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Finding Ministry Resources on the Internet, Part 2
of this series (September) gave an introduction to basic Internet searching.
It concluded with some tips for recognising useful sites:
1. Remember that there's lots of older material available, primarily because it is out of copyright. Material in the public domain can be great but it may also not be the most useful for ministry.
2. Anyone can publish anything. You need to be a discerning reader.
3. When you find a good site don't lose your place! Bookmarks are a simple tool supplied by all web browsers for precisely this purpose.
4. Don't reinvent the wheel. There are already many good sites which collate a wide range of material for you.
Malone is a tutor and visiting lecturer in Biblical Studies
and Greek at
|This second part deals with all of these steps, particularly the last one. It surveys a sample of the ten billion pages available on the web. Of course it's only a sample; I don't profess to have found everything there is! Here we have a chance like a good chocolate box simply to get a taste for the sorts of sites that exist. I hope you might find these useful in themselves, but that they might also inspire you to see what else is out there.|
|The following sites have been evaluated with the above tips in mind. They move in an order of natural ministry needs and from more narrow to more broad sites.|
1. Bible Study
|Essentials readers would naturally ground any component of ministry in Bible study. The web offers lots of copies of Bible texts, in many languages (including the originals), along with a range of tools for understanding it.|
of the most complete sites is the Online Bible <www.ccel.org/olb;
are a wide range of versions which you can download, most for free. Additional
tools, such as original language assistance and a copy of the Qur'an, make
this a good way into the electronic Bible market without having to explore
the many commercial packages. Similar material at sites like
|For those who want to pursue original language work further, there are many sites devoted to Hebrew and Greek. One Biblical Hebrew mailing list <lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/bhebrew> attracts some good scholars. Some proficient scholars arrange sites to publish useful advice. Greek enthusiasts might check Rod Decker's site at one Baptist Bible Seminary <faculty.bbc.edu/rdecker>. You can read/download the critical chapter on participles "One's exegetical skills get tested more with participles than with any other part of speech" from Daniel Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.|
|Of course, many writings other than the Bible can be useful in understanding the original authors. The Wesley Center Online furnishes a great deal of the apocryphal, pseudepigraphal and other non-canonical works.|
2. History and Theology
|Although older works can be a hindrance in many disciplines, they do offer a great service to Christian theology. Great works of church history and Christian thought abound on the web.|
of place easily goes, in my book, to the Christian
Classics Ethereal Library. This is a serious site maintained by
Calvin College. It seems no coincidence that this is in Grand Rapids, Michigan
home of many of the great Christian publishing houses like Baker,
Eerdmans and Zondervan. The CCEL site has a vast range of older writings,
carefully indexed and available in a range of formats (even for those new
fandangled palm pilots). You can find, read, and freely download the works
of the Church Fathers, all of Calvin's commentaries, the reflections of
the Puritans, and so on. You can even read articles from the recent Evangelical
Dictionary of Biblical Theology (1996), a useful volume whose current
price of $60 or $80 may deter you from buying it. Similar collections, in
varying degrees of organisation, at
|It can be quite instructive to see how traditions other than our own deal with theological issues. I've only recently discovered the Catholic Encyclopedia. This classic work from the early 20th Century covers a huge range of issues of theology and history, a great many of which our Anglican heritage obviously shares. This New Advent site also has a range of other ancient writings available.|
|Theological institutions will often publish a broad range of articles from their faculties. Check out the sites where your favourite scholars reside. For example, Denver Seminary has its Denver Journal online.|
|Of course, the Internet is an especial haven for those who wish to present particular views of particular issues. This includes both formal and informal organisations. For example, concerning the issue of women in ministry, you can read the leading lights from both the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood <www.cbmw.org> and Christians for Biblical Equality <www.cbeinternational.org>. You can readily find individuals' opinions in any number of forums.|
|And, for those who still won't trade a 17" monitor for a good book, there are myriad book dealers online. Especially useful are those who specialise in older, out-of-print works, such as <www.biblio.com>.|
3. Practical Ministry
|The boundary between the theory and practice of ministry is imprecise. The web provides material relevant to all parts of the spectrum.|
are many secular sites offering useful advice on general counselling.
Some of these include:
These can have good reference sections, with guidance on issues of alcohol and drug dependency, mental and physical health, etc. But note that such counselling advice is often region-specific (exemplified even in the way 'counselling' is spelt!). Moreover, a Website only really offers reference material; it can only provide so much help in what is such an intrinsically personal and person-to-person discipline.
|Some practitioners and seminaries have material which reflects their own specialisations. These can lend themselves towards practical issues of ministry, and from a Christian perspective. It doesn't take much searching to turn up some very useful ideas for pastoral care. For example, David Instone-Brewer has his own site <www.instonebrewer.com>. He has done significant research on the theological and practical issues involved in divorce. His site contains a broad range of materials, including a complete electronic copy of his recent book Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible (2002).|
|There are a myriad sites devoted to religions other than Christianity and questions concerning them. One of the better sites to investigate how Christianity can and should interact with Islam is found at <www.answeringislam.org>.|
|For those wrestling with the increasingly central yet specialised issues of youth ministry, there are many relevant sites. One worth noting is <www.youthspecialties.com>, not least because these guys are responsible for producing the respected Journal of Youth Ministry. The site contains good ideas, articles, and further links.|
|Indeed, that's the sort of site you want to find: one which has already collated a lot of material for you. It's why I like reading The Age (in any format); not only is it full of relevant local news, but it culls the best of other sources like The Guardian or The New York Times. Good websites will often do the same.|
|In this respect, the Anglican media sites in Sydney and Melbourne deserve mention. They cover local issues, but also direct you to other important publications all around the world, particularly concerned with religious news. In effect, these sites have editors, who do much of the hard work of finding, vetting and collating the more important snippets available.|
|Two others like this should also be flagged. The popular publication Christianity Today has many of its articles online, as well as links to other useful resources. From here (and the Anglican media sites) you can find all sorts of relevant material on issues of modern culture (such as using The Matrix or Lord of the Rings as evangelistic springboards), leadership strategies in small and large churches, religious news, sermon illustrations, etc. It's publications like CT which are often broaching significant debates, such as John Stott's views on annihilationism or whether inclusive language honours or distorts the intention of Scripture.|
other site worthy of note in this survey is Rowland Croucher's John
Mark Ministries, not least because the selective editing is done
from an Australian point of view. Croucher has compiled more than 11,000(!)
articles on ministry-related concerns. They're all neatly indexed and searchable.
So it takes only a few seconds to discover 128 articles on 'homosexuality',
spanning a range of perspectives on the issue (e.g. home, church, apologetic,
medical, pastoral care). Similar collections are exemplified by
4. General Reference
|The web, of course, specialises in all other forms of general information, too. Ministry increasingly requires us to know something about secular news (all major print and broadcast media have websites), the meaning of words e.g. <www.hyperdictionary.com>, how much noise youth concerts can make e.g. <www.epa.vic.gov.au>, exchange rates <e.g. www.xe.com/ucc>, and the weather for the coming weekend <www.bom.gov.au>.|
|So the web can be a useful place to look if you want to learn more about your local Christian bookshop, important adjunct ministries <e.g. www.afes.org.au; www.cms.org.au>, and even about your own organisation(s). Anglican dioceses are increasingly putting directory and administrative information on their sites (see media sites above). Even EFAC info is often convenient to find via <www.efac.org.au>! So don't forget to look in these places, as well.|
|Where to now?|
|As noted in Part 1, ability and confidence in web-surfing as in ministry is ultimately gained only through practice. The more time you spend on the web, the more proficient you'll become at finding useful nuggets amongst the terabytes of dross. Use this two-part article as an introduction (a kind of curacy?), and start to branch out on your own.|
|To assist you in this, EFAC will be adding all the sites discussed in this article to its Website; it will make it that much easier for you to try some of them out and see what's on offer.|
|Better still, the Editor and I are happy to be inundated with suggested sites from readers. Those of you who are already experienced web-surfers are invited to recommend sites that you have found helpful in ministry. We will collate these, and place them on the EFAC site every few months. In effect the EFAC site will become another of those judiciously (?) edited and indexed sites which will point you in helpful starting directions.|
|Let me reiterate some basic tenets, to keep this whole Internet thing in perspective.|
1. No, you don't have to use the Internet at all. Christian ministry in all its guises has been effectively conducted without computers (or even electricity) for the substantial majority of its history.
2. Be careful. As most of you know from personal experience in libraries and bookshops, it's very easy to digress to the right and to the left. As with other aspects of ministry, a growing technical competence must be accompanied by the discipline of time management. And by personal holiness; time-wasting is not the only form of temptation online. While I'm yet to accede that WWW equates to 666 (though W is the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet), Satan will have no qualms in using the world-wide web as yet another weapon in his assault.
3. Yet, there is plenty of good material on the web. If you can lay your hands on it without too much effort, it can be a great resource. You can find important facts or illustrations without having to wade through your filing cabinet or bookshelf. Articles and pictures already in electronic format save a great deal of (re)production time for your parish newsletter. You can join the online experience that an increasing majority of Australians now take for granted an experience which shapes many of the generations missing from the church, and which may even be a cause thereof. And, particularly as Australians who are geographically distant, and as western Christians who seem to be a declining minority, the web is one more way to enjoy the various world-wide Communions of which we are a part.
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