Almost all of us are connected to digital spaces through email, smartphones, texting, messaging apps, and social media. The average person now spends an astounding nine to 18 hours a day looking at a screen. Yet despite how integrated our lives have become, we’ve put up silos that keep our faith separate from our online lives.
Many view digital tools and technologies as incompatible with Christian faith and living. This is a wasted opportunity, because our digital presence could be a powerful extension of our faith in the very spaces where most people go searching for answers.
You may be asking, “Aren’t social media and the Internet dangerous? Don’t they waste my time and distract me from worship and my family?” Look, I’m not saying there aren’t dangers and distractions. Temptations abound online—but when has danger ever stopped us from entering the physical mission field? Missionaries leave their loved ones, endanger their health, and even give up their lives to take the gospel to all corners of the earth.
Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because it was a dangerous place, and he rightly feared for his life. He tried to run away from his responsibility and from God. His efforts were futile. God sent a storm and a great fish to redirect him to his appointed calling. Have we, corporately as a church, been guilty of the same attitude? We’ve doubled down on traditional methods of evangelism in the West despite diminishing returns. Now we’re amid the global pandemic fallout, and I believe God is using COVID-19 to push us into the digital mission field. We must reframe how we view time spent online. The digital mission field is the largest in the world, and its potential is largely untapped.
The apostolic church took the gospel to new regions out of necessity—they were fleeing persecution. I don’t believe God causes persecution or pandemics, but I know He uses them for His purpose. I believe God has closed the church doors so that we can learn how to be the church outside of a building. After all, God’s church is supposed to be a people—not a building. We must extend the church experience beyond the confines of time and space in a building to a thriving 24/7 kingdom that meets the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of its community.
We must reignite the spirit of the early Adventist Church, a grassroots movement that started with involvement from individual members. Ellen White states it clearly: “Christ commits to His followers an individual work—a work that cannot be done by proxy. Ministry to the sick and the poor, the giving of the gospel to the lost, is not to be left to committees or organized charities. Individual responsibility, individual effort, personal sacrifice, is the requirement of the gospel.”1
It doesn't matter if you have four connections or 100,000 followers online; you have influence and are accountable to God for what you do with it. Using your influence to improve the lives of others and share your faith is simply a matter of good stewardship.
If you’re worried about “being qualified,” ask yourself this: What official qualifications did the woman at the well have to tell people about Jesus? The answer is none, yet John 4:39 tells us, “From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified.”2 How about the demoniac? Mark 5:20 reports that “he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.” No theology degrees, no pre-approved trainings sanctioned by religious leaders, and no leadership positions. They were simply sinful, fallen people—just like us—whose lives had been changed by Jesus and who made the choice to share Him. Not even their past lives, which excluded them from polite society, disqualified them. They had one thing in common: a willingness to be used by God.
Are you willing to put your faith on display online? You too can choose to reach people within your sphere of digital influence with His messages of hope and wholeness. Sadly, most members of the church expect a designated few to do all the work, but it’s essential to our mission for each of us to realize our potential in this area. We’re called to be witnesses instead of pew warmers and online spectators; we’re to be centers for positive influence, to be coworkers with the Holy Spirit in building God’s kingdom.
We are, without a doubt, facing the biggest communication shift in 500 years. The printing of the Gutenberg Bible marked the start of the “Gutenberg Revolution” and played a key role in the Protestant Reformation, as members of the church could easily create and spread information at low cost. We’re at a pivotal moment in which we can choose to be a part of a “digital revolution for the gospel.” This means wemust adapt and get personally involved. Just as the Protestant Reformers leveraged the printing press, we must use digital tools to share our messages and fulfill our individual roles.
I firmly believe the next Great Awakening will be a digital one, but this shift is going to require everyone to get involved. We’ve truly become the Laodicean church, and COVID-19 has pushed us from pew warmers to passive online viewers. This must change. We must change. We’re all called to be disciples, to be distributors of the gospel. The way I see it, if we have 22 million members worldwide, that means we have 22 million distribution centers for the gospel.
In Exodus 3, God appears to Moses in the burning bush. After Moses voices his doubts and fears about returning to Egypt, God asks him in Exodus 4:2, “What is that in your hand?” Moses had only a simple shepherd’s staff—a tool that could be used for good or for evil, to hit and harm or to lead and protect. With God in the mix, that same staff performed miracles and led God’s people out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
I believe that God is asking each of us the very same question. What is in your hand? Today that’s a smartphone, a tablet, a camera, or a laptop. View these as neutral tools and technologies. What we do with them is what can be good or bad. If God is with us, miracles will take place, and people around the world will be freed from the bondage of slavery. We can start by reaching those within our own spheres of digital influence.
Small actions can result in a big impact. And what starts in the digital space is not confined to the digital space. Are you ready to use your digital influence to improve the lives of others and share the gospel? Follow these easy steps:
After reading through this list, you may have realized that you’ve already been acting as a digital disciple. Wonderful! Now be even more intentional. This is a legitimate form of ministry; encourage others to join you. Form a group of digital disciples in your church of friendship circle who can share ideas and encourage each other.
If you’re not yet ready to engage in direct digital discipleship and evangelism, you can take a more passive role and act as a distributor of the gospel by engaging only in digital door-knocking on a regular basis. Here are some practical tips for those who want to start simply:
If you’re reading this post, you’re online. Are you willing to use your influence for the kingdom, no matter how big or small? In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, the servants who began with five and two talents wisely invested and doubled their value. Their master declared, “Well done, good and faithful [servant]. You were faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things; enter the joy of your master” (verse 21; see also verse 23). But the servant who was given one talent in the beginning was afraid and hid the talent in the ground. The master took his talent away and cast him out. “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away” (verse 29).
Choose today to be a good and faithful digital servant.
Jamie Schneider Domm is a digital marketing strategist and an accomplished musician. She lives with her husband in Virginia, United States. To learn more about digital discipleship and evangelism, check out her book available from AdventSource.