Preliminary Proposal For A Doctor of Philosophy Course in Cyber-Missions and Internet Evangelism

Proposal: To equip leaders for mission in an ever-changing world through an online PH.D. in “Cyber-Missions and Internet Evangelism” with two streams – one for M. Div. graduates and one for M.S. (computing) or other suitable graduates. This would enable “XYZ Seminary*” to provide global-level leadership in this developing area of missiology.

Cyber-Missions is the intentional, front-line use of the Internet in missions – for cross-cultural evangelism, networking, team-building, counseling and education.
Internet Evangelism is the frequently church-based, mono-cultural use of the Internet for evangelism through web sites, chat-rooms, email etc.
There is some overlap between the two disciplines.

Why Online? Online education has come of age with many of the software, security and pedagogical issues being ironed out over the last two years. Discussion in online forums and the use of email between student and supervisor has proven highly useful in facilitating graduate degrees requiring reflection on practice. It is therefore the optimal method of delivery especially for a discipline that is focused on the online environment and where the participants are dispersed geographically with many prospective students living internationally.

Prospective Students: Current practitioners in cyber-missions and web-evangelism and those wishing to enter this area as well as field-missionaries seeking new methods to evangelize and disciple unreached people groups.

Is This A Needed Area Of Study? Internet evangelism and cyber-missions are rapidly emerging areas of missions. Even though there are few full-time practitioners, Internet ministries are gaining acceptance in the missions community. Cyber-missions departments of major missions organizations will likely be developed in the near future. The AIBI is a mission devoted entirely to cyber-missions. WIN is using Internet cafes as effective mission bases in some UPGs. In web-evangelism, some post-modern churches find most new members coming in through their web-site. The Internet has enormous potential for reaching closed countries, for gaining presence in unreached people groups, for training of lay leaders and for evangelizing those who cannot or will not approach a local church. As the potential of this discipline becomes recognized there will be a need for trained and equipped leadership and XYZ Seminary is ideally positioned to provide it.

What Is The Size Of The Potential Market For This Course? There has not been any formal market research done at this stage but there is a sense that this is an emerging area and journal articles on cyber-missions and Internet evangelism have a high level of interest. The concept of a D.Min or Ph.D. course was floated past a few folk on the IECGlobal Forum list moderated by Keith Stonehocker of Christianity Today and there was a high general level of enthusiasm for such a course and a preference for a Ph.D. over a D. Min.

What Other Courses Such as This Exist? I believe IEC (Internet Evangelism Coalition) and Campus Crusade both offer brief non-formal courses. Some courses on post-modernism address the Internet extensively as a cultural medium. However I am not aware of any regionally-accredited graduate level course designed to equip full-time practitioners and strategists in cyber-missions and Internet evangelism.

Are There Any Text-Books Available? There are a plethora of books on the sociological aspects of the Internet and on general evangelistic and missionary communication. Andrew Carrega and others have written on E-vangelism and Tony Whittaker has compiled an excellent online resource. Technical works on constructing effective websites for NGO’s etc are abundant.

Who Could Teach It? There are about fifty key people in the area at the moment with perhaps a dozen of these having suitable doctorates and about the same number with M.Div. / M.A. degrees and extensive online experience. There would probably need to be at least two main contributing lecturers, one on strategy and conceptualization, and the other on the technical aspects of computing.

What About The Technical Aspects? Students could develop an emphasis on content, or on the technological aspects, but all students would be required to know something of both sides of the discipline. Issues such as accessibility, online security, types of websites, the strategic use of web databases, bandwidth limitations and designing with the end user in mind would have to be part of the training of all students.

Why Now? Up until now the areas of cyber-missions and Internet evangelism have evolved in an ad hoc fashion but now practitioners have accumulated a sizable body of common practice and knowledge and there is a clear call for training and for systematization. If XYZ Seminary develops a PH.D. course now it will have the opportunity to pioneer formal training in an emerging ministry field.

Pricing: To be set by XYZ Seminary in accordance with its policies.

Overhead: Minimal as classes would be online.

Scholarship Fund: Could possibly be set-up by tapping into Christian businessmen in technology companies.

Anticipated Course Structure
1. Preferably an entirely online course using adult-learning strategies. Local proctoring of tests can ensure security and much can be done on a project-learning basis.
2. If some residency is required this may be able to be achieved with regional residency programs.
3. The course would accept both M.Div. and M.S. (and other suitable) graduates. M.Div. graduates would be required to acquire some I.T. competencies and M.S. graduates some theological and missiological understandings.
4. The modules would include topics such as: Research Methodologies, Dissertation Writing, A Theology of Cyber-Space, Ministry-Focused Web-Site Construction, Online Communication, Approaches To Internet Evangelism, Overview of Cyber-Missions, Database Construction and Management, Virtual Teams, Reaching Post-Moderns Via The Internet, Counseling In Cyber-Space, Building Online Community, The Construction and Funding of Christian Community Internet Cafes, Issues in Cyber-Ethics, Catering For Accessibility, Poverty and the Digital Divide, Developing A Cyber-Missions/Internet Evangelism Department In Your Organization.
5. Dissertation – either research based or project based.
6. Cyber-Missions dissertations would be expected to have a strong missiological and developing world emphasis.
7. As an online course it would be taught using adjunct faculty both within and outside the USA.

Implications For Missions/Evangelism As a Whole
Development of a Ph.D. in this emerging area of missions would help to both validate and systematize the areas of Cyber-Missions and Internet Evangelism. It would produce a group pf highly trained leaders who could implement Cyber-Missions departments in mission agencies and Internet Evangelism departments within mega-churches and denominational evangelism divisions. This unleashing of the power of the Internet to serve the gospel would enable a major leap forward to be made in the achievement of the Great Commission.

Final Thoughts
This paper is just a quick overview and a starting point for further discussion and reflection. I see this as the start of a process rather than as the final formulation and would be very happy to enter into dialogue to finalize the optimal course structure.

*(XYZ Seminary is a generic name for any seminary and does notrefer to any seminary in particular)

Contact Details
John Edmiston
c/- The Asian Internet Bible Institute
Po Box 4526 Makati Post Office
Makati City, 1004, Philippines
Phone: +632 550 1183
Cell: +632 919 396 8225