Utilizing digital space as a pathway to richer real-life relationships with God and others.
The necessary grace of chewing sacred communion bread soaked through with wine. The cleansing streams of water on skin when arising from the baptismal font. The relief of a warm and welcoming hug from someone who loves you in Christ. None of these things have changed. Christianity has always been a sacramental, incarnational, tangible religion.
Global pandemic or not, God’s goal remains the same: to invite each of us to know his tangible embrace through the church. At the same time, we must recognize that the pathways to the church are evolving. While God and God’s church are timeless, every generation is tasked with understanding the signs of the times and adapting by all possible means to make disciples (1 Cor. 9:22). Primary among the means that today’s church is called to pursue is digital disciple-making.
Even before COVID-19, it was clear that if industrial revolutions marked previous generations, digital revolutions mark ours. Our grandparents and great-grandparents could talk about a mythical time before airplanes and automobiles. We will regale our progeny with tales of a time before the internet. The coronavirus only underscores the digital revolution that continues to characterize our world. The critical question now is, how is our approach to disciple-making maximizing our unprecedented digital opportunity?
It is true that we cannot make disciples digitally just as we cannot eat a communion wafer digitally. Making disciples Jesus-style is life-on-life and radically relational. Yet, if we want to be where people are, we must traverse the digital mission frontier in new ways.
Let’s reimagine digital space not just as a tool but as a place—a country where people meet, play, talk, date, work, share stories, escape and dream. One perspective on the digital space is that it is an unreached nation, just as real as any other. The only difference is that Internet Country will always be more of a pathway than a final destination. No one made in the image of God truly wants to linger indefinitely in a digital mirage. What we really want is to utilize digital space as a pathway to richer real-life relationships of love with God and others.
I believe that those who freshly engage digital disciple-making as a pathway to love will bear much tangible fruit for the kingdom. A stellar example within my own tribe is Life.Church, which is pastored by Craig Groeschel. Life.Church is not only the church of the Evangelical Covenant denomination with the greatest digital reach, it is also arguably the church with the greatest actual, physical reach in terms of real-life disciples made, gathered and growing—which, of course, was always the point.
With every global revolution, God grows his church. During the Pax Romana, widespread roads and common language hastened the spread of the gospel. More recently, industrial revolutions unleashed global missions via plane, train and automobile to the farthest ends of the earth. For our generation, digital revolutions provide us with the opportunity to make and deepen more disciples among more peoples, in more ways and more quickly than ever before.
We will remember the coronavirus not only as a painful crisis, but also as a clear impetus for churches to (finally) accelerate to new heights of digital ministry and witness. Let’s not stop now. Now is the time to creatively answer the call to go and make disciples—digitally.