thrilling, inspiring, and helpful. We quickly came to see and appreciate the love of God and his Word in the lives of each other. We talked as only computer people can, but in the context of spiritual goals and experiences. Not unexpectedly, we did not all agree! We voiced our differences but acknowledged the merits of others ideas and approaches in a kind and truly prayerful way. (The SPIRIT was working!)
At the outset of planning for the conference was the promise that a conference report would be prepared for those who could not attend. The outline of this report was made and discussed on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. We agreed that the full report would be finished on-line and reviewed by all participants in the days after the conference. Here are some of the points of discussion where we reached a consensus:
- We do not wish in any way to supersede in the autonomy of any local congregation, or supplant the duties and responsibilities of local elders.
- We wish to serve a local eldership but support a global outreach never before possible.
- We will not act as some kind of CyberSpace brotherhood police force! We do not wish to be drawn in to disputes and divisive behavior. It is obvious to anyone with even a small measure of God's love and common sense that the InterNet is not a place to air our differences and dirty laundry.
- We wish to promote unity (prayed for by Jesus Christ, Himself as recorded in John 17:22-23), cooperation and communication among the various congregations and members at large, education, missionary support, and evangelistic outreach.
- Our primary thrust in the coming year is to recruit qualified InterNet brethren to serve on educational teams that will be available to congregations who are interested in learning more about on-line ministries and perhaps having a presence in CyberSpace for the Lord's Kingdom. These teams should be available on a nationwide basis within the year, with international teams developing as qualified volunteers are recruited.
- We want to assemble a list of existing InterNet resources that can serve as models for others to use or support (model programs, program elements, technical expertise, on-line assistance, materials, etc.). We will also include a list of needs presented to us, so that all may help in filling these needs.
- The On-line Ministries Conferees are cognizant of the need to reassemble, or rewrite, and even develop new on-line curriculum which is sensitive to needs, intellect, and usage patterns of the average InterNet user.
- A commitment was made to be supportive of correspondence courses such as World Bible School, Bible Road Map series, Family Up Reach, and other good curriculum.
- We pray for the continuing guidance of the Holy Spirit. We pray for pure hearts and loving respect for each other. We know there are many good works (and workers) for the Lord on the InterNet that we are not yet aware of, and we pray we will benefit from their input in coming months. We realize that others in the church may also be mounting InterNet planning efforts and we wish to cooperate with all who ask.
- We realize there are many dangers in CyberSpace; it is part of the world and the world is ruled by Satan. With the help of the Holy Spirit we are determined to use it for the glory of God.
- We have to face new questions arising from the nature of this new medium and we do not have all of the answers. We will make mistakes; we pray for divine guidance to overcome them.
- With the continuing support of the Netherwood Park congregation, we plan to assemble again in one year to examine our progress. (The SPIRIT is working!)
The Apostle Paul
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, . . . Philippians 2:1-5 (NKJV).
Name, Church of Christ, City, State, e-mail address
Rex D. Moore, Netherwood Park, Albuquerque, NM, email@example.com
Ray Thompson, Skillman,.Dallas, TX, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim F. Hill, Homewood, Birmingham, AL, email@example.com
Silbano Garcia, Jr., Broadview, Tamerac, FL,. firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Dolan, Abilene Missions, Abilene, TX, email@example.com
W. A. "Wes" Duncan, Highland Park, Tecumseh, KS, firstname.lastname@example.org
Other contributing attendees:
Ted Houser, Netherwood Park, Albuquerque, NM
Sam Martin, elder, Netherwood Park, Albuquerque, NM, email@example.com
Marlin Aker Sr., elder, Netherwood Park, Albuquerque, NM, firstname.lastname@example.org
In their absence:
Gary Goff, Cactus Drive (Leveland, TX), Smyer, TX
Kit Lawson, Oldham Lane, Abilene, TX, email@example.com
Marlin Aker, Jr., Netherwood Park, Albuquerque, NM, MAkerJr@flash.net
This report was prepared by Rex D. Moore
in conjunction with the OLM-Admin Group.
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