I love reading Alan Knox’s blog, Assembling of the Church, mostly because Alan provides clear insights into the Christian life as expressed in Scripture. Recently Alan has written a few posts on internet ministry wherein he explores the role technology, and social media in particular, plays in regards to evangelization and discipleship. Generally exploring what the life of a Christian in relationship with both believers and non-believers alike looks like when expressed in a synthetic communications medium such as the internet.
Here is an exscript of Alan’s post titled “Internet Ministry” which, I believe, captures the essence of what could be the best thing to happen to Christianity since the printing press.
In my two previous posts concerning internet ministry (“What is it?” and “Evangelism and Discipleship“), I defined internet ministry as “the use of online services, apps, functions, and technologies in order to serve people with the intention of helping those people grow in maturity towards Christ” and concluded that even if we pursue evangelism online, our ultimate goal should be discipleship – that is, not simply making converts, but helping people maturing in their walk with Jesus Christ.
In this post, I am will discuss one of the major benefits of serving people using online resources, and I will show how this benefit can also be a disadvantage.
Of course, the benefit that I’m talking about (as indicated in the title of this post) is the global connection, meaning that by using online resources we are able to connect to people all around the world. Until very recently (less than 100 years), if I wanted to communicate with someone in another country, it would take days, weeks, even months or more. Today, I can talk with people from every country on the planet in seconds.
In previous generations, the only people who could carry on conversations with people of different religions were those who traveled to different countries, or those with neighbors who were part of different religions. Today, anyone with a computer or cell phone with an internet connection can communicate and interact with people from any number of belief systems.
So, the ability to communicate with other people has been drastically improved through the use of online resources. Because of the advancements in communication, many have compared the invention of the internet to the invention of the printing press. And, in many ways, the two inventions are similar. Both inventions dramatically increased the ability to communicate ideas.
Alan goes on to discuss how the apostles used long-distance mediums of communication, letters, to edify, encourage, and generally disciple the early churches. He also goes on to caution us against forming an undue attachment with a particular medium of communication. Specifically neglecting interpersonal or face-to-face communication.
Overall I would say that Alan is on to something that could be pivotal for the body of Christ. What I mean by that is that just like the printing press gave the average Christian access to the Word of God, advancements in technology in general and social media in particular can give the average Christians access to each other.