By Rick Kiper
Christian Information for the Internet
A young engineer wakes up one morning to the sound of his favorite Christian radio station. After a pastor’s message, the radio announcer mentions how a listener may contact the ministry – and politely recites the phone number, mailing address and world wide web address.
“World wide web address?” he wonders out loud.
He quickly sits down at his desk and turns on his computer and modem. From the “WWW” address he knows the name of the network to which he wants to connect and a few keystrokes later, he’s “in.” On his screen appears a list of menu items: Radio ministries, Television Ministries, Christian Publications, Christian Discussion Groups, Christian Education …
There are literally hundreds of Christian computer networks all over the nation, commonly referred to as Christian bulletin board services (BBS’s). Basically, a potential user connects to a BBS by telling his computer to call the BBS telephone number through a modulator/demodulator device (a modem). Once “logged in” to the BBS’s computer, the user may then read messages, download (electronically retrieve) files, or participate in discussions with other users.
If you are already a BBS user, stay tuned …
A brand new Christian computer network is coming. This network, created by Youth Revolution International, will not only serve as a Christian BBS, but it will also be an electronic address for such ministries as Focus on the Family, In Touch Ministries and Insight for Living. This revolutionary network, called TIMOTHY (Timely Information and Messaging Online To Help You) will also feature the electronic archives of your favorite ministries’ newsletters, study guides, and newspaper articles, including those of the past five years of The Forerunner, a nationally distributed Christian newspaper geared towards the college student.
Arguably the most innovative feature of TIMOTHY will be its 56 kilobit per second direct connection to the great network of networks – the Internet. This means that any of the 20 million internet users from all over the world may connect to TIMOTHY without dialing the long distance number!
The internet is flowing with all types of media creating a vast “information highway.” It is imperative that the Church takes advantage of this great opportunity to communicate the Gospel.
What does the future hold?
It might seem hard to imagine, but it is already a reality. Advances in fiber-optics technology – phone lines transmitting light instead of electricity – have enabled individuals to transmit larger amounts of information across across ultra-thin cables. Computers send information in the form of text, graphics, digitized sound and video across these lines as easily as we can make a phone call or send a fax. Information is sent instantaneously across the ocean through cable, avoiding the cost of long phone conversations.
Within five to ten years – depending on the market and the investments made in technology – the possibility of transmitting television images from home to home will make every person a television broadcaster. For the same amount of money that it takes to make a five minute long distance call, you may be able to “download” hours of continuous digitized video. A new technology will be developed that stores millions of megabytes of information on a single computer disk. Telecomputers will be developed which may put you in touch with anyone in the world face to face. This new ability to send digitized information will revolutionize every aspect of human life.
Imagine being able to tap into vast resources of information. You will be able to dial up the Library of Congress and scroll through millions of titles, authors and subjects the same way that you look through card catalogues in local libraries. You will be able to find any book in print. The entire book will be transmitted instantaneously through cable and show up on your computer screen. Subscribe to your favorite magazine and you will receive not only the usual text, color, graphics and photos, but also live video footage, computer animation and a human voice simulator of your choice which is able to read you the articles as the text scrolls up a screen. Dial another number and choose to view digitized video from any feature length movie ever recorded.
Businesses will be revolutionized as well. American, Japanese, Chinese, German and Russian businessmen will form joint ventures over phone lines. Multi-screen displays will simulate board meetings and even do the translation work from one language to another. Meeting minutes will be kept by a computerized stenographer. Many businesses in the U.S. will begin to hire more employees on a contract basis. More office workers will base themselves out of their homes saving time on travel, money and office space. It will also clear up many of our cities’ traffic problems and reduce air pollution.
The biggest changes will come as highly centralized organizations become decentralized. Pyramidal structures will become inverted opening up the way for the average person to become entrepreneurial, self-reliant and individualized. The fiber-optics revolution will further the spread of democracy and free market economics in the world. The top entertainment networks will not be organizations such as CNN, ABC, NBC or CBS. The television networks will not be run by the media elite, but more and more by ordinary people. Public television networks will form to produce more viewer-supported productions.
Renaissance, Reformation, Revolution
The last time a revolution of such a lasting impact occurred was after the invention of moveable type in the 15th century. The Gutenburg revolution produced thousands of Bibles, tracts and pamphlets proclaiming the true Christian message to the common people. Like the Christians of the Renaissance and the Reformation, our generation needs to foresee the significance of the fiber-optics revolution. Until now our use of television as an evangelistic medium has been limited to large ministries. Some believe that the effectiveness of television for the evangelical church is over. But it will be the 21st century Church that fully utilizes the medium of television.
This new medium will be most effectively utilized by the Christian individual who both understands his audience and has a message to communicate. This new radical innovator of the media will be an individual who will have a revolutionary message but who can also communicate to this generation in a new and relevant way. Instead of mimicking the same slick methods of network television, this new breed of Christian will be a pioneer in the new medium of fiber-optics. He will utilize every new technology available to bring forth a prophetic message.
The people who are chosen for this time will be revolutionaries. Those who are destined by God to be a part of this movement will be on the vanguard of a new era of renaissance and reformation. It is important that the Church itself does not miss out on this valuable opportunity on the “information highway.”
TIMOTHY will be one of the first internet nodes of its kind – helping to carry out the Great Commission.