Category Archives: technologyinministry

In Search of a Digital Missiology

The digital pivot happened fast!

Although many churches struggled with engaging digitally over the last decade, the circumstances of COVID-19 forced a change.  What church leaders had been apathetic about, opposed to, or fearful of became a necessity.  As a result, the church enthusiastically transitioned to digital.

The church pivoted. Although churches pivoted out of necessity, some did so without critical reflection.  Even though we have become very aware of our missiological failures and the colonialism that dominated previous missionary movements, I fear we are in danger of repeating our past mistakes.

The missionary movements of the past often resulted from technological advancements that opened new mission frontiers.  In the rush and excitement of these new opportunities, the church often neglected the hard work of learning the language, understanding the culture, and contextualizing the gospel. 

We are in danger of making these mistakes with digital ministry!

In the rush to digital engagement, we didn’t consider the fact that digital culture is different from in-person ministry steeped in print culture.  Online ministry is cross-cultural.  With the same pragmatic excitement that sparked the missionary movements of old, we entered digital culture with an in-person ministry methodology.  We moved Bible studies to ZOOM and we live-streamed worship gatherings.  As we did, we soon discovered that the transition wasn’t as effective as we expected.  We discovered that in-person is different than digital. Instead of seeking to understand and translate ministry to digital culture, adapting our methodologies accordingly, we forced them onto a digital culture.  Consequently, they were ineffective and demoralizing.  They demonstrated our propensity to repeat our colonial past.

In the transition to digital, some of our churches had to lay off staff.  In a sad parallel to the colonial missionary movements of the past that ignored local expertise, most churches laid off their digital locals (younger staff fluent in digital culture) and kept the digital tourists (older staff unaware of digital culture).  Consequently, I implore all the senior leaders who will rebuild their staff and leadership teams after the pandemic to rebuild them with digital locals and not just with digital tourists.  Do not repeat our colonial past.

As the church digitally went beyond traditional borders (geographic and linguistic), it was blind to context and culture. In the same ethnocentric enthusiasm of our ancestors, many ignored the hard and difficult work of contextualization. The following are two of many examples. First, digital ministry’s strength and potential lie not only in its ability to spread wide but in its ability to go deep. Community is built and experienced differently online. Second, in digital culture, people want to be part of the content they consume. Ignoring this cultural distinctive will lead to poor engagement and a lack of effectiveness.

We need a better digital missiology!

The digital shift is not going away.  People will not work, learn, shop, play and worship in the same ways again.  Digital has shown its limitations, but it has also shown its capabilities.  The digital mission field has opened, and it is ripe for harvest. 

We are in danger of repeating our past mistakes.  I want to call us, in humility, to slow down and discover a better missiology.  I want to call us to learn about digital culture as we enter it on mission.  To do otherwise is not simply ineffective, it is counterproductive.  Digital is different and your digital ministry must be shaped accordingly.

To learn more about digital culture, Effective Online Ministry and Digital Mission:

Check out my upcoming online workshops with Ambrose University (back by popular demand) – Effective Online Ministry (October 21, November 4, November 18).  Register here.

Read my recent book: Digital Mission: A Practical Guide for Ministry OnlineAvailable now in eBook format at Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and the Canadian Bible Society (print book available soon).

Technology in Ministry Part 1 – Hardware

I am often asked what forms of technology (hardware, software, mobile apps, and web apps) I/we use. I thought I would do a number of posts on this topic each addressing a different form of tech for different functionalies.

To start it off, I thought I would begin talking about hardware.  First, it will not be a surprise that I am an Apple fan and, thus, I have a full array of Apple products.  I love Apple because they are sleek, last a long time, the software and hardware are always compatible, and software upgrades are cheap (the latest operating system upgrade was $29.00).

The following is a list of Hardware I use and the benefits of each:

iPod – I have an old school 30gig iPod that I still use for music.  It holds my entire music Library and allowed me to buy the smaller iPhone as a result.  I leave it attached to my home office speakers most of the time.  I have had it for years and it still works brilliantly!

iPhone 4 – I use to have a Blackberry but found it was limited in what it could do.  In comparison, it couldn’t match up to the power and versitility of an iPhone.  The iphone allows me, with the right apps, to take my office with me and have access to my important files, music, video, books, etc.  It also is my GPS which allows me to carry it with me everywhere I go regardless of what vehicle I am in.

iPad 2 – I, honestly and in full disclosure, bought an Ipad because Steve Jobs told me I needed one:)  But after having it, I love it.  I can write blog posts, read and respond to my school Forums, catch up on news, connet via scoial media, use Evernote, play games, watch Netflix, read Kindle books, etc. all at the touch of a screen icon in one easy to hold and carry device.

Kindle 3G – With the amount of reading I do for school I find that prolonged reading on the iPad screen is a little hard on the eyes and the Kindle is a great alternative. The benefits of the Kindle are varied  For one, I use the Kindle App on all my devices and it syncs my notes,  underlines, and last page read between them.  In other words, I can literally read 10 pages on my iPhone, switch to my iPad and then later my Kindle and finish on my computer all synced and working seamless together.  The other advantage of the Kindle, over the other Hardare options, is the Kindle Web feature that stores my notes and underlines which I, after the book is complete, send to Evernote so I can search and reference them later.

17″ MacBook Pro – I bought a MacBook pro three plus years ago and love it.  It is a work horse.  I still use it for video editing and it sits in my home office.

10″ MacBook Air – I bought my MacBook Air a couple months ago and it is faster than my old MacBook pro, lighter and more compact.  With the increasing amount of writing and traveling I am doing, it is nice to have something more portable without losing power or speed.  It also has a flash Harddrive; because the flash harddrive has no moving parts, it doesn’t become a mini-heater like my old MacBook Pro.

My only complant about my Apple products is not that they are more expensive than some of their competitors, you get what you pay for, but that they are not universal in what some of their products can play.  For example, it is frustrating that the iPhone and iPad are not Flash Video compatible.  I understand Apple’s reservation with what they consider their competitor and inferior technology, but as a avid web-user it is frustrating not to have full access to web content because of it.

Coming Soon: Why I use Evernote and the related software that makes it so powerful.