Religious Chat Rooms

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The difference between secular and religious chat rooms is the good news of Jesus Christ. While conversation threads in secular chat rooms can sometimes become vulgar and derogatory; Christian sites offer a cleaner, more family-oriented forum which promotes a higher moral and ethical standard. Faith-based websites offer an opportunity not only to share Christian viewpoints, but also to witness to the unsaved, those who have yet to accept Christ as a personal Lord and Savior. The methods whereby believers "reach the lost at any cost" have changed. Traditional means of passing out gospel tracts to unwilling strangers or even prodding the un-churched to attend worship services have failed dismally in bringing souls into the kingdom of God in the United States. But digital delivery of the good news of Jesus Christ through religious chat rooms may be an effective way to draw adolescents and adults towards saving grace.

Chatting online frees inhibitions; and many people who love browsing and blogging online willingly engage in e-conversations, especially when it comes to religion. For some reason, an individual's faith and unique belief system can either fuel ferocious debates or move hearts to yield to God's invitation to eternal life. People become impassioned about what they believe; and there is no better means of expressing oneself anonymously than on the Internet. Chatting online can be fun, but it can also be therapeutic, as believers and non-believers get an opportunity to release frustrations or share a praise report to the glory of God. While religious chat rooms frown on Bible-bashing, conversations may stimulate a quest for Biblical truths, encourage and exhort believers to good works, absolve someone from unresolved anger or guilt, or rescue a wayward soul from suicide or abortion.

Tough issues sometimes require a public forum outside of the pulpit and accessible to the mainstream user. The best delivered sermon is ineffective if it is not heard. People who may never darken the door of a church building readily take to the information highway to find answers. Faith-based forums offer hope, help, and healing by promoting the gospel online and providing opportunities for one-on-one ministering. If an unbeliever should stumble across a faith-based site, the first thing that they may notice is a home page filled with scriptural references, Christian dating personals, or self-help books. The power and beauty of the gospel radiate from these pages, and compelling graphics draw viewers to navigate through sponsored links and inspiring content. Singles who are seeking a mate may browse through the dating personals and find likeminded men and women who offer a lifetime of love in Christ. Church administrators can find resources to enhance study programs or provide new methods of reaching youth or the un-churched. Those who visit religious chat rooms are often on a pathway to discovery; and the candid responses to threads of e-conversations can sometime benefit believers and un-believers alike.

A well-written first hand account of God's delivering power shared in religious chat rooms may be the catalyst for battle-weary believers to be encouraged to go on and stay in the fight for salvation. A stirring testimony of divine healing, deliverance from substance abuse, or spiritual restoration can help others overcome, simply by realizing that they are not alone in the battle called everyday life. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Revelation 12:11). Christians gain strength from one another as they share online accounts of the power of God to save, deliver, heal and to set free. Reading comments or participating in blogs and instant messages only reinforces one's faith and refuels a determination to stay vigilant and endure unto the end.

The beauty of religious chat rooms is that they also offer a low-cost way for ministries and independent evangelicals to take the gospel to the world. Compare the cost of broadcasting a radio or television program to sharing tidbits of inspiration in a religious chat room. While traditional means of promoting the gospel can be costly, just one word typed into a conversation thread can result in phenomenal change. And a single inspirational word has the potential to reach millions via the worldwide web. "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver" (Proverbs 25:11). While sharing the good news of Jesus Christ via messages entered in religious chat rooms does not require a formal ministerial degree; it does require being led by the Holy Spirit, exercising godly wisdom, and using common sense. Faith-based sites warn against comments which may offend or antagonize others; and members are required to make a contractual online agreement to refrain from trying to coerce individuals of other faiths to become converted to any particular doctrinal belief.

While site administrators also prohibit religious chat room participants from advertising goods or services within threads of conversations; churches and Christian organizations, such as book stores, speciality advertising agencies, choir robe manufacturers, and suppliers of sanctuary furnishings can buy sponsored links on provider home pages. Users from around the world can shop online while responding to comments from other Christians in far away places. Statistics indicate that faith-filled consumers are the most loyal and tend to buy a wide variety of products -- from Bibles, inspirational books, and study guides, to ministerial and choir robes, banners, and instruments. Overall, religious chat room participants represent a lucrative niche market for advertisers and manufacturers of faith-oriented goods and services. Aside from the benefits of merchandising, the potential for Christ-like communication makes joining religious chat rooms a great option for believers, non-believers, and those seeking a closer spiritual walk.

Safe Chat Rooms

The ultimate goal of safe chat rooms is to provide a secure platform for members to share ideas, hopes, dreams and aspirations without the fear of exploitation or an invasion of privacy. While the Internet offers a world of opportunities to meet people and form relationships on every level, the responsibility of exercising prudent cyberspace courtesies and safety are paramount to successful web-based communications. Most site providers are just as concerned about safeguarding users as local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. News broadcasts are full of reports of victims of cyberspace crime, from the kidnapping and sexual exploitation of minors, to identity theft, impersonation, rape or murder. It is easy for under aged children, teens and young adults to place confidence in individuals they meet in chat rooms. Sometimes predators talk to victims for months, gaining their trust, until an opportune time to arrange a meeting or brazenly solicit teens for sex. Providers of safe chat rooms are keenly aware of the dangers of online communication. Although site administrators cannot guarantee members' safety, some provide 24-hour monitoring and surveillance in order to prevent predators from taking unfair advantage of minors or unsuspecting adults.

There is a dark side to cyberspace; and some online criminals spend a lifetime searching for ways to exploit the innocent. "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Logging onto chat rooms, blogs, or questionable websites opens the door to interact with minors and adults who may divulge confidential information. Hackers, stalkers, pedophiles, and other unsavory characters can use Internet access to lure unsuspecting gullible teens away from the safety of their homes; or seduce unwary adults into leaving a spouse or family for promises of romance and intrigue with a perfect stranger posing as a lover. The problem is that the relative freedom and anonymity of the worldwide web encourages individuals to discard inhibitions and imitate the life they fantasize about living. However, the danger is that the same fantasy can quickly turn into a life-altering nightmare with more repercussions than can ever be imagined. Safe chat rooms offer a measure of protection by constantly monitoring and policing electronic communication to determine when users engage in illicit, risky, or illegal online activity.

Many Internet users seek someone to divulge personal concerns and confidences while remaining anonymous. That may very well be the reason that bloggers use profanity or post nude photos of themselves, some very explicit. Inhibitions may become out of control; and the more emboldened users become, the more outrageous the postings. Some women and men who would be too shy or intimidated to reveal personal information or photos are spurred on by respondents who offer money for sexual favors or promises of love and romance. Federal regulations governing Internet access or activity have been slow in cracking down on web abusers, but safe chat rooms try to protect teens and adults from becoming victims of sex crimes, identity theft, or an invasion of privacy.

Cyberspace crimes can also lead to abductions and murder. Illicit online activity may facilitate kidnapping as a result of communication between unsuspecting minors and adults posing as adolescents in order to entice them. Parents should not only monitor minors online; but also install software designed to block certain website activity, such as pornographic sites or adult videos from being downloaded. Engaging in online conversation with Internet pen pals, blogging, or even uploading photos can be fun; but allowing minors to only enter safe chat rooms is one way parents, teachers and guardians can ensure the safety of young children and teens. Twenty-four hour monitoring in safe chat rooms, firewalls, and spyware are just three basic ways to prevent Internet exploitation.

However, the best recourse is for parents to educate children on the dangers of chatting, emailing, texting, or uploading photos and personal information to strangers. Just as Moms and Dads admonish kids not to talk to strangers in person, so should they also warn youngsters about chatting online with unknown individuals who may have ulterior motives. While parents sometimes balk at "invading" a son or daughter's personal space, there is absolutely no harm in checking a minor child's home PC, including emails, instant messages, blogs, and chatting, to determine if contact and conversations have been made with strangers. Aside from insisting that teens use safe chat rooms, parents should ask for a teen's password or insist that access be given to monitor communication on a regular basis. Remember: a child still living at home should be subject to the rules of the house; and unless they are old enough to pay rent for that room, children should still comply with rules which only serve to ensure their safety.

In addition to limiting minor's use to safe chat rooms, parents and educators may want to install software which flags suspicious activity. Some computer programs automatically detect unsafe sites and, based on keywords and phrases, blocks access to objectionable adult sites. Just as search engines target keyword rich content on reputable sites, so are they also enabled to locate pornographic and adult sites based on content, meta tags and encrypted text. Under-aged children are not mentally or emotionally equipped to deal with mature situations which may not only rob them of a normal childhood, but also lead toward a lifestyle that involves drugs, illicit sex, and promiscuity. Only after years of therapy and counseling do some teens ever recover from becoming victims of cyberspace crime. Responsible adults should take charge of youngsters' online communications and wage a vigilant battle against allowing minors to venture down a road of degradation, abuse, and debilitating mental anguish. Twenty-four hour monitoring and specialized software programs are two vehicles parents may utilize to safeguard a minor's Internet activity.



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