Some people may feel the need for Christian online community websites to express their feelings, ask questions, and make comments about different social issues. There are individuals who do not feel comfortable speaking out in front of groups of people about their faith, or in regards to certain biblical issues, or even asking questions in a class setting. Christian online community websites can be the answer for those persons. An online neighborhood of people is made up of those who are bound together by a specific purpose or through a common belief. The Internet is used as a place for those persons to share and perhaps communicate with other of like values. In this case, the term Christian would be used to describe those who hold to specific core beliefs related to Jesus Christ.
Not all Christians feel the need for online community sites in which to explore their faith more deeply. For many believers, the local church serves as a very strategic place to be educated, strengthened and vocal about their faith. Yet many others may not have a church or who are looking for other voices outsides their denominations from which to receive encouragement and teaching. In fact, the days of strict denominational adherence has long since passed for many Christians and a more openness exists among many to stand on common ground rather than argue over differences. But there are still many persons who long for more opportunities to learn and share and through the use of the Internet, Christians can find havens where personal values and beliefs are honored, a reality that is growing less and less to be so outside the Christo-centric community.
What exactly is on or in Christian online community websites will vary from site to site. In many community sites, there will be the opportunity to ask questions that might never be asked in a Sunday school class or in front of a small group Bible study. The fear of seeming or sounding ill-informed often is pervasive even in the church and so very often the questions people have go unanswered for years. But with the advent of safe Internet places to ask questions in anonymity, there is the opportunity to search and ask without fear. But people are also invited to post thoughts on forums that often are pervasive on Christian online community websites. Sharing insights or experiences can be one of the main draws of the community that has a particular mindset. Leaving prayer requests for others to remember and posting answers to prayer are also part of many online Christian community sites.
There are sites that might be considered online communities, such as Christian dating or matchmaking sites. And in the informal sense they are, but in the strictest formal sense they are only part of the larger Christian community, and while most married people would not feel comfortable conversing on a site for singles, the builders and managers of Christian online community websites would certainly want and welcome both married and singles to interact in their cyberspace community. Unlike many churches where singles are viewed as not being whole persons, one of the great strengths of interacting in cyberspace Christian communities is to only be able to view the words of someone and not judge them by their gender, marital status or skin color. Perhaps in no other settings can the words of Paul be more evident: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond of free, there is neither male nor female: for ye all are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)
There are many Christian online community websites from which to choose, and choosing more than one to participate in is certainly welcome. When choosing websites, one should check the site's statement of faith to see the doctrinal positions they take. Doctrinal positions are statements of faith that are drawn from understandings of scripture. Some websites may say they are Christian but deny the Deity of Christ. If you come from a background where Armenianism was taught and join a community where Calvinism reigns supreme, you may be in for a keyboard battle! Too bad, but it does happen. Just find a site where its position is something with which you are comfortable and doesn't violate your beliefs.
But all of this does bring up the major drawback to the whole idea of Christian online community websites. One of the reasons the Christian church, made up of all believers, hasn't been successful in being the salt and light in American society through the years is because too many Christians are afraid to let others know of personal faith. If online websites where anonymity reigns and no real fear of discourse and attack from other belief systems or philosophies are present, then there is the very real chance that those websites are enabling timid or weak Christians from growing into Christians who are ready to take on the world for the faith they hold so precious. Believers are commanded to be ready at any time to give an account and reason for their faith, which does not come through spending a lot of time on all Christian websites or never sharing faith with an unbelieving neighbor. A Christian online community may provide a very fine oasis in the middle of a hot and steamy media culture that is profoundly anti-Christian and everyone needs an oasis now and then. If it becomes a regular hangout for timid or insecure believers, these sites may only enable these weaker brothers and sisters to continue in the quest for mediocrity.
Christian Friend FinderA Christian friend finder is an Internet service that provides a participating online community the ability to search for and develop relationships with other individuals of similar interests and faith convictions. Many sites are not only geared toward those interested in romance but also cater to those looking for a friend with whom they can become a pen pal, a Bible study partner or prayer partner. Some of the more popular web sites that interest Christians are free and allow a participant the ability to create a personal profile as well as to control outgoing or incoming information and contacts. Powerful tools allow users to find a match to any criteria they set in their profile and can be assured that there will usually be a close match found among the thousands of databases compiled worldwide.
Various other features are oftentimes offered within a community such as ezines, blogs, chat rooms, and email. Some advanced options are offered through many sources such as upgraded premium accounts that must be paid for by participants. Typically, a new user begins with a free Christian friend finder service before choosing to upgrade to more features. Free accounts generally require a user name and password in order to log in to a new account. Basic features offered to beginning users are more than enough to satisfy their networking experience until they are proficient enough to move on to advanced features. Some people are content to continue with a basic account and are pleased to find the match that they are searching for without upgrading.
For long time users, an upgrade can provide extras such as speedy customer support, regular data base searches, emailed matches to criteria and anonymous email services. Customer support can be very important especially for paying customers who are having billing problems, technical difficulties or instructional issues when looking for a friend through a professional service. Some sources offer varying upgrades that provide degrees of customer support according to the type of account. Participants who have upgraded to a premium account with most sources generally receive the best customer support. An automatic database search that is performed regularly by a Christian friend finder service is usually an upgrade feature that many individuals find helpful.
According to particular criteria required by an individual who is in search of a likeminded person, an automatic search is executed daily or weekly for the closest match. Automatic searches make it easy for people who are looking for a friend with specific interests, characteristics and religious beliefs without having to weed through them personally. The more specific the criteria a person enters into a database system, the more likely an automatic search will yield the best results. While nothing can really take the place of human intuition, face-to-face interaction and spiritual sensitivity, this method can essentially 'cut to the chase' by eliminating obvious mismatches. Criteria such as denominational preference and whether or not a person drinks or smokes are some of the most basic requirements that many Christians wish to address early on before choosing to initiate a casual relationship with anyone.
Just about any preferential issue can be entered by a Christian for consideration within a finder search service. For those interested in dating or marriage, religious beliefs rate at the top of most people's priorities within any Christian friend finder source, but other considerations such as physical size, ethnicity, looks, occupation, hometown, country, hobbies, education and income are very important to most. While some issues are negotiable, others are not, and an accurate search capability is highly appreciated by those who have upgraded accounts. When a possible match is found, the person receives an emailed notice regarding the find and where to contact the individual. There is no obligation to contact the match and a person may check them out further through their profile and other posted information. If and when a person chooses to contact the match is entirely up the user.
Other types of matches for participants may not require nearly the mammoth amount of data that the dating and marriage area generally requires. Those who are looking for a friend with whom to share a spiritual conversation or with whom to become a prayer partner may only require from a possible match a basic faith commitment which rests on the biblical understanding of the gospel. In other words, a personal salvation experience that is based on the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ for the redemption of those who would believe can be a necessary criteria for a Christian friendship. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
Whether for marriage or friendship, this is the basis of any long term, quality relationship really for anyone. Other preferential issues can be problematic of course, according to the person, but as a believer, this is the place to start. Anonymous email is also offered for those who have full featured accounts. This allows a user to send or receive email notices without allowing the recipient the ability to find them or track them. The anonymity this provides is a safety feature since the cyber world can be riddled with unsavory characters trolling friendship sites and searching for an easy target. Reputable Christian friend finder services provide as many safety features as possible to insure a user's protection.