An Internet Evangelism and Cybermissions course is being developed in the School of InterCultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, USA. The course designer is John Edmiston of Cybermissions.Org. In this brief report Edmiston answers some questions about the course.
Q: What is the course called and what is its purpose?
A: The course is called MP 537 Internet Evangelism and Cybermissions and is an online course designed primarily for students (pastors and missionaries) in the Global Leadership masters degree program. However, other students may also take part in this course. It can be part of a Certificate Studies program (more on that later). It is a class in the School of Intercultural Studies (once named the School of World Mission), and is for Christians with a global mindset. The program will be missiological and is more of a strategy course than a web designer’s course, so people won’t learn any computer programming. Instead, they will learn how to minister powerfully and strategically in an online environment.
Q: When is the course running?
A: In the fall of 2005, September 20th through December 9th. The course will run for ten weeks, with an “exam week” at the end (although there will be no exam, assignments will be due at the end of the eleventh week, on December 9th).
Q: Can you describe the course a bit more fully?
A: The Internet is the place the world finds much of its information and does its private inquiry and thinking. As such, it has become a powerful communications medium for evangelism and missions. One billion people regularly seek information online, including an estimated 400 million “religion surfers.” This course will address questions such as:
- What is an appropriate missiology of Cyberspace?
- Can genuine Christian community take place in Cyberspace? If so, how can we facilitate such a community?
- What are the most practical and effective methods for Internet evangelism and Cybermissions?
- What online strategies are appropriate for different groups (such as postmodern westerners or Chinese communities in Asia)? What about people from other faiths, such as Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims?
We hope that by the end of this course the student will be able to: (1) articulate a missiological approach appropriate for Cyberspace, (2) think critically about the Internet as a communications tool in the service of the kingdom of God and (3) design a culturally aware and missional online outreach that incorporates the above insights.
Q: Is the course just for missionaries?
A: No, it’s for all Christians with a global mindset who want to reach others for Jesus. Since the Internet is a global presence, I think that this is quite appropriate. It is not a course for people who just want to minister to North Americans. You will need to be passionate about being cross-cultural and being aware of the global picture.
Q: Do you have to be a computer programmer to do the course?
A: No, not at all. You do have to be highly computer literate, and it would help if you have been an active Internet user for at least two years. However, that is not too much of a problem these days. You just have to be someone who is comfortable with computers and interested in using them to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Q. Who are the lecturers?
A: Myself and Ryan Bolger, the postmodern guru at Fuller. I do not have my Ph.D. yet so Ryan is the “professor of record” and I have to check with him to make sure everything is academically sound. I will be the online facilitator and course designer though. I have been doing Christian ministry online since 1991—back in bulletin board days before the World Wide Web. I have developed Eternity Online Magazine, the Asian Internet Bible Institute and I also now run Cybermissions.Org.
Q: Who can enroll in the course?
A: It is a postgraduate course so you have to have either a bachelor’s degree or have had significant life experience (which I cannot discuss in-depth in this article). MP537 can be taken as a regular Fuller online class. However if someone doesn’t want to pursue a degree, they can enroll in a six-subject Certificate Program. Although they can do only this one subject, they must still be part of a program of sorts.
Q. Is there a link to this course?
A: No, but the following link will provide the expanded course description for the class: www.fuller.edu/cll/dl/ecds/Fall05/MP537_OnlineECD_Fa05.pdf. Also, anyone can go to the Distance Learning Office web page for a listing of study options: www.fuller.edu/cll/dl/idlprograms.asp#certificates. They can then investigate the Certificate Program and follow the links to Fuller's Admissions office.
Q: How can people get more information about the course?
A: They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to send them a course outline and reading list. The rest has to be done through Fuller (see the links above).
Q: What impact do you think this course will have on the field of Internet Evangelism and Cybermissions?
A: Huge! The course will help to establish and validate the discipline. Once people see it in a major seminary, they will start to see Cybermissions as part and parcel of how we go about the Great Commission in the 21st century. It will make it easier for us to be recognized as more than just a “bunch of geeks.”