Doing Ministry Online
Most anyone who works in Christian Ministry thinks about one of a couple of things: ministry in the church, or some kind of boots-on-the-ground international missionary work. Those are of course a bit limiting, especially as it doesn’t take into consideration how God’s word is spread and people are ministered to through digital means.
Is the dog wagging the tail – or the tail wagging the dog?
A common misconception is that of technology being the important thing. It’s important to remember that the technology serves the message and the ministry – not the other way around. It’s easy for people to fall in love with the fancy buttons and flashing lights and forget why we’re using the technology.
I’ve spent most of my career in online Bible ministry – making the Bible available online. For centuries, an oral culture passed the Scriptures down through hearing and memorization. The culture put the focus on the credibility of the messenger – the person telling the story. Then, when writing became more available, people could share the scriptures with each other in writing. Then the printing press made the Bible even more accessible. The culture put the emphasis on something being in print. “It’s all there in black and white” refers to being able to read it in print.
Hundreds of years later the Bible went online, simply by converting the print into 1s and 0s. There wasn’t anything new about having the Bible online except that it was accessible anywhere, anytime, with a network connection – kind of a big deal. That has expanded to search, wireless and mobile devices and delivery in new and interesting ways. However, we often approach an online Bible the way we do a print Bible. The culture doesn’t think that way any more. Amazon brought us peer-ratings. Facebook and Twitter took social sharing to a whole new level. There’s a whole new heart-language out there and things are changing and will change again faster than ever.
Bible Engagement resources that deliver scriptures with additional relevant content through web, email, sms and audio formats become paramount because those help people make the word of God more a part of their lives. Every time the digital platforms switch over to the next big thing, we discover a new un-reached people-group who need to hear God’s word in their heart-language, where they are – without asking them to come to us.
At the end of the day, that’s the key. We don’t put up an online brochure providing people with information and then ask them to step-away from where they are to get the ministry. We bring the ministry to where people are. Today, that’s in social networks, mobile devices, sms messages, web pages, blogs, emails and the list goes on and on. We’ll always keep looking forward at the newest pieces of technology to make sure we can reach the people who are using it.