A New Era
It has been sixteen years eight months and eight days since the world sat up to witness the dawning of a new age. The year 2000 evoked several fears: computer programmers feared the Y2K bug: a complication in distinguishing the year 2000 from the 1900s.
It was perceived that this issue in dating would affect business operations. On the other hand, some religious groups thought that this era would see the mark of the beast and ultimately the end of the world. Thus many people were warned to repent and to turn to God.
While the dating system has been sorted out and Christ has not yet returned for his Church; the world has dramatically changed because of technology. Perhaps the real bug of the 21<sup>st century was that everyone across the world so long as they have the infrastructure, from children to adult are tapped into the World Wide Web.
Communication, socialisation, and entertainment have been revolutionised to the point that there is no need to leave home for an education, to work, to see love ones, or even to watch the summer block buster movie. Even more daring, some persons argue that they do not need to go to church because they can stream services online.
Once upon a time only the wealthy were able to afford cable television and computers were only functional for scientists in their research. Today most persons have laptops, notebooks, tablets, and smart-phones; and with 4G network and data plans one can do just about anything on the go!
Technology's Impact on the Church
Of all the institutions in society, the church has been most challenged to conform to the technological programme. New members to the congregation were born in the age of technology so from infancy throughout their adolescence, technology has been ingrained in their daily routine and operations. Consequently, many youth and even adults are less interested in gospel presentations and worship services which do not utilise technology.
Attention spans have waned so much that those who do attend church services spend a portion of their time browsing the internet during the service.
Church administrators in response to the "needs" of their congregants have made moves to renovate the church's facilities to include projectors and LCD TVs. These features have enhanced services: senior members learn new songs that are not in the old hymnals or on the chorus sheets; visitors who do not have Bibles are able to read the scriptures on a large screen; and pastors enhance their messages by sharing videos, pictures, and power-points. In addition church programmes now also include film-shows, something that was frown upon by some denominations in the past.
The world is filled with tech-savvy individuals; therefore ministers of the gospel should be trained in the use of digital media to effectively engage the world. This training involves being aware of the various platforms available to us: social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Whatsapp); marketing programmes (Mail Chimp and Eventbrite); and software applications downloadable on Googleplay (YouVersion, Jesus Film, GodTools, and EveryStudent). But it also involves knowing when and how to use them effectively.
Many Christians have personal social media accounts and while for the most part it is their way of socialising or to be entertained, it is also a way in which they can harm their witness of Christ. We are cautioned by God's Word to "Do not let your good be evilly spoken of" (Romans chapter 14 verse 16).
Thus, instead of worrying about the negative outcome of our social media activities whereby posts, likes, and comments become public domain; these sites can become an opportunity to address a world that needs Christ. There are countries and people that are unreached because of political and geographical boundaries; yet, technology has broken down most of these walls.
Not every online contact will be a Christian but there should be a desire that a Christian's presence online will bring about spiritual transformation in some soul. A story was told of a young lady who accepted Christ because she Googled Jesus, when believers post their testimonies online, these become seeds or water for some searching soul in need of direction. Technology is a tool that can be used for ministry; thus it is important to know that believers are to be wise stewards of these tools.
While digital media and the internet were birthed thousands of years after the birth of the church, the Bible is filled with many examples of how the apostles used indigenous strategies to reach large audiences for Christ. For example, the Apostle Paul encountered a society of idol worshippers and like any great teacher Paul drew from their current knowledge and understanding about God and creation to insert truth about God and Jesus Christ (See Acts chapter 17 verses 16-32).
Paul's strategy was that he was always connected to the Holy Spirit. In addition, he capitalised on opportunities set before him; he was observant and mindful of the culture of his audiences; and he was not afraid to utilise aspects of their culture to share his faith.
In every age and culture there will always be some trend to contend with, in Paul's case this was the statue of the Unknown God and the Athenians love of knowledge; but with wisdom, it can be used to connect persons to God.
Technology may have invaded the world but regardless of the age there is always a need to proclaim the message of forgiveness of sins, repentance, and salvation. Digital strategies is just one way to reach the tech-generation; but, may it always be the first point of order to be led by God's Holy's Spirit. Digital strategies cannot replace God or the work of his Holy Spirit.
The late Dr. Bill Bright founder of Campus Crusade for Christ taught "We take the initiative to share Christ with others in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God." Taking the initiative involves praying and trusting God for direction in who we minister to; when and where we minister; and most importantly how we minister.
Janine Williams is a fulltime theology student and budding digital strategist passionate about the word of God which is powerful to transform the lives of individuals and nations.
Janine Williams previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/janine-williams.html