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The 21st Century Church and the Digital Testimony

by Shannise Jackson-Ndiaye

October 11, 2012

One would think that the most popular tweets are from NBA players, pop stars, or politicians, but according to an article published in the New York Times Twitter Dynamos evangelical Christian leaders and “the message of God’s love” out perform the most famous pop stars on social media sites like Twitter. Names like Joyce Meyer, Max Lucado, and Andy Stanley may not be well known among Twitter executives but they have built an audience of loyal followers extending well beyond their social network.

Antoine Wright, founder of Mobile Ministry Magazine (MMM) and participant in Ignite Charlotte explores the realities of the digital revolution on believers, faith based organizations, and the message of the gospel. MMM began in 2004 as a PDF-based magazine for pastors and now is a weblog that publishes content to help the faith-based community better understand the impact mobile technology can have on faith-related issues.

In addition to publishing MMM, Wright also is a part-time instructor at Central Piedmont Community College and trainer for IT Training and Solutions. We sat down with him to discuss the digital revolution and its impact on ministry.

Antoine WrightHow has the Digital Revolution impacted the message of the gospel?

Back in 2002 you probably had a mobile phone but there was no data. I had a palm pilot in one hand and a mobile phone in the other and I said to myself these two devices are about to come together. The magazine started off with me telling them what is here and what is coming down the pike. In 2002 we just barely touched 1 billion people owning a mobile phone. Then there was the entire bible on a palm pilot. Right now two thirds of the world’s population has some type of mobile device.

The power to control where information travels is very important. The oral tradition calls for our faith to be believed in our hearts as we speak it. So, the judge of truth isn't your sources but can I believe this and this. The oral tradition has to respect the context of tradition. Context is passing the core ideas of the faith, then yes the things we do in mobile technology does mimic what we do in our oral tradition. Is our faith what Jesus said it was in John 4, how you react to the person in front of you right now, when they live life with you. Do they taste God from the tree that you build?

Will the Digital Revolution be as monumental to faith as the printing press was?

When I started mobile ministry no one was reading it, the field of mobile technology and faith didn't exist. Now we have to ask: What does technology look like in the body? How does it change the way we relate to one another, how we define our faith, how we define passing the tradition of our faith? What does it mean to forward the faith? Does it mean that everyone will have a bible on their phone just like they have a bible in their car collecting dust. The bible becomes personalized with mobile technology. Some groups see mobile technology as being the greatest missionary opportunity since the printing press.

Make a decision not on your tradition but the entire body and history of faith.

Is it possible for believers to be authentic and convey a transparent message using digital technology?

I went from a purely analog to a digital existence in the span of twenty years. Young People's behavioral context today is different than someone born thirty years ago. So we have all these contexts that say I can move my faith from these digital means as long as I am transmitting something that the Apostles can smell, and say "yeah that looks like the faith Jesus taught us."

What are some of the pitfalls?

Boundaries! We teach don't watch no more than one hour of television but we don't teach boundaries for digital technology because it is still a fairly new behavior. We need to have boundaries for our digital lifestyle, like read the terms of service for the technology we use.

Creativity! Creation, creativity, and production; 10% of the people online are the only ones producing and 90% of us are consuming.

Accountability! That I am not tweeting just because I want to be heard but I am adding value to the lives of those people who are passing through my life through this media stream. So there are implications to us walking through those streams and as ministers we need to make sure that I am utilizing not just for my best use but for those who are plucking from my tree of life. For congregants, I am also in this space and I have just as much of a voice as my pastor does. Publishing says that everyone has the same voice. If it is a video, Instagram, or Youtube let it minister grace unto the listeners and viewers.

Can digital and mobile technology transmit a Pentecostal experience?

Any of the folks using live video stream, they say that they are experiencing that. You are hearing this story consistently. It is the same way it happened with radio.

Where are we headed?

The Scary Place, where man and machine continue to merge. I have a smart watch and that is not good enough now let me build the watch into my wrist. Then people will say I don't need my body, I will just download my brain into a computer and become omnipresent. That's the scary side.

The Not So Scary Place is that we begin to understand what is human about ourselves and it enables us to make each other better. Ministers as they are refreshed in this age they will have to learn to adapt their lessons and embed it so that the digital faith that is lived isn't digital it is just the faith that is lived in a digital space


Related links:

Antoine's Blog

Antoine on LinkedIn


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