Q&A ON WHATSAPP: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR EVANGELISM AND MINISTRY


What exactly is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a free to use cross-platform instant messaging service which offers the end-user a safe and secure platform in which to communicate. WhatsApp end-to-end encryption and high standards of security enable users to talk, send attachments, images and videos without the fear of being watched or monitored by government agencies and the like.

In what positive ways have people used WhatsApp?

People have used WhatsApp to inform police and security agencies about crime in real-time, thereby enabling swifter lines of communication with security agencies as well as procure evidence against criminals. People have also used WhatsApp to record natural disasters.

What is the brief history of WhatsApp?

From humble beginnings, WhatsApp has grown to the top of the messaging charts. WhatsApp was launched in January 2000 by two former Yahoo! developers named Brian Action and Jan Koum after the pair left Yahoo! Can you believe that the two young men applied for a number of jobs, one of which was at Facebook headquarters, and they were turned down. This testimony should be an encouragement to those of us who have faced rejection in job hunts. You can never tell where Jesus is taking you to what he’s trying to turn your focus on. Koun began exploring the possibility of developing an app that would allow mobile users to interact and communicate with each other better than what was currently available at that time. Collaborating with Action, they began to develop the foundation of WhatsApp, which was to sound like, “What’s Up?”

In 2014, the same Facebook which originally turned down the pair when they applied for jobs, bought WhatsApp for the princely sum of $19 Billion. I can imagine that these two men and their associates must have thanked God for the day that Facebook had rejected their applications for employment. How long could they have worked for Facebook before they were able to earn $19 Billion?

How versatile is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a remarkably versatile application. It can be used on iPhones, Android devices and even Windows 10 and macOS desktop computers. Be wary of installing WhatsApp from anywhere else but the official Google play store. For iPhones, be sure you are logged into your Apple account before the installation process. While it’s more difficult to install a fake application on iPhone, also be aware that jailbroken iPhones may be vulnerable to fake applications. Windows Phone 8.1 and above are receptive to WhatsApp. Ensure that you are logged into your Microsoft account to access the Microsoft Store prior to installing WhatsApp. For PC installations, you need Windows 8 or above install WhatsApp. There are no fakes for Mac, as the macOS is a more stringent platform than Windows. There are fake versions of WhatsApp being made available on less reputable sites, and these fake versions can carry viruses and spyware designed to monitor your device.

How do I use WhatsApp for evangelism and ministry?

In evangelism, our target audience is unbelievers, while ministry encompasses activities that engage believers, church and fellow members. One paramount feature of using WhatsApp is that you have and store contact telephone numbers before you can use the platform to communicate with them.  So, when we talk about WhatsApp and Ministry Evangelism, it is based on the assumption that the telephone numbers that constitute the audience is available and stored on the device. The target audience will determine the content. But for this writeup, I will not focus on content development but on how to use an already developed content on WhatsApp.

The first step to employing WhatsApp for evangelism and ministry will depend on the device that is used, but these are ways the application may be used for ministry:

  1. Chat/Message: This is sharing content through message or chats. In the physical, this is sometimes referred to as “one to one” or “personal work”. This approach to evangelism is when a Christian evangelizes to, typically, a non-Christian, or only a few non-Christians, in a private manner. If you have a ministry, say a university campus or your neighbourhood, you can use WhatsApp as a touchpoint to keep in contact with those you meet and to further build your relationship in Christ. WhatsApp can provide an easy and secure platform for online discipleship where you can share relevant evangelistic content through videos, articles and encouraging messages. The main advantage of this method is the privacy it affords.
  2. Broadcast: You can use your WhatsApp account to share daily or weekly devotionals or verses from the Bible with your friends or with a particular audience. From the “Chats” option you can select, “New Broadcast List” on the left corner of the chat screen and select a New List or add everyone whom you’d like to send a broadcast message to. You can add up to 256 names in your broadcast list. (Even if the area code is different, you can still add someone to your WhatsApp list). Tap Create. Record your content and upload to WhatsApp. Your messages will be delivered to each person individually, rather than in a group message. If you have been invited to be a part of a group where there are people you’d like to influence, stay in the group as a doorway to spiritual opportunities. It is always wise to invite feedbacks after every broadcast.
  3. Groups: Groups are great ways for multiple WhatsApp contacts to keep in touch with each other and arrange meetings. You can also make the group open by providing a link from where prospective members will join the group. Any messages you enter are seen by group members and likewise, any messages they enter (unlike the broadcast) are seen by you and everyone in the group. You can enter emojis, GIFs and attachments as with private chats. You can use WhatsApp as a digital meeting space to meet where distance is an issue for your ministry team. You can call for meetings and use the group as a notice board and a newsletter platform. The group can have several administrators but it’s a good idea to pick a virtual chairman who will coordinate digital discussion to keep everything flowing during your meeting time. For group information, tap and hold the Group on the chat screen, followed by the three vertical dots and the Group info from the menu. This method is especially needful if your ministry meetings are in locations with poor connectivity that makes video meetings difficult.

We must employ technology to helps our churches, fellowships and ministries run smoother and more efficiently. However, technology can become a hindrance to deeper human relationships if it prevents brethren from physically interacting with each other because corporate worship is crucial to church and spiritual development.

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