What is Digital Evangelism? What is Digital Discipleship? What Does It Mean to Be a Digital Missionary?
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division
With the explosion of creative and tech savvy Christians trying their hand at digital mission work, many new terms have been added to the Christian vocabulary to describe this type of ministry. To make sure we understand the differences and similarities between them, it is worth taking time to create clear definitions. As children of God we are all called to do His work, and many find it useful to define their practical role in sharing the gospel—helping to shape their goals, find purpose, and communicate their mission to others.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age: Matthew 28:19-20.
evan·ge·lism | \ i-ˈvan-jə-ˌli-zəm \
Evangelism is generally understood as the act of publicly preaching the gospel and the teachings of Jesus Christ to persuade people to adopt a Christian worldview. The word evangelist comes from the Koine Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (transliterated as euangelion) and originally meant a reward given to the messenger for good news but later came to just mean “good news” (Wikipedia).
Evangelism, then, by extension, can be understood as publicly sharing the good news. The way it is packaged and delivered may change, but as long as the gospel is being shared, it is evangelism.
Digital marketing is the promotion of products, services, causes, or ideas in the online space using digital technologies and tools such as the internet, social media, paid display ads, website platforms, and mobile phones.
Therefore, digital evangelism is defined as promoting the good news of the gospel and the teachings of Jesus Christ in the digital space using corresponding technologies to persuade others to adopt Christian beliefs. A digital evangelist is one who engages in digital evangelism as defined above.
With this in mind, how should digital discipleship be defined?
dis·ci·ple | \ di-ˈsī-pəl \
Definition of disciple according to Merriam-Webster:
one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.
In this context, a digital disciple is one who accepts and assists in the spreading of the doctrines of Christ through the use of digital tools in the digital space. However, digital discipleship is not limited to digital spaces but can, and often should, intersect with the physical world through the services offered. If we follow Jesus’ example as a model for discipleship, we should expand this definition to include showing genuine interest in people and seeking to fulfill their mental, physical, and spiritual needs before inviting them to follow Christ and adopt His principles.
To do that, we have modified the definition of digital discipleship, as first presented by Rachel Lemons Aitken, Digital Discipleship in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to be:
a way to build relationships, meet the needs of the community, and advance the gospel message in the digital space, around a digital need or by utilizing a digital tool.
mis·sion·ary | \ ˈmi-shə-ˌner-ē
Definition of missionary according to Merriam-Webster:
a person who undertakes a religious mission.
Religious missions are traditionally seen as a means to promote Christianity, or another religion, in a foreign country. However, a digital missionary is one who shares their faith and beliefs in the digital space with digital tools and technologies, without being physically confined to a single geographical location. Digital missions are evangelistic campaigns that leverage digital tools and spaces for the distinct purpose of attracting converts to the faith. Digital evangelists, disciples, and missionaries all engage in digital mission work.
Digital bible workers utilize digital technologies to share the gospel and stimulate religious thought by creating and packaging content that addresses relevant needs/questions and encourages people to advance in their spiritual journey. Digital bible workers build relationships with those in the broader community, online and offline, and usually within a specific geo-location territory, in order to create opportunities for one-on-one or small group Bibles studies held in person or via digital tools. They work in partnership with a local church and pastor to evaluate the needs of a community and determine relevant opportunities for outreach and service. They mentor converts in their development of Christian character and commitment to faith as well as train and equip new members for active discipleship roles. This role encompasses a mix of digital discipleship and evangelism to bridge the gap between working in the digital mission field and achieving real-world impact. Click here for a sample position description.
We hope you found these definitions useful.