|Religious Web sites prove popular
With pastors, public
October 5, 2002KIM ROBERTS,
World-Herald Staff Writer
Creighton University's online ministry, for example, has provided spiritual materials for a western Nebraska rancher who lives 80 miles from the nearest town, a man waiting in a Singapore train station and a woman in Kuwait who could be arrested for physically possessing Christian materials.
It also brings together people separated by thousands of miles who otherwise never could have had fellowship with each other. Creighton offers an online spiritual retreat, one of its most popular ministries, that links Internet users in the United States with those in Scotland, South Africa, Finland and other countries.
"It is amazing that something as technical as a computer is bringing people together in prayer," said Maureen McCann Waldron, associate director of Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry (www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/online.html).
Many churches also are going online to tap into this new mission field.
Omaha Bible Church near 108th Street and West Maple Road began an online ministry nearly four years ago. Today the site (www.omahabiblechurch.org) receives more than 7,000 hits each week from people wanting to listen to online sermons, learn how to become a Christian and take adult Bible studies.
"A lot of members have mentioned the Web site as helping them become interested in coming to our church," said Karen Rogers, the Web site's ministry leader.
Flanagan posts his sermons online and even e-mails them to a group of about 200.
But while clergy laud the Internet as a valuable communication tool, all who were interviewed said virtual church will never be able to minister to most people as effectively as a physical church could.
"The one-on-one fellowship you have with people, that's just not there online," Flanagan said. "That's absolutely necessary in terms of accountability and the growth of one's faith."