What drives innovation on the internet? Love it, or (most likely) hate it, the 'adult industry' (what a strange euphemism) has been the driving force that continues to revolutionise the way we use the internet.

In December last year, Dan Tynan from PC World published a list of "12 ways the sex trade has changed the web" Clearly, not all of these innovations have been good (as the article itself concedes). It doesn't take a particularly web-savvy reader to work out which of these are 'naughty' (in the words of the author), and which are 'nice':
Online payment systems
Streaming content
Live chat
Pop-ups, pop-unders and mousetrapping
Browser hijacking
Traffic optimisation
Domain-name hijacking
3G mobile services
Paris Hilton

Christian ministry makes use of six of these twelve innovations (i.e. all of the 'nice' ones!).

For example, we use online payment systems to enable people to buy books, music and sermons online. We use live chat (e.g. Google Talk , MSN Messenger  and Skype) to talk to other staff members, or people in our congregations, or to connect with mission partners. We stream video feeds from conferences and even church services (e.g. the Big Day In). However, Christian ministry is not usually forthcoming in brand-new ideas - the closest we get is seeing good ideas (e.g. YouTube) and then mimicking them (i.e. GodTube).

So why is the porn industry such an effective online innovator? Tynan quotes Bruce Arnold who says that "[the porn industry is] an ecosystem in which participants are willing - indeed forced - to experiment, and where experimentation isn’t hobbled by common sense, good taste, or bureaucracy".

It disappoints me that online Christian ministry is hobbled by numerous other factors. Usually it rides the coat-tails of the innovations of others (and is often the last to be convinced of these advantages of these innovations for ministry), rather than setting the pace and showing what can be done. We are technology leeches, not leaders.

Imagine if our love for others, our love for Christ, and our desire to connect Christ with those who need Him drove us to be creative, experimental, innovative and risky in our use of the internet. Exploring new ways to share the gospel, different ways of creating and promoting community - all to the glory of God. Billy Graham was a great innovator in his time - using radio, television, audio amplification and extensive church networks to proclaim the gospel.

Let's think big in today's online context. How could our Christian ministries use the internet in new ways, to make the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ known and savoured around the world?