The Fish are still biting… online!
Mark 1:17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
The COVID-19 crisis has expanded the territory of collegiate-focused ministry from geographic campuses to cyberspace. So, how are we going to continue reaching college students with the Gospel if they’re not on campus? Here’s the good news, the same principles for evangelism and disciple-making still work online.
We may think our current circumstances are difficult, but remember, when the Apostle Paul was in prison, he said his circumstances turned out for “the greater progress of the gospel” (Phil 1:12). I’m so proud of our staff and student leaders who have already prayed with 16 students to surrender their lives to Jesus in just 14 days of “digital evangelism.”
For example, one student set up a Gospel Appointment over a digital Zoom call with her sorority sister who surrendered her life to Jesus! Another student scheduled 7 different Gospel Appointments with her friends over 2 days. Another student who shared his testimony on Tik Tok had 900 views and several people he didn’t know asked about his faith. The harvest is still plentiful and the fish are still biting… online!
At Hope Church Movement, we’ve found year after year that the fish are still biting on college campuses. Every year we engage thousands of students and 30-40% express interest in the Gospel and that statistic hasn’t changed in over 30 years. This academic year has been one of the most fruitful; we’ve prayed with 211 people to surrender to Jesus. I’m so encouraged to hear the stories from other campus ministries about how the Gospel is advancing. My friend, Paul Worcester, and his team at Chico State have prayed with over 190 to surrender to Jesus since August!
Principles never change
It’s been said, “Methods are many, principles are few. Methods may change, but principles never do.” The COVID-19 crisis has changed life as we know it and has created new opportunities for campus ministries to share the Gospel online. We’ve found that the principles of evangelism are still effective in cyberspace.
Here are 3 principles to keep in mind during times of change:
Everybody is open to the Gospel someday, and somebody is open today. Not every student will be open to the Gospel the first day we meet them. So, our approach is to meet a ton of students, make a bunch of friends and make a few disciples within every freshman class. We never know when someone will encounter a crisis, that’s why being friends with a bunch of students is so important. Who would’ve thought the whole world would be in a collective crisis at the same time? More people are open to the Gospel with more time to connect than ever before.
1 Corinthians 16:9 “…for a wide door for effective service has opened to me…”
Everyone is called to be a witness. No matter what their current major or future career plans, all students are called to make the Great Commission their mission. The Great Commission isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command. We’re all called to be witnesses regardless of our spiritual gifts, stage of life or current circumstances.
Mathew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…”
Every student should be equipped to share their story and the Gospel story. There’s an old proverb that says, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for life.” We highly value equipping students to share their story and the Gospel story. We’ve developed a training to equip students to share their story and the Gospel story. Thankfully, we’re not alone in this, others in the body of Christ have blessed us with some great evangelism training. We train students to use the SALT method developed by Rice Broocks to start conversations with their peers and we also use Paul Worcester’s Gospel Appointment method to set up times to clarify the Gospel. In these appointments, students can use the Gospel Story Tool we’ve developed. We have more students sharing their story and the Gospel story with friends than ever before, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s been such a fruitful year of ministry.
Best Practices for Fishing Online
Even though the principles of evangelism and disciple-making have stayed the same, the methods have changed radically for all of us in the last few weeks. Here are some best practices we’ve discovered so far:
Social Media Stories. Students are recording and sharing their 2-3 minute stories over various social media platforms (Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook).
Sharing the Gospel with Peers. Students are also sharing their testimonies and the Gospel story directly with their friends over phone calls and FaceTime. One resource we’re using is the Gospel Story.
Online Hangouts. Throughout the week, we’re doing large online hangouts through Zoom. We play games (like JackboxTV, Scavenger Hunt Bingo, Netflix parties), to get to know each other and have fun. Also, our team posts their weekly schedule of online events on social media to let students know what to look forward to.
Digital Connect Groups. We aren’t giving up face-to-face connections so we’re hosting Connect Groups and Bible studies throughout the week on Zoom.
Online Church Services. We’re gathering on Sunday morning Zoom calls to watch our online service together. Students are inviting friends and family to join and by the grace of God, we’ve had some of our highest engagement in recent years!
With all the technology available, now is the time to see a surge in creativity to advance the Gospel. Imagine if the early church had Zoom, they wouldn’t have had to walk so much. The internet has removed the barriers of distance and travel from the Great Commission. We can have a video call with someone across the world without leaving our home and we should because the fish are still biting… online!
For over 30 years, Pastor Brian Smith and his wife, Wendy have been clarifying the Gospel for thousands of college students across America. Brian is the founder of the Campus Changer Network and the Senior Pastor of Hope Church Movement, a collegiate-focused church planting movement that helps people find and follow Jesus, discover their design, and live on mission. They have 5 sites that are reaching 10 college campuses in Arizona and Nevada.