Media & Press Media - Text

[PRESS RELEASE] Revamped website shows people can come to faith online


People can come to faith while sitting at their computer screens but not by stumbling upon Bible verses quoted out of context, mission workers were told this week during the re-launch of a unique website that answers people’s questions about the Christian faith.

Every month, thousands of people look for answers to questions about Christianity on – from what do Christians believe about homosexuality to can I have my baby Christened? – demonstrating an appetite to know more. Many of them use the website to get in touch with the Christian Enquiry Agency for personal answers to individual questions.

British adults are more likely to be internet-literate than knowledgeable about the Bible, so churches must engage online as this is the place where seekers are found.

Research from the Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report 2014 showed 83 per cent of adults now go online using any type of device in any location and nearly all (98 per cent) aged between 16 and 34 are online.

But it’s not just the young ones – there has been a nine percentage point increase in those aged 65-plus going online – up to 42 per cent.

At the other end of the computer screen, answering people’s questions and replying to people’s comments is Peter Graystone, co-ordinator of the Christian Enquiry Agency, which runs the website.

He said: “I am staggered at what people tell me about their spiritual thoughts behind the privacy of a computer screen. The longing for faith and meaning hasn’t gone away. People who would never walk into a church on a Sunday morning to find answers will readily look for them in a search engine at midnight on a Friday.

“We always give people what they ask for, and nothing more than that. But if their question is, ‘Does praying ever work?’ it begins a conversation that might continue by email for months. And when we share our experience, Jesus makes himself known. In the goodness of God, people are coming to real faith online in a way I would not have thought possible some years ago.

Speaking at the launch of the revamped website, Gavin Calver – on his first day as director of mission at the Evangelical Alliance – said there is a clear need for Christians to engage with the cultural contexts in which they live in order to draw people towards God. “We need to re-imagine our style,” he said. “The substance doesn’t change, but the method has to. We need to change the method in order that people can hear us. We need to tell Jesus stories in a world that wants to hear them.

“A lot of us lock ourselves away in the Church and speak a language only the Church speaks, so when we encounter people who don’t know Jesus, we find it hard to relate to them. We need a more incarnational form of ministry at times that gets in among people.”

Dr Bex Lewis, research fellow in social media and online learning at CODEC, St John’s College Durham, warned of the potential dangers of Christians bombarding their social media contacts with Bible verses without any context, but encouraged people to form real, in-depth relationships.

“Social media is about relationships,” she said. “How do we encourage people to make those online relationships real? A lot of social media is about getting to know people and finding a starting point for conversation. A huge amount of it is listening. It’s not just about pushing content out.”

In 2014, there were more than 300,000 views of the website, with visitors ranging from school pupils wanting help with their religious education homework, to people who felt depressed and needed a listening ear, to those who are opposed to Christianity.

Peter Graystone added: “Just write on the bottom of posters, emails or anything that is read by people beyond the walls of a church. It’s so easy, and it’s free. We’ll do all the rest.”

To find out more about how churches can support this ministry, visit

About the Christian Enquiry Agency (who provided press release)

The Christian Enquiry Agency is an agency of Churches Together in England and a charitable company limited by guarantee (charity number 1152730, company number 8302274).  CEA works on behalf of all the major UK churches, and in partnership with many Christian organisations. The work of the Christian Enquiry Agency is entirely dependent on donations and grants. The patrons of CEA are Lord Alton of Liverpool and Archbishop John Sentamu.   The day to day work is overseen by the Church Army and the Deo Gloria Trust from offices in Croydon, South London, England.

NOTE: Read more in The Church Times.

Digital Life(style)

acts435 // charity

Acts 435: The Charity

Acts 435 is designed to help us fulfil Christ’s calling and give to those in need. I hope and pray that it will be a wonderful blessing to those on the receiving end of these gifts of love. May it also be a source of joy to the donors as they see the immediate impact of their generosity on those struggling to make ends meet.”
Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, Patron of Acts 435

Acts 435 is a Christian Charity to bring immediate help to people in financial need. It works by matching up those who want to give with those in need. The website, which initially served only Yorkshire, went national on 17th August. The site is also on Twitter and Facebook. A great example of the way that social media can offer practical help – this really is a good news story for social media… and all those who’ve been helped by making connections that wouldn’t have happened before.

Acts 4:35 (The Message)

34-35And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need. (Via @biblegateway)

Digital Event

I make an appearance at 2.26 for about 10 seconds… I love the idea of,a network founded last year for Christians and others who work in media. It is hosted by the Church and Media Network, who host the annual conference in Swanwick (always smack bang in the middle of marking time, but I find it such an inspiring event!). Encourage young Christians you know to apply for one of 16 places on the MediaNet Academy, which I attended in 2007, which led to an invitation to ‘Christianity in the Digital Space‘, which has led to great contacts and currently some interesting discussions about possible projects.

“TheMediaNet is a broad-based community. People come here from all sorts of backgrounds and faith traditions. They may hold different views on issues that you feel strongly about, and they may express themselves in different ways to you. We view this positively.” Core Values for Participation (PDF).

There’s now over 300 people on the site, and some great content, contacts and job opportunities floating around. The list illustrates membership backwards… and I was only the 8th person on the site… ahead of the crowd, that’s me, clearly!

Academic Digital Event

Brief Reflection on Conference/Event Blogging/Social Media

BlogI’ve had some interesting experiences at recent conferences (reverse chronological order, although I also wrote the most recent last)!

JISC E-Learning Fair
My iPhone was still awaiting repair/replacement, and as there was a £15 fee to use the wireless, I decided I’d stick with pen and paper, but when it then took quite some time to sort through the information and reproduce a blog, I’m thinking a Netbook may be the way forward other events. As I only have 7.5 hours a week to work on Blended Learning (although I invariably do more), got to conserve the time for working on new ideas, although clearly the dissemination of such information is important!

Why I Study History
PowerPoint was banned at this session, which was intended to be as responsive as possible, but I did write a few notes, and not too long after the event adapted those notes to integrate some of the discussion we’d had afterwards, and posted onto my WW2 Poster blog..

Men at War/Framing Film
Again, at these conferences I was armed only with a notebook. Neither conference was set up for Twitter, so it wasn’t a question there. In giving my paper, I had access to a presentation remote control, and this makes such a difference to presentation – allowing more flexibility, and more engagement with the audience. As to blogging however, I’d blogged BEFORE each conference, which generated a lot of interest (judging by my hit counter), bit I still haven’t got round to putting elements of my paper online, even though I could easily upload  the PowerPoints to Slideshare, and maybe even just cut and paste my notes (yes, I did use PPT, but I didn’t have a fixed script).

Attended Greenbelt after the previous couple of events. I’d maintained contact with a number of people from those events via Twitter, Facebook, blog comments, etc., and it was a great chance to meet up with a number of people face-to-face again, and to have a clearer idea of which elements of the event to attend. Greenbelt experimented with an iPhone app for the first time, with around 300-400 users paying around £4 each (rather than £8 for a paper programme), in which you could favourite particular sessions. Only drawback with this was that the battery kept running out, and keeping it charged was either expensive (there was a place to recharge phones) or time-consuming in trying to find a plug socket not in use by someone else/combined with a session you’re interested in! So all my notes, again, were on paper, although I did send out a number of Twitpics from the event (don’t do this overseas, I tried a few from Twitterfon/Echofon, and it downloaded all my tweets as well – my bill for a couple of weeks abroad was about £200!)

Christianity in the Digital Space
At “Christianity in the Digital Space“, I came armed with… a notebook and my iPhone for the first session! Everyone else was hunkered down behind their laptops, and my phone, under the strain of so much Twittering, ran out of battery before the morning was up! After lunch, therefore, I returned with my laptop/partially charged iPhone, and joined the general melee for a power socket! We talked about the experience of constantly Tweeting (and other online interactions) whilst someone was giving a paper. Most presenters were quite happy with this, as they were the ones Tweeting when not presenting (even I didn’t manage both!), and the exceptionally brave ones kept an eye on the Twitterfall, and interacted with it.

Churches Media Council Conference
Once I overcame logging into the wireless network (there was no phone signal really to speak of), I had a great time Twittering about the event, along with a number of others, and having mini-tweet-ups, including meeting those I’d met before the event in person (always great – see, that’s why I talk BLENDED, not E-LEARNING). The event is quite rammed, and unlike many, I didn’t have a netbook, so tried to blog in the evening, but only managed a short entry on the first evening (trying to get agreement on a hashtag, and promoting the use of a Twitterfall – not quite this year, but it’ll be there next year), whilst it took a bit longer for the second entry, which was more of an overview of an event, and links across to others who had participated at the event.

Digital Life(style)

Christianity in the Digital Space

With 2 minutes warning, giving a 5 minute summary of an hour’s conversation on “Creating Community” at the Christianity in Digital Space Conference, University of Durham, July 2009. A really interesting conference, with lots of new and creative ideas flowing.