Ministry in the Digital Age

In times past the fundamental means of presenting your message to an audience has been through correspondence, radio, or television. Each of these methods is still viable yet requires a monetary investment, sometimes substantial, to undertake. When using these methods, their effectiveness is most often defined by the responses they generate. Consequently, the investment is made up front, and a response is hoped for to justify the investment. Realistically you pay $5000 for a month of airtime and hope that the $5000 of air time reaches people, touches them, and generates a response from them. You find out if your objectives have been met AFTER the $5000 has been spent. Many ministries are unable to make that level of commitment.

Over the last few years, technology has begun a shift in society from an as broadcasted audience to an on demand one. Where at one time we listened to the radio or watched the TV at a designated time for our preferred show, setting our schedule around when the program was on. Now we can videotape the program or record it on a DVR for later viewing. We can go online to listen to audio or watch video as we desire, at a time that fits our schedule. Recently it has become available for users to download NBC TV programs to their iPods to watch episodes they missed in previous weeks. People are becoming used to getting content at their discretion and using it at their leisure. It is causing a paradigm shift in how we produce and present content. It is also providing us an opportunity to leverage these advances to reach more people where they are, with less initial investment.

While correspondence, radio, and television are still very viable options, today’s technological advances have provided us the ability to provide teaching to people at their leisure, at their location, on demand. These new advances can be incorporated with the other methods into our ministry approach for reaching people, providing them various types of content at a much lower cost to the ministry. Where we have been throwing the net out and hoping for a response, we can become the cupboard where those who are hungry come for food. This cupboard isn’t relegated to a specific geographical region, or to a specific time zone or timeslot. From it people from all over the world can receive, have needs met, and be given an opportunity to respond.

With over 10 billion e-mails sent worldwide daily and 1.5 Billion people projected to be online by the end of 2006, online communications are expected to double in the next few years. Within this rapid growth advances have been made to make online video both easy and affordable. These new video options allow us to add the human element of emotions, gestures, and personality to what in times past had been simple text. How many times have you read an e-mail and mistakenly added your own emotional interpretation that was never intended by the writer? Video now makes communicating online clearer, and much more personal. A person’s voice inflections, facial expressions, and style can be communicated and draw people in, as the unique style is accentuated and captured in video.

In what historically speaking is a short amount of time, we have moved from the dedicated ministers who faithfully rode the circuit from town to town preaching God’s Word to a day and age where the Word of God can be preached and beamed to the far ends of the earth. What was once a local or regional outreach has now become one that is truly global in reach. In recent years we have marveled at the technological advances that have allowed the church to broadcast the gospel throughout the world via satellite and the internet. These advances have suddenly made the fulfilling of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 feasible, and present the church with a practical medium to help accomplish this charge.

Dealing With the Fear Factor

For those who don’t consider themselves computer savvy, the thought of branching out into the new realms of digital communications can seem foreboding. Memories of nights spent in vain trying to program that old VCR conjure up feelings of fear and anxiety. These feelings cause them to believe the new techie items will cause them to relive those old experiences on a new, grander scale. It’s not that people aren’t interested in the possibilities, but more often than not it is that they don’t see themselves being able to either learn what is needed, or afford the technology and the person needed to make it all work.

As digital communications have become a mainstream item in our society, businesses have tailored their approach to bring the technology to the average user at prices that they can afford. Where you once had to employ a small IT staff to produce and maintain a website and email, you can now find businesses aggressively competing with each other to bring you those same services at a low price, with much less expertise required. It has never been easier to launch out and use the web and its associated technologies to reach your congregation, your city, or even your missionary friend half-way around the world.

What Would Jesus Do?

With this question popping up everywhere on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and bracelets, let’s look at what Jesus did to reach people during His ministry.

Jesus went where the people were to reach them. He traveled throughout the countryside to from town to town teaching and preaching.
Jesus ministered to people from all walks of life, visiting them in their own homes and environments. In Mark 2:13-17 we read the account of when Jesus went to Levi’s home for a feast being held to honor him.
Jesus used the resources available to him to allow him to most effectively reach his audience. In Luke 5:1-3, Jesus was granted the use of a fishing boat to launch out a short distance from the shore and then used the natural acoustics of Lake of Gennesaret and its surroundings to speak to the multitude gathered there.

It was Jesus way to go where he was needed and use what was available to help him minister most effectively. His heart was to reach people and reveal the love of God to them. Today Jesus can work through us to use the tools available to reach the world and share the Good News.


Author's Bio: 

Dr. Bell has travel for 30 years helping churches with ushers and volunteers. Teachings are in over 10,000 churches world wide. He's called a Pastor's Friend.

Our goal is to provide hi-tech tools that will allow you to better share Christian messages both within your own ministries and beyond your current local markets.