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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Evangelicals ahead on the Web

Evangelicals dominate the Web, and they're using it better than mainline Christians, says Mark U. Edwards Jr., president emeritus of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., software developer and former Harvard Divinity School church historian.

Citing sites such as www.belief.net and www.christianitytoday.com, Edwards estimates that evangelicals account for as much as 80 percent of the Christian presence on the Internet. But, he says, "the Web is growing so fast that the percentages vary all the time."

What can mainline Christians learn from evangelicals? "One of the most practical things is you have to know your audience and reach that person where he or she is," Edwards says.

He encourages Lutherans to use the Web in ways consistent with their theology. Although Lutheranism doesn't lend itself to Web worship (for example, an online congregation can't commune), it still has much to offer.

Edwards suggests that counseling, Bible study and prayer circles can be put online. He says www.fishersnet.net, a product of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., is an online catechismal tool that's "fully consistent with Lutheran theology."

Edwards says the church must make use of the way people gather information, which, on the Web, is visually. "God will use whatever means God wants to convey God's message," he says. "If the church wants to be a mission in that outreach, it has to think about becoming more visual. Most people don't read on the Web. The church has to think about how the word is conveyed."


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