Digital Discipleship: Ministering to a Digital World

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I love technology. I’ve been enamored with it for as long as I can remember. Something about a tool that lets people create, share, and discover both new and old things has always been incredibly appealing. Steve Jobs said, “the computer is the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” That is, technology can be used to both efficiently and effectively communicate ideas and connect people to one another.

We live in a time and a world where technology is constantly changing and being updated. It seems as if once I’ve mastered a particular social network or piece of hardware, something new already came out yesterday.

I also love connecting with people. I love hearing their stories. Where they come from. Where they’re headed. I love connecting with people because I’m a firm believer that every person I meet can teach me something I don’t know.

In an increasingly socially-networked world, real connections are harder to make. It’s not just difficult for individuals—churches are also having trouble connecting with people. This is readily apparent in the declining membership numbers in Mainline Protestant churches. But in case more evidence is needed, the Barna Group has already done the legwork. There were several specific points of tension, but they all boiled down to a single theme—that the church was not relevant to people and their lives.

I briefly served in a church as a youth pastor. Every conference I attended repeated the same mantra year after year. “How do we stay relevant with today’s youth?” It would appear that the church has yet to figure it out. These conferences had tons of ideas, all of which sounded great at the time, but nevertheless failed to increase millennials’ attendance numbers in the pews. And when I look back on my own experience in as one of those young people, way back when, it makes sense.

Ask anyone who is very actively involved in church, and most of them will be able to name at least one relationship or connection they have that keeps them involved in their faith community. If you are reading this blog entry, chances are that your involvement in church can be traced back to a person or ministry that spoke to and connected with you as an individual.

Ministry does not happen in a vacuum. We live in a world that has changed from what it was even just a few years ago. It is difficult to remain relevant in a world that is changing daily.

As Christians, we are called to be Christ-like. Jesus met people where they are and told them stories in ways they could understand. Today, connecting with people comes in forms that are both new and familiar: social media, the Internet, text messages, and emails.

Today’s ministry field is not only outside of the four walls of a building—it is also in the digital world. Facebook and Twitter are the modern-day wells. As followers of Christ, we need to be meeting people at these digital wells. As Christians who are called to go forth and make disciples of all nations, we need to expand out of our comfort zones and stubborn attachment to the “way it’s always been done”. The church needs to reclaim its history of connecting with people where they are.

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