“By faith we understand” (Hebrews 11:3).
“By faith, by faith, by faith,” was the Divine thought running through the spirit of missionary Paul Backholer in 2001, as he sat beside the Pacific Ocean at Kavieng, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. Paul was over 10,000 miles away from home, having shared Christ in Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Papua New Guinea.
As the mission journey was closing Paul considered all the people who heard the gospel and the churches the team preached in, and thought to himself in prayer, “Could you reach more people through a website? What about a million people!”
The following year the ByFaith website went online. The Lord named the site in Papua New Guinea. The Internet still felt new and the opportunity for a Christian site to reach large numbers was a reality. Built as an interactive evangelical teaching site, ByFaith became an instant success. Significant numbers were visiting the thousand pages of the growing website, searching for Christian inspiration and encouragement.
“Interactivity was very important in the days of static websites,” said Paul Backholer. “Dial-up meant slow download speeds and it was optimised to load fast all over the world, including in developing nations.”
In these tentative years, the ByFaith site included evangelical teaching, apologetics, miraculous testimonies, agony pages, quizzes, jokes, film facts and streaming music. One of the pioneering features was the use of Flash Macromedia interactive teaching pages.
“Interactive city was amazing for the time,” said Paul. “You could visit a 3D world inside your computer, to seek Christian questions and ideas, as you entered virtual rooms and discovered unknown worlds.”
It took months to develop the streaming interactive 3D worlds and it drew people to the site until the millionth visitor logged on and Paul had an answer to the question he asked on his missionary journey.
“We started to hear from pastors and leaders asking for help,” said Paul’s brother Mathew Backholer. “God placed it on my heart to produce a fifty-five page printable discipleship course, with an additional interactive 3D delivery of the teaching.”
The free resource was available in 2003 and was a tool for young pastors who didn’t have the time to study for months and prepare a discipleship course. After church, young people could go home and enjoy exploring space, drive virtual cars and immerse themselves in the interactive world connected to the teaching.
ByFaith 1.0, as it is now known to ByFaith Media was a powerful tool reaching souls all over the world. People in closed countries and nations without a Christian tradition logged on, along with large numbers in the Western world. The hits went into the tens of millions as the ByFaith website rode the crest of the first wave of the Internet. The Lord commissioned the ministry and He blessed it.
Two decades on and times change, as the technology upon which much of the site was based was withdrawn from serviceable update. The end-of-life for Flash meant ByFaith would require a new website.