Digital ministry sees rise in conversions, questions about faith amid COVID-19

Photo: Unsplash/Brooke Cagle
Photo: Unsplash/Brooke Cagle

NASHVILLE — Global Media Outreach, a digital ministry that specializes in online evangelism, has seen an unprecedented rise in conversions and inquiries about faith, God and the Bible due to heightened anxiety and fear levels associated with the coronavirus. 

In a statement made available to The Christian Post, Global Media Outreach Founder and Chairman Walt Wilson revealed that Google searches about fears around the virus, uncertain finances, and employment are “growing rapidly.”

“Fear is a natural response to a situation like this that none of us have encountered before,” he said. “What we’re seeing is millions of people open to talking about faith in the face of fear, and we’re ramping up to be available for them."

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GMO reaches individuals around the world with the hope of the Gospel through the internet, mobile, and a proprietary, secure messaging system.

“It’s a great way to do evangelism because 97% of the world has access to an internet or satellite signal,” President Jeff Gowler told CP. “So with the proliferation of smartphones and mobile devices, literally anybody on the planet can be reached.”

“We attract this huge audience every single day. People are searching all types of questions and then we address that question. In that context, we present the Gospel.”

Founded in 2004, the organization has reached close to 2 billion people worldwide and seen more than 223 million respond positively to a message of faith and hope in Jesus. Of these, an average of 60,000 will indicate they have received Jesus and approximately 10,000 will ask for more information.

The mission of the ministry is simple: To share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone on earth.

“Over a decade ago, Walt Wilson felt like the Holy Spirit was saying, ‘Use this new technology called the World Wide Web to reach the world for Christ,’” Gowler recalled. “Remember, this was a time when no one was doing that. The internet wasn't even being used for evangelism. And he felt like the Holy Spirit just came over and said, ‘I want you to use this for eternal purpose, to actually go out and tell people about me through the worldwide web, through the internet.'”

With the outbreak of COVID-19, the demand for spiritual encouragement and guidance is higher than ever. In recent weeks, GMO has gone from reaching 350,000 people per day to upwards of 500,000 globally.

“We're not going out and asking people, ‘Do you want to know about Jesus?’” Director John Thompson told CP. “People are coming to us saying, 'I need hope. Where can I find hope in the face of tragedy, anxiety, bankruptcy, whatever?' When people are in pain, we offer encouragement and hope. They’re coming to us, looking for answers, and so we get great receptivity.”

GMO has 3,500 online volunteers, speaking 50 different languages, who answer questions all over the globe and pray for and guide new believers on their spiritual journey.

Because of its safe and anonymous system, GMO is able to minister in hard-to-reach areas like China, India, and predominantly Islamic countries. 

“We actually got kicked out of China once. [Officials] discovered what we were doing,” Thompson said. “We were able to get back to China because one of our partners has a business license and can actually legitimately work there. When we tried to share the Good News of Jesus through our typical channels, we were blocked. But because we’re working with a partner there, we’re actually able to share Jesus directly using the internet. We’re reaching thousands of people a day right now.”

The ministry’s work doesn’t end with the Gospel message. Discipleship is also a key element of the ministry, Gowler said, revealing that once an individual responds positively to the message of salvation, they receive support to grow in their faith and are connected with a local church or Christian community.

Thompson explained, “It’s a simple four-steps: There’s a presentation of the Gospel that ends with a prayer, and then the question 'Would you like to pray this prayer to receive Christ?' From there, they’re given the opportunity to share their contact information. We put them in contact with one of the online missionaries, who then communicate with them, disciple them, and ask them specifically ‘Did you understand the prayer you prayed? Is that really the desire of your heart?’ And that begins the journey of discipleship that often goes on for years.”

“Oftentimes, what starts as a simple Gospel presentation, the opportunity for hope and to know Jesus, turns into a personal relationship with an online missionary as well.” 

The organization also offers a free Bible download, available in 1,800 languages, to those seeking further spiritual guidance. Gowler shared how GMO's outreach radically changed the life of Rashidi, a Muslim living in Nigeria. Curious about the Christian faith, Rashidi began to search for answers online and soon discovered one of GMO's Arabic websites.

“He started reading the Word of God and engaged one of our online missionaries in conversation," Gowler shared. "Over a period of time, he built up trust with this missionary, and the Holy Spirit began working in his life and he prayed to accept Christ.”

“Now, talk about a cost in a society where your entire livelihood is tied around your religious belief and leadership. His conversion not only cost him his job but they came after his family to kill him and to kill them. And eventually, they were able to escape to another country, all with the guidance and support of our online missionaries.”

“God is working,” he added. “It’s just one piece of amazing evidence of what God is able to do in the lives of people, particularly that are willing to seek Him, through the internet.” 

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