Rev D. M. Boyd, Inverness
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark 16:15.
RECENT Synod Reports have referred to the Church’s intention to establish a presence on the Internet. The Magazines Committee has asked the Outreach Committee to explain briefly to the readers of this Magazine what the Internet is, and why it is of use to the Church.
The younger generation needs little explanation as they learn about computers and the Internet in school, but many of the older generation are confused by the new language which is used in the computer world. Some of them are also wary about computers when they learn about bad uses to which they can be put. There is little doubt that the computer has introduced a new era, and its full potential is still untapped and unknown. The same could be said of many of the important inventions in the history of the world.
What is the Internet?
The Internet is a worldwide system of computer networks linked through the international telephone system. One of these networks is known as the World Wide Web (abbreviated as WWW), and information is stored on specific areas known as Web sites.
How does one use the Internet?
The Internet allows anyone whose computer is connected to the telephone system to get information from another computer anywhere in the world, as long as it is linked to the Internet. To allow this transfer of information, each computer must have an address’, rather like a telephone number, known as its IP address, an abbreviation for Internet Protocol address. One may not know what this address is, so, like Yellow Pages, the Internet can be searched for a name, a subject or a topic instead. In the Internet there are powerful computers called Search Engines which search a list of addresses and give the enquirer a list of computers or Web sites carrying information on that subject. To this extent, one can think of the Internet as a very large public library, and the Search Engines as librarians. Instead of each enquirer looking for themselves through the shelves of this library for information, a Search Engine looks through a catalogue of Web sites and it displays on the computer of the enquirer the information that has been requested.
Most users of the Internet also have addresses known as e-mail ( electronic mail’) addresses, which allow messages to be sent from one computer to another, in much the same way as fax messages may be sent, only they appear on the computer screen and not on paper.
What is a Web site?
Those areas of computers offering information for others to access are called Web sites, or simply “sites”. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland now has such a site. Its address is http://www.fpchurch.org.uk and it is expected to be available by the time this article is published.
How does the Internet help?
If anyone throughout the world is searching for Presbyterian Churches, the Search Engine will find and direct them to the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland among others, and the Church’s address will appear on their computer screen. They may not even be looking for us specifically, and this increases the opportunity to bring the Gospel to such. For example, someone searching for the Highlands of Scotland, with the intention of visiting there for a holiday, would come across our Church in due course. The same would be true for those searching for Presbyterian Churches in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Some people in Texas have already contacted the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland through e-mail, and as a result two of our ministers have visited Texas, and several Texans have visited our Chesley congregation and some of our congregations in England and Scotland. Some Texans were present at the recent Stornoway communion; and more attended the Youth Conference in Aberdeen last month, before going on to the South Harris communion. The number and variety of topics and locations which can be used to search the Internet are practically endless, helping to broaden or narrow the search as required.
The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland Web site
When someone, anywhere in the world, often in his own home, looks for and finds the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland Web site, the screen of his computer shows a page with basic information about our Church. This main page at any site is called the Home Page. It leads the viewer to further pages which contain more information on the activities of the Church. There will be further e-mail addresses of those of our ministers and congregations in the UK and abroad who are on the Internet, so that enquirers can contact them directly. People worldwide will be able to read articles from The Free Presbyterian Magazine, gospel tracts and informative pamphlets prepared by the Outreach Committee, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and whatever other material we may usefully display. Information will also be given about the congregations and the history of the Free Presbyterian Church. The Free Presbyterian Bookroom and the Publications Committee will find it useful to advertise our literature. All the areas of Church activity will be featured in one way or another in due course, God willing.
This is the most useful, efficient and powerful advertising tool the Church has ever had. Just as the printing press was used to make the Word of God more readily available to multitudes at the Reformation, so the Internet allows the Church to make its message more readily known in a technological world which has been dominated until now by worldly television companies. It opens an avenue hitherto denied to us. As this avenue is in the area of gospel outreach, so it is the Outreach Committee which has the responsibility of developing and funding this important sphere of activity. We believe that there are numerous small groups of believers throughout the world who are looking for the Reformed and Biblical witness for which our Church stands. The Internet is a means by which these groups can contact us; and it will be a more efficient means for us to help them, considering the strain upon our manpower resources. We will be able to use the Internet pro-actively to search for those who have the same biblical interests as we have.
Why are some people concerned about the Internet?
Some people are concerned about the use of the Internet on the Sabbath. This has delayed the launching of our site, and the Outreach Committee is ensuring that access to the material on the Church’s site will not be available on the Sabbath. This is equivalent to shutting our ‘public library’ on Sabbath.
Another concern is that the Internet can be put to bad use. Just as it is easy for people worldwide to search for and find the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, so it is easy for people to search for and find wicked material. They can do this in the privacy of their own homes. Whereas fear of publicity may prevent many people from openly buying evil material in shops, there is a greater temptation when this material is available in the privacy of one’s home. Television viewing replaced cinema viewing to a great extent, and the greater temptation to view wicked or worldly material on television in one’s own home required greater vigilance and self-control, which many people did not possess. The ready access through the Internet to wicked material means that even greater vigilance and self-discipline will be required by adults, and this extends to the responsibility of parents to be particularly vigilant about the use of the Internet by children. The debate is only beginning on how the Christian is to exercise this self-control regarding the Internet.
Christians cannot hope that these dangers will go away. Current indications are that, in the future, home banking and home shopping via home computers will become the norm. Telephones, faxes, computers and televisions will be combined into one piece of equipment which will have access to the Internet as an in-built facility, and Christians need to face up to this. Computers have become an integral part of modern life – as printing and motor transport did in the past. Our duty is to make a God-honouring use of them for the advancement of His Kingdom and the good of mankind.
Can you help?
The Church requests the prayerful support of the Lord’s people in seeking the Lord’s blessing upon this extension of our witness to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Reformed Christianity as it has been historically represented in the Scottish Reformation Church will now be available to a worldwide audience. New material is being prepared each month for the site, and if anyone in the church is interested in helping with preparation of this material, please contact the Rev. D. M. Boyd, at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where can you find us?
You can find our home page at http://www.fpchurch.org.uk