Rachel Lemons Aitken
Communications Executive of the Greater Sydney Conference and Founder of the Digital Discipleship Ministry of the Greater Sydney Conference.
DISCOVERING YOUR “WHY”
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Moses’ spiritual awakening. It’s the moment when he discovers his “why” in life.
His moment of discovery comes after a moment of self doubt. He doubts that he can do what God is asking him to do. In the middle of his doubt, God asks him, “What is that in your hand?” and he says “A rod.”
FOLLOW ME, AS I FOLLOW CHRIST
Jesus calls us to be disciples who make disciples. This is discipleship – following Jesus in such a compelling way that others want to follow Jesus as well. This process of growing in Him and introducing others into a relationship with him is discipleship. It’s like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
So the question is, what’s in your hand? What do you have that God can use to compel others of His love and can compel them to follow Him?
TALENTS AND SPIRITUAL GIFTS
As a church, for many years, we’ve validated the gifts and talents of the musicians, preachers, teachers and the hospitable. And this is biblical, as we see in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 28-30 and Ephesians 4:11. With the evolution of time and technology, the opportunities for areas of proficiency have evolved as well.
WHAT’S IN YOUR HAND?
Right now, at this very moment, what’s in your hand? It’s the same question God asked Moses all of those years ago. Unless someone printed this blog post off for you and you’re reading a hard copy article, then you likely have a keyboard, phone, iPad or some other electronic device at you fingertips.
Could it be, if God were speaking to you today, with the proximity and clarity he spoke with Moses on that day, that when you answered, “A phone” or “A keyboard” or “A laptop” or “An iPad” God would then proceed to demonstrate how you could use it for Him? More broadly speaking, if you’re a photographer, videographer, graphic designer, SEO expert, writer, social media mogul or digital marketing specialist in a similar situation, do you believe God would prompt you with whatever is in your hand? For you, it might be your camera, mouse, pen, phone or excel spreadsheet. The question is, “What is that in your hand?”
WHAT IS DIGITAL DISCIPLESHIP?
This brings us to the long awaited question, “What is digital discipleship?” After giving it much thought over the last year or so, here is my answer.
In the Greater Sydney Conference, our focus is on creating an environment where our church members can grow in discipleship. The digital discipleship movement is an extension of that focus. It’s offering another playing field for this to happen. Digital Discipleship is answering the call and the challenge to build a discipleship movement in the digital space. It’s the same call Jesus made over 2,000 years ago, the only thing that has changed is the setting.
When working at its best, Digital Discipleship involves three levels of people:
Content Creators, Content Distributors and Content Engagers. When all three are present (and sometimes, one person may play the role of all three people) the cycle of digital discipleship flows well.
It’s easy to identify content creators. As a church, we’re very adept at creating content. Our church is full of prolific writers, musicians and preachers. We can boast of having radio and TV stations dotted around the globe. Content creators that are often unsung heroes, however, are our photographers, videographers, graphic designers, bloggers, vloggers, authors, and singers.
If content is king, as they say in the world of digital, then we are on top of the world. However, though it was a clever line in The Field of Dreams, it’s not always true that “if you build it, they will come”. This is why Content Distributors are key to the flow of Digital Discipleship.
Content Distributors can range from denominational social media accounts, like the social media accounts of Conferences, Unions and Divisions, ABCs, Adventist publishers and local churches. Some of our most valuable content distributors, however are our local church social media accounts, as well as those of local church members. Many others have the opportunity to distribute content as well, from their e-mail accounts, blogs, through podcasts and video channels. As platforms continue to grow, the diversity of the opportunities to distribute content will grow as well.
Consider content distribution as digital seed planting, similar to the way Paul explained it in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” Content Distributors are key to getting the messages that we create out there!
Have you ever posted something on your Facebook account, whether spiritual, political or a seemingly benign topic only to be met with intense passion, discussion, disdain and even a sense of cynicism and hatred? How have you responded to such posts?
Sometimes, it seems the internet brings out the worst in people. The distance created by computer screens provides a bit of digital courage to people who would otherwise refrain from stating their opinion or refuting yours in a vile and nasty way. This fear – the fear of rejection or even the fear of confrontation – keeps many people at bay, making them refrain from sharing much of anything outside of vacation photos, cat memes and the occasional joke.
But 1 Peter 3:15 encourages us “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” The guiding principle for engaging around content on the internet, as a Digital Disciple comes from Romans 12:14-16, “Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.”
Content engagers, are a very important link in the digital discipleship chain. Once the content about Jesus has been created and distributed, it is the content engagers who will have meaningful, potentially life-changing conversations with people. It may not be the first, the second or the third conversation that changes someone’s life, but being willing to engage provides the possibility for growth to happen.
Perhaps with time, we won’t need think in terms of “digital” discipleship. Perhaps it will naturally flow into all of the other work we do to disciple and provide discipleship opportunities as a church.
Most of you who have taken the time to read this article – especially down to this point of the article – are digital immigrants – someone who was born or grew up during the time before technology was so widespread. With the emergence of digital natives, who’ve never known an environment where technology was not prevalent, the incorporation of digital discipleship may become more natural and easily integrated into discipleship planning.
In the meantime, establishing the Digital Discipleship Movement is a great start. Are you a digital disciple? What are your thoughts on digital discipleship? We’d love to hear your thoughts on being part of a digital discipleship movement.