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The Internet Ministry Program: Pioneering A Virtual Ministry

ARTHE INTERNET MINISTRY PROGRAM: PIONEERING A VIRTUAL MINISTRY

The Bible speaks about the true gospel being spread "to every nation, tribe, language, and people.”

When you read this just ten years ago, you may have thought that the Bible was only speaking figuratively. How would it be possible for the true gospel to be spread to every person on earth?

Even if we emptied the church’s coffers to purchase advertising on every television station on earth, we could perhaps reach only millions of people at a time, and only with a message of only a few seconds.

In 1990, the World Wide Web was invented. And suddenly, the prospect of reaching every nation, tribe, language, and people was not so outlandish.


As of 2002, over 350 countries have their own “country codes” (examples of “country codes” include “.jp” for Japan, “.tw” for Taiwan, “.kr” for Korea, etc.). This is literally “every nation and tribe”.

As of 2002, the Internet supports every major language on earth, from English to Chinese, from Japanese to Spanish. Literally, “every language”.

As of 2002, the Internet had 619 million users around the world. The total amount of users is projected to be over 1 billion by 2005, and growing.

Never before in history has there been such an opportunity to reach out to so many with the true gospel.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TRUE JESUS CHURCH ON THE INTERNET

Thank God, at the same time businesses around the world were establishing their presence on the World Wide Web, there were individual brothers and sisters around the world who helped put up the first True Jesus Church Web sites.

In 1998, the International Assembly (IA) put up its first official Web site on www.tjc.org. While it was a fairly simple site, praise God, the results were immediate. Among some of the “success stories” of the Web site:

• •
Web logs indicate that we have received hits from the following countries: United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Canada, Taiwan, Malaysia, Australia, Philippines, China, Indonesia, Netherlands, Korea, New Zealand, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Poland, Ghana, Chile, Qatar, Iran, India, Sweden, Estonia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and more.

On average, we receive approximately 4000 visitors to the site every month.

Many churches reported converts who first were exposed to the true gospel on the Internet.
o
A Presbyterian minister in Korea (minister for over 30 years) sent an inquiry to inquire as to why we believe we must be baptized in Jesus’ name. After reading the publications and response from the church, he visited one of the churches in Korea and has been baptized into the body of Christ.
o
A newly baptized brother in the United States found tjc.org after earnestly seeking the truth from over 100 Web sites.
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An entire church in the Philippines was converted to the True Jesus Church after reading about the true gospel online.
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An entire family in the United States decided to be baptized after hearing about the gospel on the Internet.
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There are many more accounts.

Our church has been invited to speak at places from Mozambique to the Congo to Nepal.

While these early successes are encouraging, they are only the beginning.

SETTING THE FOUNDATION FOR THE CHURCH’S GLOBAL INTERNET WORK

In 2000, the IA formed the Internet Ministry Program (IMP). From 2000-2002, the IMP set out to lay the foundation for the church’s global Internet work. In particular, it developed the following:


New Global Infrastructure: the IA now has networking and Web hosting equipment that is powerful enough to host Web sites for every country in the world.
o
In other words, rather than spend precious resources paying hosting providers, buying equipment, etc., the precious resources of each general assembly (GA) and church may be spent on the ministry itself.
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Content Management System: In 2001, the IMP built a content management tool that could be used to put up a single Web site. The IMP is now in the final stages of putting together a global content management system that can be used to put up and manage multiple Web sites anywhere around the world.
o
This will allow any GA or local church around the world to set up Web sites that anyone with or without technical expertise may manage and update.
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This way, rather than spending their time putting up HTML pages, technical experts in each country can spend their valuable time doing other things, such as building advanced tools.
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The Community Outreach Volunteer Program: This is a program that will coordinate volunteers around the world to answer inquiries that come in through the Web site.
o
The IMP is working on training manuals and a turnkey solution that any GA around the world will be able to use to implement a COV program in their own country.
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Tools were developed or purchased. The IMP’s goal is to develop or purchase a library of tools that eventually may be leveraged by any country around the world to support their own Web ministries. Currently, the IMP has such tools as:
o
Web reporting tools
o
an online shopping cart
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customer relationship management software

WHAT’S NEXT?

Now that a foundation has been established, the IMP has identified the following as priorities for the church’s worldwide mission:


• Establish working relationship with worldwide Web teams. Currently, the IMP and the Web teams around the world have not established a formal working relationship. It is our hope that during the global workshops and following the World Delegates Conference in 2003, we can begin to set these things in place:
o o
Establish regular communication with Web teams around the world.
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Establish organizational and governance structure that allows for clear decision-making and for a systematic way to collaborate on global projects
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Establish processes and procedures
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Establish standards and practices
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Establish “libraries” of common tools and services
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Begin to consolidate technical infrastructure

Once communication is established, the following will be global priorities, to be implemented in collaboration with the Web teams around the world:

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A single, global Web experience that focuses on Worldwide Evangelism and creating awareness for the truth. Evangelism is the number one priority for the worldwide church. We need to begin a unified and coordinated approach to preaching the true gospel worldwide. Imagine for a moment if there was a single Web site that presented the true gospel simply but powerfully. Users could view it in any language, from English to Chinese, from French to Japanese, from Korean to Spanish. Users in any country could read effective and friendly articles about the doctrines of the church, as well as testimonies from around the world. They could look up a local church, or submit an inquiry that would be answered in a short time. While many churches and the IA itself have put up Web sites, the true potential of the True Jesus Church on the Internet cannot be realized until churches around the world can work together, and ensure that our Web ministry is meeting the needs of people around the world. The IMP will support the worldwide churches by providing the following:

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Research, testing, and working closely with ministers to determine the optimal Web experience that will meet the needs of non-believers.
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Consistent, professionally designed templates to use, so that each country does not need to recreate its own design and navigation.
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A global content management system so that we may share content across countries, and a Web team may, at their discretion, delegate content to anyone—including non-technical people.
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Initial set of evangelical content that may be used as-is, adapted, or translated.
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Hosting on IA Web servers.

Documentation and training on all of the above.

A Worldwide Community Outreach Volunteer Program. God willing, with the deployment of the Web experience mentioned above, the Web site will see an increase in inquiries. GAs around the world should begin to prepare to not only answer inquiries through e-mail, but also work with their local churches in case inquirers wish a personal visit or to come to a local service in person. The IMP will help all countries form teams to help the world systematically manage e-mail inquiries that come in to the Web site and communicate with other COV programs around the world as necessary. The IMP will provide the following:

o
A global customer relationship management tool. This tool will allow
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Training and Documentation, including a Training Manual and Policies and Procedures Manual that individual GAs can use to establish COV programs in their countries.
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A global knowledge base/digital library. This tool is meant to be a powerful, global resource that anyone can use for research or to find resources helpful in preparing sermons, training, and pastoral work, or literary work. The tool will simultaneously be a digital storehouse for the vast amount of True Jesus Church’s worldwide publications and audio/video, providing a central storage place, as well as allowing easy access to anyone around the world. The IMP will provide the following:

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The Digital Library itself, which workers and members around the world can use for personal research, study, or worship.
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Training and Documentation on how to help input new publications, audio/video, and more into the Digital Library from around the world.
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Future projects: While the priorities mentioned above will be the priority for the global Internet ministry for 2003, the next steps following successful deployment will be to work with the international community on other Web experiences and tools, including:

o
New Web experiences to support members: one major long-term goal is to enable any local church around the world that can use the content management system to put up its own Web site to support its members with local information, news, and schedules. With content management, each church’s site can be consistent with every other local church in the world, but not lose its own uniqueness and individuality.
o
New tools to help members and workers throughout the world, such as bulletin boards, groupware.
o
In the very long term future, we hope that the Internet Ministry can grow to support such concepts as:

Distance Learning: The ability to simulcast training and seminars around the world live to support members who live in remote areas, non-believers and friends, etc.
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Online Ministers: Full-time ministers concentrating on providing counseling, evangelical support, and spiritual guidance online.
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More, as the Lord leads.

HOW IS IMP EXPECTING ALL GENERAL ASSEMBLIES TO BE INVOLVED

The fields are indeed ripe for harvest. There is so much potential for the Internet ministry worldwide. But we will not be able to realize this potential until every GA and local church in the world communicates with each other and works in one accord. The following are what is expected from each GA:

1)

2003 IMP Workshop: Every GA and/or country should send a delegate to the IMP Workshop in Taiwan immediately preceding the 2003 World Delegate’s Conference. This delegate should ideally be the person responsible for the overall Internet ministry in his country, and be someone who can communicate the results of the workshop with the Web team. During the Workshop and the WDC, each delegate should carefully review all the proposals and plans presented, and understand how his country or GA fits into the big picture.

2)

Form Internet Teams: If it has not done so already, each GA should form official Internet teams that can work closely with the IMP. In particular, each GA should identify members to be willing to volunteer their time and expertise in the following areas:

a.
Writing
b.
Counseling and evangelism through e-mail (COV)
c.
Graphic Design
d.
Technical Development
e.
Project Management
3)

Communication and Collaboration: As mentioned above, after the WDC in March, we will establish several channels of communication between the IMP and the International Teams. As mentioned above, it is our hope that we can work together on the immediate projects listed above, plus ensure consistency and unity going forward.

4)

Donations and Funding: The Internet Ministry Program depends on contributions from members around the world. We are at the very nascent stages of the Internet ministry. The ministry needs to continue to build up a powerful infrastructure and tools that can support the world’s needs. Funds are needed to support global advertising and marketing efforts so we can spread the word about our Web experiences widely. Each GA should stress the importance of the Internet Ministry to their members, and solicit donations to support the ongoing ministry.


Publisher: True Jesus Church
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