Digital Missionary, That Christian Vlogger.
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
Recently, advertisements sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints began running on prominent YouTuber Justin Khoe’s videos. What makes this surprising is that Justin is a digital missionary for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. For every advertisement that runs on his videos, Justin gets a percentage of the revenue. In other words, when the Church of Jesus Christ targets their ads to subscribers of his channel, they are financially supporting his ministry, an Adventist ministry. Before we get into why this strategy makes sense and what it means for Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic methods, let us share some background information.
Who is Justin Khoe?
Justin Khoe is a digital missionary. Known online primarily as “That Christian Vlogger,” Justin runs a Christian YouTube channel with over 65,000 subscribers (as of October 2018) that seeks to have a positive impact on those searching for spiritual answers online. His YouTube videos have been seen around the world by over two million people. With over ten years of preaching, literature evangelism, and teaching experience under his belt, Justin’s current focus is leveraging social media to help reach unchurched young adults. Co-hosting the show with him is his wife, Emily. Justin and Emily aim to encourage young adults to have a stronger and deeper relationship with God and to help them discover who God has created them to be. They call this way of living “experiencing faith in the first person.” In the past year, Justin has created an interactive Christian community and received 2,334 requests for Bible studies.
How YouTube Advertising Works
Advertising on YouTube is simple and straightforward: pay Google a set amount ($0.20 per view, on average) to insert a commercial to play before a particular video. The revenue from this advertising is split between Google and the content creator.
With over 1.8 billion people watching videos on YouTube each month, it’s easy to see why advertising on the platform is attractive for businesses looking to reach a wide audience. And they are coming in droves; in 2018 alone, advertisers are expected to spend an astonishing $3.9 billion dollars on YouTube advertising.
It’s makes sense. Armed with an endless supply of targeted data from Google’s immense user base, companies can now target prospective customers with pin-point accuracy. Travel agencies can target young families with an interest in exploring South-East Asia. Makeup companies can target 13-17 year old girls from the United Kingdom who have recently searched for specific brands of lipstick. The examples could go on and on.
Opportunities Beyond Profits
But YouTube advertising isn’t the exclusive domain of makeup companies and travel agencies looking to turn a profit. For many organizations with non-financial motivations, YouTube has become an ideal platform for influencing targeted groups of people. Using Google’s powerful targeting tools, politicians use the platform to target key voter segments, nonprofits use it to target likely donors, and—most recently—churches and other religious organizations have begun using it to target spiritually-interested people searching for answers to spiritual questions.
This last scenario is one that should be of particular interest to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As mentioned above, a religious organization has recently begun running ads on Justin Khoe’s (aka “ThatChristianVlogger”) YouTube channel. One ad in particular describes the conversion experience of Richard, an Asian-American atheist who became a Christian.
The approximately three-minute video describes how Richard was unhappy with his life and how he began to search for a greater purpose. Richard ultimately found, not only a faith that could fill his need for purpose and meaning, but also one that appealed to his need for logic as a scientist. Eventually, Richard met with some missionaries and decided to join a church that loves and welcomes him with open arms.
A Neglected Field
The crazy part of this story lies in which organization is sponsoring these ads on a Seventh-day Adventist YouTube channel: The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ, known for their evangelistic zeal, have recognized—better than most churches—that when young people have questions about purpose and identity, they don’t turn to pastors and teachers as they did in previous decades. No, they turn instead to social media—Google, Facebook, YouTube, and the like. In fact, Generation-Z can’t live without YouTube, with 95% of them using the platform and half stating they can’t live without it.
Gen Z prefers to watch, rather than read. They view digital video and short-form clips almost six times as much as they read traditional digital publishers/blogs. Social influencers play a significant role in defining what youth audiences like, view, and buy…This is particularly true when marketing to Gen Z, who grew up with the internet and are not only demanding that all brands entertain them, but also that entertainment shifts to behave like a friend—it’s also why influencers are so effective in selling to this generation. —Maude Standish, Vice President of Programming Strategy, Fullscreen
Rather than ignoring this trend, or attempting to counteract it, the Church of Jesus Christ has made the evangelistic leap that all churches seeking to remain relevant in the 21st century will have to take: they became digital missionaries. They found an existing online community of spiritually interested individuals (built by Justin Khoe through his YouTube channel), and then paid Google to spread their message to that targeted audience through advertising.
As a result, a Seventh-day Adventist digital missionary—Justin Khoe—finds himself in the ironic position of being sponsored (via YouTube advertising) by the the Church of Jesus Christ, because they recognize the immense evangelistic value of the audience he his building, and the need to target the next generation on the digital platforms where they are searching for answers.
Supporting digital missions can take a variety of forms. For the individual, this may mean leveraging your own digital influence for the gospel or supporting your favorite Adventist influencer financially. Encourage friends and family members who feel called to the digital mission field, especially when they are frustrated and have doubts. When you don’t understand what they are trying to do, ask questions and never dismiss their ideas due to their “youth.” In my experience, most principles gleaned from the physical mission field have application in the digital one. If you have evangelism and discipleship experience, be a guide and a mentor that encourages young people’s ideas. You may not be a content creator, but if you’re on social media, you can share their content to help expand their reach.
This will take a cultural shift at every level of our Church to recognize, encourage, support, and assist our youth, who are the best suited to reach their own generation. We must recognize digital missionaries as legitimate missionaries. This means not only making room for digital evangelism and discipleship in our churches, but preparing our youth for this mission field by equipping them with the right technical skills. We, as a denomination, must value the tech-savvy and social influencers if we are to accomplish our great commission in a digitally-focused society. It’s time to invest heavily in digital missionaries, platforms, technologies, and advertising strategies at the corporate and local levels of our Church.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church began as a grassroots effort that became a global movement. The explosion of digital technologies is affording us the opportunity to once again unite in a common purpose to expand the gospel. We are more connected than ever before, and the mission field is huge. I believe the second great awakening will be a digital one. I am challenging us to another grassroots movement of skilled individuals using their different talents (blogging, video, design, podcasting, IT, preaching, writing, healing, etc.) to share one message. I know there are thousands of faithful believers with the skills, expertise, and faith necessary to take our message online en masse. There is a place for everyone in this movement, but it will take everyone working together. The wisdom of traditional evangelism combined with the technical fluency of the youth could preach the three angels’ messages with a loud voice to the ends of Earth. This is possible if we seize this opportunity before it’s too late.
Follow Justin Khoe on YouTube
Support his ministry on Patreon
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
A checklist for cleaning up your digital influence to avoid embarrassing situations and misunderstandings
Many of this blog’s readers are church employees with a potentially large digital influence. What you do with that influence matters. We’ve all made mistakes communicating online, but it’s never too late to start fresh by conducting a personal social media audit. Below is a checklist to help you evaluate your social media profiles and identify areas of potential change or improvement. Whether you have four friends or four thousand, as disciples we must strive to reflect Christ always, drawing others to His life-saving truths and love. We cannot do this effectively when our words or actions send mixed or divisive messages.
Social media is public by nature and has blurred the lines between a person’s work life and personal life. No matter how high your privacy settings are, your activity is always public at some level. As representatives of a faith group, your individual accounts are no longer just personal. This can be a positive thing. Each of us are called to be disciples, and this includes reaching the digital mission field. I believe that God is calling a generation of youth to the digital mission field, but, to be effective, we must begin by setting boundaries with ourselves.
I encourage you to read through these questions carefully and make any necessary changes to your social media profiles. This may include removing old posts and pictures. In extreme situations, deleting accounts may be necessary.
Personal social media audit checklist:
☐ Do you list your employer or ministry on your social media profiles?
☐ Are you taking the necessary precautions to protect you and your loved ones’ personal information?
In summary, if you are unsure whether or not to share or write something online, err on the safe side and simply don’t post it. It is likely that you have friends who are not Christians or who may be struggling with their faith. Don’t be another reason for them to leave their Church. Find ways to use your digital influence to encourage others and share your faith in positive ways.
If you are forgetful or ignore the guidelines above, there are a few things that could happen.
A special note to employers and supervisors:
In regard to an employee sharing their personal life on their social media profiles, “offenses” must be evaluated on whether the content or behavior is in clear violation of Church doctrine, and it is not to be gauged by individual preferences or interpretation. Behavior on social media prior to conversion or a re-commitment to the faith should not be used against an employee who is now a member of the Church in good standing.
On a personal note, I converted in my early 20s from atheism. I have since lived as a committed Adventist for over 10 years. Until I did a personal social media audit, if you dug far enough back in my post history, you’d find images of me drinking wine and eating unclean meats, because this is what many non-Adventist Italians are culturally raised to do. At the time, I did not know that there was a Biblical way of living healthier. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent”: Acts 17:30.
This was prior to my conversion and my commitment to the health principles, and I think it’s important that we understand that personal social media often captures snapshots at different points of an individual’s spiritual journey. Given the gospel of grace, these snapshots should not be held against a person years after conversion and seasons of dedicated service. By removing old content that does not reflect who we have become, we can prevent it from sending mixed messages to those we witness to online or providing fuel to those who seek to find fault.
Download this social media audit checklist to print and share.
Learn more about how your personal social media can affect the gospel:
Center for Online Evangelism
The Center for Online Evangelism is a missionary project devoted to developing online mission stations.
Every follower of Jesus Christ is called to be a missionary.
For many of us, when we hear the term “missionary,” we imagine traveling to a third-world country, living without the usual comforts of home, learning a tongue-curling language, and fighting an epic battle against mosquitoes. But that is not the only form of mission work.
Mission work is the act of intentionally sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This means that we can use everyday devices like our laptops, smartphones, tablets, and cameras to help someone know of the hope that we have.
If you want to be a missionary online but you’re not sure how to go about getting started, here are five important steps to help you:
Step 1: Write down your project and stick to it.
Your project is a God-given assignment – a task that the Holy Spirit will equip you to complete. Your project or mission work will be based on your gifts, talents, skill set, and experience. But, don’t try to do everything.
Examples of mission projects:
The object of online evangelism and mission work is to reach people online and share content that will encourage, inspire, and point them to Christ.
We may speak words of encouragement to those whom we meet. “A word spoken in season, how good is it!” Souls are perishing for the lack of personal labor.– E.G. White, Letter 151, 1903.
Step 2: Register as an online missionary.
Being a part of the Database for Online Missionaries will connect you with other digital disciples and online workers. This database can provide a support system and give you access to resources that could help you serve more effectively.
The Center for Online Evangelism is creating a directory for online missionaries. Individuals who intentionally use the internet to share the Gospel are invited to sign up for the directory. Donors and mission supporters can also view this database and back a project. To register, email email@example.com with the subject line "Register for Online Missionary Database."
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick: Luke 9: 1,2 NIV
Step 3: Choose a prayer partner and pray
Your prayer partner will be the person who believes in what God called you to do and they are willing to stand in the gap for you. This is the friend or relative who will pray with you regularly and encourage you when you are tempted to give up.
Praying is the highest work of a missionary.
It is not a means to an end but the end of our work because it brings us directly in contact with God. Prayer equips us with the strength needed to do the task given by God. A prayer partner helps us formulate specific prayers and plays a crucial role building on our holy faith.
As we make Christ our daily companion we shall feel that the powers of an unseen world are all around us, and by looking unto Jesus we shall become assimilated to His image (Pr. 82.1).
Step 4: Create a content strategy
It’s important to have a plan. That plan comes in the form of a content strategy.
A content strategy is like creating a blueprint or a map for your work. This documented plan encompasses the planning, creation, publishing, distribution, and management (of feedback) of your content. It also includes:
Download a guide to Digital Evangelism for Ministries.
Step 5: Improve your skills
Whether you will be writing a blog, producing videos, preaching, or recording a podcast, you need resources that will help you get better at what you do.
Assuming that you know it all hinders the work of the Holy Spirit in you. Here are a few things you can do to enhance your proficiencies:
By taking these simple steps, you can be on your way to starting your work as an online missionary. Remember, this is not like a class project or a hobby; this is a sacred work and should be regarded as such.
If you bear in mind the magnitude of your mission task and the significance of sticking with it, you will find that you won’t easily give up during trying moments. Christ commissioned you to do this work. He will also empower you and provide the means to be successful.
Sometimes, online mission work can get out of control. Read this article about how digital missionaries can balance online work and spiritual health.
Are you interested in being an online missionary? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register for our Online Missionaries Database.
Reposted with permission from centerforonlineevangelism.org.
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” – Mark 6:31-32 NIV
For those of us who spend all day on social media working to further to gospel, it’s important that we learn to safeguard our own spirituality, as well as develop a healthy work-life balance. Another way to frame this is to make sure you are fed spiritually before you minister to others.
This can be a huge challenge, because when you work for a religious organization, EVERYTHING seems important because of the eternal impact of the work. And there seems to be no end to the work that needs to be done. Those of us who have chosen this type of career are self-driven but also driven by the expectations (or perceived expectations) of others. How do we prioritize? How do we set boundaries that enable us to get the job done, while taking care of our own spiritual health?
We’re not in this alone. God knows our limitations, and He doesn’t want us to work so hard that we work ourselves away from Him–the relationship that matters most. This is why He has given us the Holy Spirit. After we’ve given it our all for the day and go home to rest, the Holy Spirit keeps working.
He also doesn’t want us to dive so deep into the mission field that we become corrupted by it. There’s a lot of toxic conversations and content on social media, just like physical mission fields have their dangers and temptations. If the early missionaries of our church would have stayed away from the mission field because of the dangers, the Seventh-day Adventist Church would have never become a global movement. We must go where the people are and minister to their needs, while simultaneously guarding the avenues of our own heart.
HERE ARE 4 TIPS FOR DIGITAL MISSIONARIES TO HELP BALANCE DIGITAL MEDIA AND SPIRITUAL HEALTH:
God has not called us to live in social media, but to influence people through social media. Our influence online can stretch much further than we imagine with the help of the Holy Spirit.
God has called us to use our digital influence for Him, whether that’s an audience of four or 40,000. We plant the seeds; God grows the seeds. People pour out their hearts online. We can be there in their moments of crisis with love, hope, and truth. But in order for them to listen to us, we must carefully cultivate and use our digital influence purposefully.
By setting boundaries and sticking with them, we can be better equipped to help others. Share your personal tips for setting boundaries below!
Center for Online Evangelism
The Center for Online Evangelism is a missionary project devoted to developing online mission stations.
For years my parents have always had one particular squabble; mom would say she’s going into the store for a few minutes to pick up one item, but she usually emerged twenty minutes with several grocery bags. Dad always responded, “I thought you were going in for one item?”
I’m sure many people can relate to this. But this problem isn’t unique to shopping. Many digital missionaries are at risk of what we’ll call SMTYI Syndrome: Spend More Than You Intend Syndrome. This occurs when you plan to spend a few minutes on social media but actually spend way more time than you intended. You aim to spend 5 minutes on Facebook or Instagram but 30 minutes pass by before you realize it.
THERE'S A SCIENCE BEHIND WHY YOU KEEP SCROLLING
There is a science behind why we are so addicted to our social media pages and why we keep scrolling even though we know there are more important things to do. Social media and websites designers intentionally create their pages in a way to keep you scrolling.
For example, your notifications are red because red grabs our attention in a way that other colors can’t. Stop signs, danger signs, and stop lights command us to pay attention. Likewise, when we see a red notification indicating that there’s a new message or comment, it’s hard to ignore it.
Another reason why digital missionaries are at risk in the online mission field is The Infinite Scroll: the endless page that keeps showing posts, photos, videos, trailers, and so forth.
The designer of the infinite scroll, Aza Raskin makes millions creating tricks to keep us scrolling. Raskins designed the feature based on the famous soup bowl experiment where researchers found that subjects ate 73% more if they were unknowingly eating from a self-refilling bowl. Interestingly enough, even though the subjects consumed more, they didn’t believe that they ate more than those who ate from normal bowls. Raskins admitted that the feature is powerful enough to become addictive, something that he now feels guilty about.
If social media sites gave you an option to go to another page, you would spend less time scrolling. The infinite scroll tactic keeps us in a trance, and it’s only one feature among dozens that makes it almost impossible to stick to your allotted “time budget.”
Your friend’s wedding photos, your co-worker’s video while at the water park, a movie trailer, someone’s live video, an ad for an item you googled yesterday: all of these have a price tag. It may not have the dollar sign on it, but the currency is in minutes and seconds. Eventually, it all adds up.
THE INFINITE SCROLL HAS A DIRECT IMPACT ON EVANGELISM
Undeniably, the infinite scroll takes its toll on individuals, relationships, and productivity. The most unfortunate consequence is its effect on spirituality and the mission Christ gave His church. Many of us who would like to do more online for Christ find ourselves engrossed in things that have no eternal value.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to be good stewards of our finances, resources, and time by considering things that have an eternal value. While social media, YouTube, and other platforms are not inherently evil or wrong, if we are not careful of distractions on the infinite scroll, we end up losing precious moments that could be used to introduce others to the Savior.
Imagine you are given a mission to feed a village of starving people. You have the resources to accomplish your task, and you only have a few days before you have to move on. But as you get closer to the village, you find yourself intrigued by the countryside: its landscape, wildlife, and the sightseeing tours. You ask your driver to stop for a moment to take a few pictures. That leads to another activity, then another. Before long, the day is spent.
In this analogy, nothing is wrong with taking pictures and sightseeing, but losing sight of the mission and forgetting the priority can have devastating effects. This is the same as getting distracted online because so many digital disciples may forget what’s important. This causes a setback in our overall online mission to show Christ’s love to a hurting world.
Evangelistic work, opening the Scriptures to others, warning men and women of what is coming upon the world, is to occupy more and still more of the time of God’s servants. – Review and Herald, Aug. 2, 1906.
HOW TO ESCAPE THE INFINITE SCROLL
All hope is not lost. The God of grace grants us the power to overcome hurdles that hinder the Gospel work. If you spend more idle time on social media than you intend, try putting these tips into practice.
1. Create a schedule.
On average, throughout the day, people check Facebook 14 times on their mobile devices. That doesn’t include other social media accounts like Instagram, Twitter, or WhatsApp. Kick this habit by setting scheduled times when you do check your account. If you check your social media accounts constantly, at first it might be difficult to stick to a schedule. But setting a schedule will give you more time to dedicate to evangelistic purposes. Try limiting yourself to time checks. For example, check for personal updates at 12 pm, 3 pm, and 8 pm for 10 minutes at a time. The rest of the time can be reserved strictly for evangelism or something else.
2. Deactivate social media apps on your phone.
Not having instant access to the app on your phone might help you save time. Instead, you can choose to check your notifications on a computer. Whether your content is directly related to the Gospel or life events, using your computer might help save time. Our mobile device keeps everything handy. While this definitely has its perks, it can also be a hindrance to a productive ministry life.
3. Replace scrolling with productive activities.
Another way to beat the infinite scroll is to allocate your social media time to self-improvement activities. Explore the Bible, develop a skill, or meditate on scripture. Social media is a digital rest place for a lot of people. While waiting in line, taking a lunch break, or sitting in a terminal, we go to social media to pass the time. Choose another rest place like an inspirational blog, a devotional site, or an e-book. You can also use that time to work on mission-driven content that you can use on social media.
TIME IS LIKE CURRENCY...
Remember, time is like currency; you can either spend it on things that are worthwhile or waste it on what you don’t need. If you attempt to save money without a plan, you’ll end up spending it frivolously. The same concept can be applied to social media. Plan to use your time for what will matter in the long run. By taking small steps, we can begin to use our time more effectively to build our faith and help others find Jesus.
What tips did we miss? What has helped you manage your time on social media? Share on our Facebook page — when you have the time!
Reposted with permission from centerforonlineevangelism.org.
Jamie Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
TURNING YOUR DIGITAL INFLUENCE INTO GLOBAL IMPACT
I was recently asked if digital communications could really make a global impact when only a third of the world’s population is on social media. This reminded me of one of my first campaigns for the Church.
In the summer of 2016, I worked with “Your Best Pathway to Health” to help create community awareness for the free mega-health clinic that was coming to Beckley, WV in the heart of Appalachia. A quick search in Facebook Ads manager revealed that around 200K people were on Facebook within 50 miles of the convention center where the clinic would take place. With a small budget of $200, I started a community awareness ad campaign targeted at those living within driving distance of Beckley. This digital effort was part of a larger multi-channel campaign that included newspaper ads, 30K hand-out flyers, and all other traditional media.
It is said that “familiarity breeds contempt” or, at least, presumptuous behavior. Soon after launching the campaign, I received a call from a long-time friend who felt very strongly that I was out of line with this use of church funds, and that I was out of touch with the realities of this community. After all, “this was Appalachia, and those people don’t even have running water and electricity.” After two hours of conversation, I still call her friend, because this was a teaching and learning moment. I had an opportunity to share the potential this technology offers for our mission, as well as gain a better understanding of the cultural paradigm I was up against (in terms of encouraging the church to embrace digital strategies and the perceptions that may result). What she didn’t know, was that I made a decision based on data and not assumptions about the “least of these.” In fact, she didn’t know that I had been raised in the same economic class she felt I was so disconnected from.
I asked her one simple question: do you know someone who is not on social media? She said yes. I followed up with something like, “If you saw an online advertisement about free medical treatment with no strings attached, and you knew they needed help, would you tell them?”
What I had done was make a strategic decision to activate the sharing power of the 200K people who were online and, most likely, connected to others in the community who were not on social media. It’s human nature to share a good thing when we see it, especially with those we care about who need the services offered.
According to an extensive study conducted by the New York Times, 94% of people share content online because “they feel the content will improve the lives” of others. This act of sharing goes beyond the digital space.
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him: John 4:28-30.
However, my ten years of digital marketing experience was entirely secular. I had never done an advertising campaign for a church project before, and consequently prayed a lot in the weeks leading up to the clinic. When the event began I was overjoyed at the testimonies of people who said their family member, friend, or neighbor saw an ad online and told them to come. According to the exit surveys, social media outperformed all the traditional advertising, and was second only to referral by friend or family member. Based on the anecdotal testimonies, word-of-mouth (friend/family) was also largely driven by the social media campaign. Click here to learn more about this case study in community awareness.
Social media is the modern School of Tyrannus, a place where the ancient Ephesians gathered to engage with new ideas, pass the time, share thoughts, and participate in discussions. Paul spoke at the School of Tyrannus in Greece for two years (Acts 19:8-9), essentially getting the gospel to go viral in his day. (A podcast about Paul’s influence at the School of Tyrannus by Dee Casper, Brand Evangelist, ARTV, can be found HERE.)
This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks: Acts 19:10.
PAUL STAYED IN ONE PLACE, AND YET HIS TEACHINGS SPREAD. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
Ephesus was an important port for trade and commerce (like the internet), attracting people from all over the Roman Empire. People would come and hear what he had to say, go home, and tell others what they’d learned. In today’s terminology, they hit “Like” and “Share” on social media, and their friends and family were exposed to Paul’s teachings of the gospel. Social media has the potential to do this on a much larger scale. By reaching the connected, we can reach the unreachable.
In other words, if approximately 33% of the world’s population is on social media, it’s highly likely that they know the other 67% of the world or know someone who is connected to someone who is not on social media. You get the idea.
What starts in the digital space, isn’t confined to the digital space.
We must put our assumptions about those people aside (whoever those people might be), and work with who we can reach.
Evangelism experts tell me that the best way to reach a community or people group is to empower a member of that community. Your average person is as likely to have moved several times, as to have lived and died in the community they were born, surrounded by a homogeneous collective of people who share the same culture and life experiences. The "simple life" has given way to something more complicated, perhaps messy. Even for those who never change their geographical location, they are globally connected to people through social media in ways that were unheard of just twenty years ago. What this means is that we now live in a world of intersecting cultures and communities.
The city of Ephesus experience is now reflected in every major city in the world and online.
I, myself, am a mid-western transplant to the D.C. metropolitan area. There still is no cellphone reception in my home town. My parents access the internet and phone through satellite. Until recently, our roads were unpaved and my family was on well water. I go home once or twice a year and call my parents regularly (when the satellite phone is working). I had never heard of Adventism until I went to college; now my parents are closely connected to two Adventists (me and my husband). During our conversations and interactions, I share my experiences and new ideas. While my home town is not as remote as some other countries or communities that still exist in the world, the concept is the same. We can reach people online who have migrated to the digitally connected parts of the world. These people probably maintain ties to their home communities in some way, and since they are from that community, they are in the best position to share the gospel within the cultural norms, language, and expectations of those communities. When they visit their friends and family, they can share the gospel just like the ancient citizens of the Roman empire did back in the first century. This is how we can obtain global impact through digital communications. It’s the same strategy that Paul leveraged, but scaled up by modern technology.
And for those isolated communities with, assumed, no access to the outside world, give the Holy Spirit a little credit for being able to carry the message the rest of the way.
If the message went global in Paul’s day without the help of modern technology, let’s not assume limitations on the Holy Spirit in our day.
We aren’t expected to accomplish this mission alone, but we are called to “…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15, NIV). The world now includes the digital space. We need to dream bigger when doing God's work. Can you imagine what would happen if each of us committed to sharing the gospel online for two years? And remember, it's not like we have to physically go somewhere or leave the couch for that matter. But then again, who knows where God will lead us when we step out in faith.
Rachel Lemons Aitken
Communications Executive of the Greater Sydney Conference and Founder of the Digital Discipleship.
In an article entitled Discipleship: Cutting through the Buzz, published in Adventist Record, Dr Leigh Rice, leader of discipleship ministries for the South Pacific Division shared a clear and succinct message about what it means to be a disciple. He said:
A disciple is a person who in every way is becoming more like Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:15). So discipleship is the process of making better and more disciples.
In the narrow sense we could say that mentoring is making better disciples and evangelism is making more disciples. But Jesus’ model of making disciples was very relational and this is perhaps the defining focus of discipleship.
Disciples who make disciples, who make disciples—a disciple-making movement. Or as the parable in Mark 4 says, multiplying “30, 60 and even 100 times.”
TWO DIGITAL PIONEERS
Recently, I put a call out for two people who would like to test the idea of being digital disciples. Prayers were sent out and two hands went up.
Several weeks ago, I met them individually over the phone. At that time, we discussed their hearts for God and how they’re currently involved in the digital space. One of the individuals really enjoys blogging and the other one has Snapchat as his platform of choice.
This week, I had a meeting with them to start our discussion as a group about becoming pioneers in our digital discipleship movement.
At that meeting, we decided me needed a bit more structure as we venture out into the digital space.
So we started with the Multiply the Harvest model of discipleship that is outlined in Mark 4 and was shared in the Discipleship: Cutting through the Buzz article.
Our discussion focused on how we can translate this model into the digital space. We understood that there would be some overlap between what was already outlined and what we would identify. We know from our own lives that some relationships span both the physical and digital space. As we’re working to create a discipleship movement in the digital space, including aspects of our digital lives in the model is very important to what we’re doing.
Here’s what we came up with:
PREPARE THE SOIL
SOW THE SEEDS
CULTIVATE THE PLANTS
HARVEST THE CROPS
MULTIPLY THE HARVEST
Reposted with permission from digitaldisciples.info.
Rachel Lemons Aitken
Communications Executive of the Greater Sydney Conference and Founder of the Digital Discipleship Ministry of the Greater Sydney Conference.
WHAT IS DISCIPLESHIP?
In Adventist Record’s recent interview with Dr. Leigh Rice, leader of Discipleship Ministries at the South Pacific Division, a definition of discipleship was shared.
A disciple is a person who in every way is becoming more like Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:15). So discipleship is the process of making better and more disciples. In the narrow sense we could say that mentoring is making better disciples and evangelism is making more disciples. But Jesus’ model of making disciples was very relational and this is perhaps the defining focus of discipleship. Disciples who make disciples, who make disciples—a disciple-making movement. Or as the parable in Mark 4 says, multiplying “30, 60 and even 100 times.
In Mark 4, Jesus outlines five activities that are involved in making disciples. The South Pacific Division has given more specific examples of how we can carry out each of the steps in our day-to-day lives, for example when Jesus encourages us to “prepare the soil” we are being encouraged to visit with people to connect. This means listening to their story, visiting them when they’re sick and when they’re in need, like when they’re in prison.
Reviewing this document from the perspective of a digital disciple, we wondered how we could give further examples for how these activities might be applied in the digital space.
PREPARE THE SOIL: EMBRACING DIGITAL DISCIPLESHIP
(Please not that these steps are not a replacement to the original activities outlined but are being suggested as additions to the list.)
Reposted with permission from digitaldisciples.info.
We know the best way for people to learn more about Jesus is through friendship (a.k.a. friendship evangelism). One figure suggests that as many as 79% came to know Jesus through a friend. Many times an evangelist was involved at some point, but the most powerful reason for that friend showing up at the meeting or church was the friendship.
So, can we scale this?
Truthfully, if every one of us [who says we're a Christian] actually reached at least one person, we probably wouldn’t need technology or require a digital strategy. However, wishing or hoping for this to take place might not be the best option. Prophetically speaking, the number of workers don’t match the requirements of the harvest.
What's the alternative?
Whether your church is doing it or not, we should reach people within our spheres of influence. In fact, you are reaching people now through your living testimony whether or not you are aware of it. And if you are alive with a social media account, your testimony is living through that means as well. So this is personal evangelism and an area in which you can get creative. And to reiterate, whether you really really love knocking on doors, giving out books or prefer using technology, what you do personally is totally up to you and God. You have freedom here.
What about the church? Can churches scale friendship evangelism into a cycle of discipleship?
The answer is yes—by using digital tools. Friendship evangelism is always going to be critical (and an outgrowth of your personal ministry), but digital tools can help you scale your social interactions with others. It’s even more important as many Adventist churches struggle to muster up a team of people who will directly be involved in church evangelism. We are not talking about just volunteering at your church but also being very deliberate about how you use your time, resources, and position to reach more people for Christ.
So what can we do?
A huge part is what our pastors all over the world have done and are continuing to do—preach, teach, and encourage churches to pray, study and serve. But while we let the Spirit do His work, part of the privilege afforded to us is using the existing resources to multiply the time and energy of the few who are willing and able.
It was prophesied that “knowledge would increase” in the last days and we will be going “to and fro.” It’s a sign, an opportunity and a means God set in place for us fulfill our commission.
Besides, the use of technology within our churches isn’t new at all. The printing press is a technological tool which allowed God’s word to spread throughout the world. Radio ads, print ads, flyers, mailers, etc. are all technological tools or products we used—and continue to use—in evangelism.
So what's the push back with many Seventh-day Adventist churches?
Most Seventh-day Adventist churches don’t use more digital tools—despite the fact that the top ministries we follow do—because:
You see, digital tools and a digital strategy aren't separate from evangelism. It’s one gospel, one savior, the same great controversy but multiple ways to reach a more digitally-connected world.
In fact, this world is more accessible because it’s digitally connected. When used properly, digital tools amplify personal friendships.
Marketing specialist and founder of @PraisePix, an Instagram ministry with over 23K followers.
A lot of ministries and churches worldwide are now beginning to understand the impact and reach of connecting with people online. If you have adopted this macro mindset, this is one of the most practical pieces of content to help your ministry post effectively on Instagram and grow your following. It’s important to understand that each social media platform is different. Whether you are just beginning on Instagram and looking for ways to be more active, or if you have already built a following and would like to see it grow, this information will bring you value. We will begin with two basic rules and then go into detail
about specific step by step tactics every ministry should be doing.
Figure out your goal. One of the biggest questions that you will have to ask yourself and the members of your ministry is: what are we trying to accomplish and who are we trying to reach? Maybe you are a local church simply wanting to update your members and surrounding community on upcoming events or programs. Or maybe you are a youth and young adults ministry hoping to reach more teens and millennials online. The reason why this is so important is because many times when speaking with churches or ministries looking to get more active on social media, their immediate response to this question is “we want to reach everyone.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with that answer (in fact it’s amazing!), however it is much more effective to become a part of an online community when you have specified what that community is.
Build a community. This is the most important and critical aspect that many accounts overlook on Instagram. There is a difference between building a community and having a following. This is the reason why you will find pages on Instagram that have thousands of followers and only receive a small amount of likes and comments per post. On the reverse, that’s also why you can find accounts with 700 followers which have very high engagement. Whether you have 500 followers or 5,000 followers, it is so important to interact with your community.
The truth is, the best way to grow on social media is to be to social. Reply to comments, say thank you, say hello and ask people where they are from etc. People will feel a deeper connection to your ministry and it’s message when your account feels less like a brand, and more like meaningful human interaction.
When someone follows your page, they are voluntarily giving you their attention. Be mindful and considerate of the great gift of their time.
Content: Before we get into the specific practices to help any ministry expand their reach on Instagram, your content will play a major role in how people interact with your posts. If you can post everyday, the better. Here are some tips on what kind of content you can easily put together in a matter of minutes if you run out of pictures or videos from your events to post, or if you’re not sure what to post consistently.
Unsplash is an amazing resource of stock images available to download and use for any creative or commercial project for free. Once you find an image, add any quotes or Bible verses relating to your ministry with a wide variety of apps available on the Apple and Google App stores which allow you to add
text on photos at no cost. Now you have content to post. Then what?
Hashtags: Step #1 is finding the best Hashtags to follow and post on Instagram. For this article, we will be using the examples of ministries focused on Ending Poverty and Refugees. Spend about 30 seconds scrolling through the top 9 posts of each hashtag suggested by Instagram and engage with the community you aspire to become a part of.
If your goal is to reach more people on Instagram who will value and engage with your content, take some time out everyday (10-20 minutes) to actively post and interact. Whether this is liking an image, asking questions, replying to comments or sending direct messages, every action counts. I always try to remember that there are real people behind the phone screens and computers who are being affected by our online activity.
Instagram Stories. Instagram stories and live videos are a powerful way to reach your followers. If your ministry has a separate website, blog, or link that leads to a more in depth article, long length video, or landing page that you would like your followers to visit, Instagram stories are a great way to let people know what you have going on. Make sure to include text letting your followers know to click on the link in your bio. If you have a larger following, Instagram will give you the option to connect a link to your story. That way you can inform your followers to “swipe up” and it will lead them directly to the link you
attached to the story. See example below:
Instagram Live. Instagram live is a great way for ministries to engage and connect in real time with their followers. It’s a great way to allow the followers who couldn’t make it to some of the events you’ve hosted to stay updated with what’s going on, and still feel a part of the community. It’s also a great tool to simply say hello to the people who took the time to open your live stream.
Instagram launched a collaborative live tool which allows two people to go live at one time from different locations. This gives a new opportunity to have conversations that matter and answer questions that people have in your community and give them a word of encouragement.
We hope this post answered some of your questions about Instagram! Keep up the good work Digital Evangelists!
Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart; as working for the LORD, not for men: Colossians 3:23