Technology is an effective discipleship tool in our digital age. We must understand its power over discipleship in order to use it for good.
By Jason Thacker
People may spend five to six hours a week hearing from God’s Word, worshiping our triune God with the church, or in community with fellow believers. Compared to those five to six hours, their phones and devices are with them almost twenty-four hours a day and easily seven days a week.
These tools are one of the most effective discipleship tools in our digital age—even if they’re primarily being used to form us into people fixated on ourselves rather than into people who look more like Christ. So, we must understand the power these tools have over our discipleship before we can ever use them for good. Said another way, there’s no harnessing technology for good without first understanding its sway over us.There’s no harnessing technology for good without first understanding its sway over us. — @jasonthacker Click To Tweet
In Christianity, one of the main ways to think about ethical discipleship is through the cultivation of virtue. But you can’t cultivate virtue in yourself or others without some sort of vision of who you want to become. This is why good discipleship begins with the end in mind.
What kind of person do I want my people—and myself—to become? What is the end goal for us? For the Christian, the end goal is the Great Commandment, meaning, it is to become a person who loves God and loves our neighbor (Matthew 22:37–39, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 5:17). And yet, when we watch many in our ministry online, we see the opposite happening sometimes.
Once your eyes are opened to the issues at play in the digital age, and how it’s shaping your ministry and the people within it, you’ll have much greater odds of countering the negative effects of technology as you challenge them to pursue Christ in this digital age in light of the Great Commandment. I want to offer two words of encouragement in your ministry.
1. You don’t need to be an expert in technology or ethics to lead your people well
Ministry leaders often ask me how they’re to teach their people about following Jesus in a digital age. They ask if pastors should consider a sermon series on technology or if small groups should organize training events on identifying misinformation.
While none of the ideas are bad, I want to encourage you to take the reins in a couple of alternate ways:
Model good habits with technology; your people will notice them
You have no idea how powerful your example is—much more powerful than a quick talk from a traveling tech expert who preaches in your pulpit.
Incorporate this content and teaching into your weekly rhythms by making application points about technology
One of the best ways to teach your people a biblical worldview is to point out challenges and ethical questions and make application points to the issues they are dealing with—including technology in their workplaces and homes. This includes those devices we always have within a few feet of us, even when we sleep.As a pastor, your example in how you demonstrate good technology habits is much more powerful than a quick talk from a traveling tech expert who preaches in your pulpit. — @jasonthacker Click To Tweet
Teach your people that technology is part of our lives and how to develop good habits as you go about life. While directly addressing these issues may be warranted and needed, asking consistent questions and providing answers along the way can help your people develop a larger understanding of technology and the nature of the digital public square.
2. There’s hope for this age based in the age to come
Often, I’m asked why I seem so hopeful about the church in this digital age. And I respond by saying it’s because I already know the end of the story and how everything turns out. I am not a prophet, and I surely don’t know your specific ministry context or the challenges you face with technology in your community. But I know from reading God’s Word that the end of this story has already been written. Revelation 21–22 tells us there’s a day to come where our Savior will return to right every wrong and fix what’s been broken by our sin and rebellion.
All the challenges that overwhelm us today and threaten to lead us to burnout will fade away as we bask in the glory of our risen Savior. That specifically means that our role as leaders is to remind our people of this: While our society and lives may feel like they’re spiraling out of control, they’re actually being held fast by the Creator of the universe who’s already seated on the throne.While our society and lives may feel like they’re spiraling out of control, they’re actually being held fast by the Creator of the universe who’s already seated on the throne. — @jasonthacker Click To Tweet
We’re called to be faithful in this digital age—regardless of the challenges—and know God’s in control of all things, which will in the end work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. So, when things seem to be spinning uncontrollably, know your main job is to remind people of the peace, hope, security, and love we have in Christ both right now and for eternity and how they are to love God and their neighbor as themselves in the meantime.
We are called to be faithful in between the times because the end of the story has already been written and is secure in the hands of the One who created all we know, including us as His ambassadors in this digital age. Nothing, including any technological advancement, can change those truths. Even though society seems to be as chaotic as ever, not even the gates of hell will prevail against the church—and that includes anything the digital age can throw at it (Matthew 16:18).
Jason is the chair of research in technology ethics for the Ethic and Religious Liberty Commission and author of Following Jesus in a Digital Age.
Excerpted with permission from Following Jesus in a Digital Age by Jason Thacker. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing.