ON 20 February 2013, a man in his mid-twenties, housebound, with
anxiety and agoraphobia, typed into Google in a fit of desperation:
"God I'm depressed." From the search results, he ended up at a
website he had never seen before: www.christianity.org.uk.
On it, he saw a link that would begin an email conversation with
a Christian. At the other end of the email was an evangelist with
the Church Army, Peter Graystone. Gradually, the man's story become
clear: a bullying incident at school had left him with deep
anxiety, and, almost a decade later, he rarely felt able to leave
He asked Mr Graystone if there was a church that he could
recommend, and he began attending. He then volunteered at a charity
shop near by. Later, he gained some qualifications, and, by October
last year, he had been baptised and was employed full-time.
The story was one of several heard on Monday, in central London,
at an event hosted by the Christian Enquiry Agency, which runs www.Christianity.org.uk.
The site features articles that answer questions about God and
faith, as well as the opportunity to ask your own question.
The website, which Mr Graystone began co-ordinating three years
ago, has just been relaunched with a new design. He urged those at
the event, hosted by the Evangelical Alliance, to publicise the
website's address on their business cards, email signatures, and
Mr Graystone, with a small group of volunteers from several
denominations, handles the scores of emails that arrive each month,
as well as the more than 300,000 visitors to the website last
He had other stories to tell. He recounted how a Muslim student
in Manchester emailed him through the website after becoming
intrigued by Christians at his university. He also asked for a
local church, and, on giving Mr Graystone his postcode, discovered
that he lived just half a mile from Mr Graystone's brother and the
church he attends.
Later, having become a Christian after attending church in
Manchester, he was rejected by his family in Pakistan, and a fatwa
ordering his death as an apostate was issued. He eventually
successfully claimed asylum in Britain, and regularly attends
Not all the stories were happy. One woman visited the website,
despite being an atheist, and, intrigued, asked for a copy of St
Forty days later, having read it cover-to-cover several times,
she became a Christian, apparently to the shock and anger of her
non-believing husband. He refused to let her attend church, or talk
to their children about her faith, or openly read the Bible in the
house. "My husband thinks our marriage is untenable, now I'm a
Christian," she emailed Mr Graystone. After a short exchange, she
never contacted him again.
Those who work with Christianity.org.uk have a strict rule that
they only reply to people, and never pester them; so Mr Graystone
has no idea what happened to her. "I don't stop praying, but I did
stop writing [to her]," he said. "I find myself thinking - have I
done something wrong? But I have to just commit that to God. It's
important not to run down the road after them waving a banner
Before Mr Graystone spoke, Dr Bex Lewis, from the University of
Durham, gave an outline of the latest research into online
evangelism. She encouraged the audience to consider the virtual
world not as a new realm, but simply as part of ordinary life for
millions of people - especially young people.
"It's social media," she said. "It's all about relationships.
Let's not go off and have our own 'Faithbook', or Christian
ghettos. We can't push out effective content online until people
Other parts of the Church are also contemplating how best to use
the internet. A blog from the Church of England's communications
team last week encouraged congregations to use a new app,
Periscope, to stream live video of their services online, through a
On Monday, the Scripture Union sent a questionnaire to
supporters, asking how much they used the charity's website or
online resources, and how it could be more relevant on the