The internet is a missional and incarnational frontier
The great missiologist Ralph Winter said that the future of missions was in the cities … while that is still true, we simply must acknowledge that a significant future aspect of missions is also online.
Hugh Halter and Matt Smay mention in their book, “The Tangible Kingdom Primer,” that “missional” and “incarnational” are like two wheels of the same bike. Incarnational ministry means to be WITH those we are serving and to be PRESENT as a witness of love and light toward them. Missional ministry means that we intentionally cross borders (be it an ocean or your front yard) to meet them where they are. Yet we forget that for many people, the internet is their primary place of mental and emotional residence (as sad and/or odd as that may sound, it is true). So we need to think constructively and creatively about going (the missional element) to be with them in their digital residences (the incarnational element).
A 2000 Year Old Message on Digital Platforms
I have seen the good news of Jesus presented in digital form since I was a young “digital native.” In 1993, at the age of 8, I shared Jesus in a primitive version of email. Since then I have shared the hope of Jesus and His Life in over 25 online platforms / apps / websites etc. I was an online missionary with Global Media Outreach for a few years in the late 2000’s. It was a very wonderful ministry to be a part of! I know people who have powerful ministry opportunities on all sorts of apps and websites – it may sound odd but the gospel can be faithfully contextualized into any community! In 2016 a friend recommended the idea of online gamer missional communities. We explored and experimented in many ways online and I began to hear of many creative online ministries.
In the past two years I have been on an unnamed app (due to the sensitive nature of this work) that aggregates people into small social groups based on various affinities or interests. I discovered a few other Jesus followers on the app and we became friends. I created a few teams and we joined together in prayer, fellowship, sharing of all sorts of struggles and joys, sharing of verses etc. We, as a team, found ways to share Jesus, care for, love and serve others with wisdom and gentleness. We have seen quite a few people who have discovered and pressed into the Kingdom of Heaven (and into Jesus centered communities) as a result of these online pioneering efforts. I didn’t go on this app planning for this to happen, but instead I just started noticing how the grace of God was able to be born (incarnated) into that realm.
This Kingdom work is expanding in some very “invisible” and unexpected places. The gospel is going forth on various social media apps in ways that people would never have expected.
My missional pioneering friends in the online gaming community simply committed to being an encouragement to other players at first. But through their faithful presence within that community they eventually experienced deeper relationships that lead to true life transformation in those they were loving and serving! Some players opened up with counseling needs or were at the end of their rope and found a friend online who was willing to listen, ask good questions, and point them to helpful resources.
The act of spreading Jesus’s love into digital places is stirring up too many stories to count! So many people are following Jesus as our lead Pioneer into new places and the light and freedom is spreading to places that many would have never imagined! We live in times when there are dozens of forms of addictions connected to the internet and technology in general, but when people take LOVE into those places and are faithful and consistent in serving others, we will see more and more light going into the dark and more and more freedom from addictions!
Be Encouraged, Be Creative!
For those of you who feel discouraged with the state of the world these days, be reminded: There is more “unofficial” missions work happening in the world right now than ever before … if someone could uncover it and quantify it, the proportions would be staggering. For those of us on the frontlines, we see miraculous things happening constantly… I am more encouraged now than ever before when I consider the work of Jesus in our world today.
Keep in mind, this is not always done well (we all have seen the damage that can be done by immature interaction with others online). But if we allow the Spirit of God to lead us, then love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control will be the fruit in our online interactions!
Please take some time to consider the ways that you are typically interacting with others in an online medium. What are some ways that you can begin to share love and plant seeds of kindness in the lives of others in those places? Whether it’s streaming, video calls, curated texting apps, various social gathering apps, consider how you can spread the love of Jesus? What is just one simple way that you can take the Kingdom of Heaven just a bit further into your digital world?There is more "unofficial" missions work happening in the world right now than ever before … if someone could uncover it and quantify it, the proportions would be staggering. ~ Jeremy Chambers Click To Tweet
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