Andrew T. Moody
Have you been surfing lately? Since the emergence of the World Wide Web over a decade ago, billions of people have flocked to the Internet in order to reap the benefits offered by the information superhighway. With over 70 percent of Americans having access to the Internet, surfing the Web is now commonplace in most of our homes. However, the Internet can be a treacherous sea. Many of the sites it contains are destructive, and must be avoided by Christian surfers.
How can the church minister in such a stormy arena? How can the gospel of Jesus Christ be brought to bear on the Internet? Although it is only a virtual reality, the Internet presents new and exciting opportunities for introducing people to our risen Savior.
This is carried out on several different levels. Many local churches maintain an official website, as do most of our presbyteries. The united face of the OPC is presented on our denominational website, OPC.org. This site first went online over a decade ago, and has been a work in progress ever since. It has recently undergone its largest revision to date, which added a beautiful form and user-friendly layout to the existing content. The digital face of the OPC is overseen by the Committee on Christian Education's Subcommittee on Internet Ministries (SIM).
The OPC has had a considerable influence on her much larger sister denominations, despite her comparatively small numbers. This influence extends into cyberspace, as our website receives an average of 35,000 unique visitors each month from all over the world. People from many different church backgrounds visit the site regularly, because it is a helpful and reliable resource. It is not just the quantity of information that makes the site helpful. The quality of the content keeps people coming back for more. The website contains a great deal of information that cannot be found elsewhere, and new content is posted on a daily basis!
When the site loads in your web browser, the first thing you see in the center of the page is the current feature article. This article is normally published each month specifically for the website. The first few sentences appear with an accompanying picture to encourage you to click on the link to read the remainder of the article.
As your eyes take in the rest of the home page, you will see three menu bars (left, top, and right) that are the primary tools for navigating the site. Studies show that when people view a website, they scan the left margin first, followed by the top margin. With this in mind, the first link viewed on the left navigation bar is Find Eternal Life, which leads to an evangelistic message. This is followed by a daily devotional, where encouraging messages are presented from various sources. You can see already how the gospel of Jesus Christ is the central focus of our website. The next link takes you to the book reviews page, which contains over one hundred reviews, followed by the publications page, which features all the books and other media available from the Committee on Christian Education and the Committee for the Historian. All of the titles published by the Committee for the Historian can be ordered online from this page. The remaining links are to the Committees of Worldwide Outreach (Christian Education, Foreign Missions, and Home Missions). Each of these pages contains a wealth of information on these vital ministries of the OPC.
The top navigation bar features the About the OPC page, followed by the church locator (Find a Local Congregation), which contains the contact information for every OP congregation. This tool helps connect our visitors with a local church. This virtual directory leads to real visitors in your congregation, and in many cases to new members! To the right of the church locator is the What We Believe page, which provides a brief summary of the Reformed faith. The contact us page provides all the relevant contact information for the denominational offices.
On the right margin is a link to a page devoted to the founding of the OPC, followed by links to the pages containing the complete texts of our church standardsa Searchable Bible, our Confession & Catechisms, and our Book of Church Order. The link to resources includes the words and tunes of the original Trinity Hymnal (copyright issues prevent the revised hymnal from appearing here). There is also a link to the newly-added Audio Sermons page, which links to thousands of sermons preached by OP pastors.
Below the New Horizons box is one of the most popular features of the website, the Questions and Answers page. Every month, numerous questions are received, and they are answered by a member of a panel of pastors. Many of these questions and answers are then posted on the website. To the right of the Q&A box is the News box, which contains news items pertaining to the OPC and the website.
The Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to use the Internet as an avenue to glorify and enjoy him. I hope you take the time to visit the OPC website, so that you can benefit from the many resources that are being made available to you for your own growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. May he be glorified in every space in his creation, including cyberspace. If you have found the OPC website to be helpful in specific ways, or if you have suggestions as to how the site can be further improved, please send your comments to Stephen Pribble at firstname.lastname@example.org.