We ‘go’ to webpages. We ‘follow’ people on Twitter. We ‘add’ people on Facebook. Funnily enough, the New Testament talks about all three of these terms...
All three of these words are commonly used in social networking. We ‘go’ to webpages. We ‘follow’ people on Twitter. We ‘add’ people on Facebook. Funnily enough, the New Testament talks about all three of these terms.
We are to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), tell people to follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24) and in following Jesus and making disciples, numbers are added to the Church daily (Acts 2:47). So how do we fit the mission model found in Matthew 28 to our online presence? It is important that the Church recognises that the Great Commission refers not only to the physical world; but to every realm of existence. So, it’s important that we virtually go out and make disciples also.
What do I mean by this?
We are living in an age of New Media. That is internet, technological initiatives and social networking. This industry includes countless Christians and we literally have the world as our oyster when it comes to making disciples. In fact, it’s never been easier for us to share the gospel!
In October of 2011, I won the Best Blog for Under 25s in the Premier Media Christian New Media Awards. In my acceptance speech, I briefly discussed the purpose of my blog, DeanRoberts.Net. I touched on the reason why I write my blog. I noticed that in an age of skepticism, where it’s increasingly uncool and irrational to be ‘religious’ in any sense, people are using the internet to seek answers to life’s most difficult yet most important questions. Why am I here? What’s after death? Is God there?
With the internet, one could search Google and results appear. One doesn’t have to go to a church meeting, an evangelistic event or listen to a street preacher. Visitors of my blog vary. Many are Christians, atheists or unsure. But they all come searching for answers. For those who know Jesus already, the priority is to get to know Him better so we are better equipped to fulfill that command I mentioned earlier; Go and make disciples.
So, thinking about that verse in Matthew, how must we utilise the internet and new media with regards to the Great Commission? I’d say harness it. Grab all opportunities to your God-given abilities to make Him known. It’s high-time for the Church to do this whole-heartedly. Church websites tell a lot about a church. If it’s never updated, dull and boring, people will most likely not visit your church and you may be missing opportunities to share Jesus with others. Rather than merely going to one country as a missionary, or a local evangelistic event, the internet opens up a ministry to the whole world. Many Christian website visitors are from countries where subscription to Christianity is treason and heresy, punishable by death. Undoubtedly, many will be Christians who cannot go to church and therefore need spiritual nourishment from elsewhere i.e. the internet.
The internet and new media have the potential to bring Church to people’s homes. Many of my friends read the Bible daily through the internet, iPhone apps and view church services through live streaming. The internet can be a vital way in which people can develop in their faith and remain connected with other believers. Of course, all these things come with their negative points and one may argue that new media will never replace face-to-face discipleship. But in situations where this isn’t feasible, new media and internet outreach is definitely the way forward.
Thinking and reflecting theologically over mission and the internet, what questions does using the internet raise in terms of discipleship and the Great Commission? What reservations do you have? Should our reading of the New Testament shape how we use the internet and how we communicate through digital and new media?