In South America, Seventh-day Adventist Web Evangelism Rises
For first time online viewers interact with pastor during series
Márcia Ebinger, South American Division
ONLINE EVANGELISM: Luís Gonçalves (center) was the speaker for “Countdown,” a region-wide outreach of the church’s South American Division.rom the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s South American headquarters in Brasilia, South American youth spent eight nights in “Countdown.” The web-based evangelistic effort ran from September 20-23 in Portuguese, and from September 27-20 in Spanish. Transmitted on esperanca.com.br and esperanzaweb.com, the two events were coordinated by the Youth Ministries Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America, along with the Evangelism, Novo Tempo [Hope Channel] Network, and other departments. The initiative made possible, for the first time, interaction between participants and the official speaker, Luís Gonçalves.
The Public Identifies the Topics
The general program coordinator, Areli Barbosa, explained youth-targeted evangelism efforts require different language and music, and an opportunity for interaction between participants and presenters. “We are keeping up-to-date on modern media that reaches the youth, but the message we share is prophetic and biblical, that is, the same message that has [already] transformed so many lives,” he said.
YOUTH PARTICIPATION: Seventh-day Adventist youth participate as volunteers.According to Gonçalves, end-time topics were covered for two main reasons: “People are focused on the Mayan calendar and the possibility of the world ending this year, so it’s time to clarify the facts. In addition, we had a survey on the Internet offering various topics. Of all the options, prophetic subjects stood out as the public’s preference.”
For that matter, those who think youth aren’t interested in last-day events are fooling themselves. In a Youth Department survey, topics related to the Apocalypse and the end of the world were voted as being of greatest interest for Internet presentations. With these results in hand, the four topics chosen were “Signs of the Times,” “If there’s just one God, why so many religions?,” “The seal of God and the mark of the beast,” and “The enigmatic number 666.”
Another important impact of the series sharing messages of biblical prophecy was that the hashtag #ContagemRegressiva made it, at various moments, onto the Trend Topics Brazil, a real-time list of Twitter’s most-published phrases. “We reached almost 2,000 tweets per hour at the start of the program, which translates to 1.7 million views (the number of times those tweets appeared on user timelines) per hour,” said Rogério Ferraz, the program’s technical coordinator.
Other numbers also stand out. Over the four nights of programming in Portuguese, 43,000 computers were connected with an estimated public of 84,000 users. In Spanish, there were 23,000 computers for some 45,000 users. These numbers were calculated with a sample of Internet users who responded to the question “How many people are watching the program with you?” Fifty-two percent watched the series with one or more companions, while 48 percent watched alone.
The average age of those watching “Countdown” in Portuguese was between 25 and 34 years old, and in Spanish the most frequent users were between 18 and 24.
Ferraz noted the program required a team of more than 40 professionals who, as he stated, “worked hard and held nothing back from making sure that every programming detail was done right.”
Besides the numbers, another thing that stands out was the interest many showed for learning more about the topics presented by Gonçcalves, the program speaker. Dozens of Internet users, from South America and around the world, sent questions about the signs of the coming of Jesus Christ, the millennium, the number of those who will be saved, etc. More than 50 countries were connected, including Mexico, the United States, Spain, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Colombia, South Korea, Fiji, Slovakia, and the Dominican Republic.
“Countdown” Points to Future Initiatives
Erton Köhler, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America, said about this new evangelistic format, “The Internet-using public is growing. As a church we have to go where the people are. And if they’re on their computers, we have to go to them, speaking a language they understand.”
The project will have a sequel, Köhler said. “Once a year we will have Web evangelism in this same format. Beyond that, we will have video chats and other initiatives.” He pointed out that this first program will continue to be enhanced and “growing, maturing, we will reach a better understanding of how we should move forward with the Internet public.”
Leaders celebrated the fact that 1,869 people responded to the calls that were made at the end of each program–an example of technology being used to convert hearts to Christ.