why being a lifesaver online matters

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
~ II Corinthians 6:2, NIV

We’ve challenged you to pay attention to others who may be hurting online—to see the “post behind the post” and the “tweet behind the tweet.” Still, you may not be confident that if you reach out that you could in fact be  a lifesaver for another person. You might be asking yourself right now, “Me? A source of hope? Can God really use me to change the course of a person’s life?”

Here’s a powerful story about someone who did just that . . .

In our book, @stickyJesus: how to live your faith out online, we tell the stories of people intentional about reaching out and making a Kingdom impact in their social networks. Here’s one of those stories from our good friend,  Pastor Richie Underhill, who is an area director with Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Richie’s story

Richie Underhill, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, evangelism online, sharing Jesus

Pastor Richie Underhill

When I created an account on Facebook, as a pastor, I immediately realized the possibilities of ministry. I was able to see faces, words, updates . . . and a field white for harvest. God had put people in my path from my past and my present and had allowed me incredible—and what I viewed as divine—access into so many remarkable hearts and minds. Some people see mere updates, tweets, or posts, but I see something entirely different.

Direct Message: “Help is on the way.”

For months I loved getting reacquainted, listening, and responding to old and new friends. After several months of building and rebuilding relationships online, someone I had known in high school posted a very dark, ominous statement in her status update. Having served as a corporate chaplain for eight years, I knew this situation could get very serious, very quickly. So I immediately sent her a private message on Facebook and put in the subject line: “Help is on the way.” I then wrote in the body of the message: “Hey, Katie [name has been changed] call me anytime . . . I mean it . . . I have a lot of experience dealing with these issues . . . take me up on my offer!”

She responded within an hour, telling me thanks but I would not understand. She also said that she felt awkward because she had known me in her past and had trouble seeing me as a minister. However, one advantage of online ministry is the ability to express and share a bit more freely and quickly than a face-to-face encounter.

In this case, being online was on my side. After some reassuring dialogue, Katie felt safe enough to give me a chance to help her and began to share her situation. She revealed that her husband had recently caught her in multiple cybersex relationships and wanted to end their marriage immediately. She felt her life was over, and she could no longer live with the consequences of her actions. She was in a desperate state of mind. That intense conversation turned into six solid days of dialogue via Facebook direct messages, resulting in renewed hope in a very troubled woman.

consistency + honest dialogue = hope

By God’s grace and a consistently transparent online dialogue, Katie and her husband are still together, and she is making daily progress desiring to know the Savior who died for her.

Other situations arise on Facebook that look fairly casual but evolve to something deeper. Jesus called His followers to be fishers of men, so quite often I go fishing on Facebook. I really do care about the people in my online communities, and I’m constantly looking for ways to share the hope of Christ that possesses my own heart.

Post/Tweet this:
God has called you and equipped you. You are more than qualified. Today is the day of salvation. Are you ready? #LiveSticky.

Have you had an opportunity to reach out and share Christ with anyone online? What counsel can you give others seeking to do the same?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/bj4wood Brian Forwood

    This is great. It is confirmation of what I hoped Facebook potential could be.

  • Tami Heim

    Thanks Brian – it is amazing what God is doing through His people in this time and in this place. Be encouraged!

  • http://findinggodinchaos.wordpress.com/ Sharon Hughes Leitz

    I recently came across your name and blogs when I looked up info for the Women of Faith convention that I am planning on attending in Sept in Phila. I recently started a blog discussing my struggles to find God daily in the struggles I have with bipolar disorder. It took me a long time to finally decide to start the blog because of my fears of putting myself out on display. The idea of being so vulnerable scared me to death. My goal in wanting to write it was to help the many other Christian women who suffer from mental darkness in silence. God finally convinced me to write and I am so glad that I started. Having people email me and tell me how much it helped to hear that they weren’t alone made it all worth it. I am looking forward to being encouraged with more of your blogs and tweets. Looking forward to seeing you in Sept!
    God Bless!

  • http://twitter.com/GordonMarcy Gordon Marcy

    As an online missionary for Global Media Outreach, every day I have the privilege of being in contact with people from all over the world, more than 50 countries so far.

    Three things I’d say to anyone considering online ministry is 1) There are more than 2 million spiritual searches on Google every day. You’re urgently needed. 2) Anyone can do it. It takes very little time. 3) The ministry is two-way. You’ll be blessed.

    Dan (name changed) from Kampala, Uganda recently wrote and asked me to pray that he would be completely delivered from the residual effects of a porn addiction.

    Dan’s desire now is to have a “renewed relationship with Jesus and a return to ministry with no attachment to sin.” Dan’s experienced great loss because of his problem, but has the humility to say, “I thank Jesus for bringing me back home.”

    Dan’s transparency is a reminder to be thankful for the work of the Good Shepherd in my own life.

  • Anonymous

    Keep that heart Brian — so awesome to be “in such a time as this” with you. Blessings!

  • Anonymous

    Keep that heart Brian — so awesome to be “in such a time as this” with you. Blessings!

  • Anonymous

    Gordon – I love your heart for online global missions AND love this post would you guest post for us? Even this comment you wrote would be amazing w/ a link to GMO? I did enjoy your last post on GMO though. You are truly a digital scribe and we are inspired by what God has deposited in you, my friend!

  • Anonymous

    Sharon – you’ve captured my heart with this post and your site (http://findinggodinchaos.wordpress.com/) Your courage to put your mental health struggles in the spotlight as a Christian is amazing. Isolation. Depression. Darkness. ALL are the things the church SHOULD be talking about—openly. I’m in your chaos club and I love you. I’ve bookmarked your site & will return often to see what other amazing things you are “getting real” about. I know you have the potential to help millions—if they dare walk the road of healing that you are on! You keep writing because God is singing over you, my sweet sister. :)

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I’ve had opportunities to reach out and share Christ with people online. They come almost every day.

    Some advice that I’d give to people seeking to do the same comes as the result of experience. Along with knowing that God has equipped you to be a lifesaver, you must also know your limitations. There are times, despite being a minister & counselor, that I’ve referred people to others (typically within a network of fellow ministers/counselors/coaches) once the situation has been accessed and hope was revived. God has gifted each one of us. Some of us are more qualified and experienced in certain areas. It is important, if effective ministry is the goal, to know both your strengths and limitations. Build a network of Christians and don’t be afraid to introduce someone who is hurting to another person if you feel led.

    I also recommend that when at all possible to try to move past tweets, status updates, etc. to a more personal encounter. If they are out of state than use Skype or video chat…or a cell phone. And by all means, if they are nearby, establish face-to-face contact. Again, from experience, things aren’t always as they seem. Having the ability to see hear voices and or see faces can only enhance the opportunity especially if a period of time is necessary. Most often it is.

    It is essential, as you ladies have said time and time again, to be led by the Spirit. I’ve found out the hard way that if we react to things rather than responding to the promptings of God we can get into messes. Always be seeking His plan and counsel when seeking to share Him with others.

  • Vivian Gomez

    Praise God Toni!! This is exactly why i joined FB too. However, I havent been on for the past two weeks as I am “fasting” from FB ;o). I decided to fast from FB in order to focus on a study I am giving to our youth group this Friday on the sin – “Lust”. But now i wonder what opportunities i have missed from friends “posts behind the posts”… :) its all for a purpose, and so i ask for prayer for my study this Fri and that the Lord speaks thru me to deliver the “good news” to them!

    The peace of Christ be with each of you!!

  • http://findinggodinchaos.wordpress.com/ Sharon Hughes Leitz

    Thank you so so much for your comment! It means a lot to me that someone can read about my struggles and see how God can and does work through them. I hope that there are others that will be helped by reading what I write.
    Thanks again and God Bless!

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org Paul Steinbrueck

    Thanks for sharing Richie’s story!

  • Anonymous

    Melinda — I’m sending you a huge cyber bear hug. Your wisdom in this area is so critical as we represent God’s Truth online and NOT our own! To work as the body (all parts gifted and well-oiled) is God’s idea of His bride and SO important as we speak hope into another person’s life!

    Humility in admitting what you DO and DO NOT know is critical. We can escort or obstruct another person’s path toward Salvation if we have a blurred idea of who we are and what we are capable of.

    You are amazing. I know evangelism & counseling are not skill sets for you but a lifestyle. Bless you sister as you move and speak in the Spirit online! xooxoxoxox

  • Anonymous

    Hey – why didn’t we go to lunch more often when I worked at Disney — our hearts sure do tango to the same tune! I’m so happy you came by and commented today Vivian. I’ll be praying for you as you minister to your youth at church. Our book is becoming a great tool for youth pastors who want to teach teens how to follow Christ in social networks.

    Bless you sis!

  • Anonymous

    A joy to share Paul – Richie and I went to high school together and were responsible for just about every “decent” party that was thrown between 1982-1984. See what God can do with even the most unruly misfits? Thanking God for scooping us up and reuniting our ministries at this juncture! God’s so gooooooood like that!

  • Anonymous

    We write of His glory because He’s lovingly (and eternally) writing our story! (Had to throw in some poetry in honor of our shared ‘writer’ bond Sharon).

  • Vivian Gomez

    Toni!! i know i know i know!! well since you moved so far away, we shall continue to tango online my dear friend…

    i love your posts please keep them coming and i will definitely need to get a copy of your book to assist with our youth as that is something that we are beginning to focus on with them. the dangers, etc and just how to turn those negative efforts into something positive for God!

    Thank you Toni & may the Lord continue to bless your ministry! <3

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  • Brian Forwood

    I just “happened” upon this sight Toni and got entirely different search results I think I might have to set up a parallel web page to my Google account and see what God does with it
    Rgds Bj