Using computers and phones to love our neighbours. First column in a new series!
Jesus told His followers to, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15), but what happens when the world moves onto the Internet?
We are spending more of our time online for nearly all facets of life from banking and bills to work and videocalls. Most recent reports indicate people in countries like Canada spend an average of seven hours a day on our screens, phones and digital media.
Not all ways we can use these new technologies are good or beneficial. Yet from the Roman roads to the printing press to radio and TV, Christians have always leveraged communication tools to take the Good News of Jesus to those who need it. With each new tool, we need to learn how to use it most effectively. Let’s consider some ideas of where to start.
• Display the fruit of the Spirit
We’ve all seen some uncomfortable posts from Christians sounding more like a clashing cymbal than a loving voice. When we post online, above all we need to consider how to do so with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Sometimes the way to share our faith is to demonstrate the Spirit-enabled restraint so many others seem to lack.
•Digital first, not digital only
We can use online platforms like Instagram to connect with people, but we build trust and relationship in more personal interaction. I’ve tried posting an invitation like, "Drop by Starbucks Monday from 8–10 a.m. I’ll be there and I’d love to see you!" I bring my laptop to do work between visits, but I find people are so hungry for connection my time is often filled with conversations and opportunities to pray with people.
•Join neighbourhood forums
We can use apps like Nextdoor or Facebook to join or start a neighbourhood group. It’s amazing how quickly that leads to opportunities to meet needs and see what concerns our neighbours – and to share laughs, find out about local events and build trust for more meaningful conversation.
•Chat rooms versus street corners
Some of the bravest among us may have tried door to door evangelism. Increasingly, people do not trust strangers on the street, but they are more open to having conversations online. Some of the most effective evangelists I know are in chat rooms like JesusCares.com or ChatAboutJesus.com, where people are having real conversations, asking questions and accepting Christ.
•Start a YouTube channel
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. When people are looking up how to roast a chicken, the history of electric vehicles or whether the Bible is trustworthy, they are going to YouTube by the billions. A friend of mine who was a devout atheist began to explore Christian claims on YouTube and actually gave their life to Jesus this year. If you want to share your faith and are willing to learn, there’s a huge opportunity to answer questions, share your life and interact in comments. Grab a friend and do it together!
•Be your real self
When we post online we may start out by copying the voices of our most admired Christian leaders, but the best way to connect with an audience is for each of us to find our own voice. Not just sharing the shiny parts but offering some of our struggles and unpolished life with kids, work and messy homes. That builds trust, and it’s more sustainable. We can share Jesus by sharing ourselves.
Let’s be courageous! The online world is a new one to navigate, but if people loved by God are there, the people of God should also be there, demonstrating God’s love. He has planted us in this time to prayerfully leverage all the tools available to us to offer hope and life to a world struggling with loneliness, confusion, mental health challenges and unclear identity.
Jesus is not just good news but the best news in the world. So let’s become the best communicators of that message as we practise and live out our lives online and in-person.
Joanna la Fleur is a podcaster, TV host and communications consultant in Toronto. Find more of these columns at www.FaithToday.ca/ThrivingInDigital