Everyday folks going out into all the world (wide web)
The Apostle Paul used the Roman roads to spread the gospel, and other forms of transportation have been crucial to missionaries for centuries. Today our technologically connected world has made possible a new form of messenger – the digital missionary.
Christian witness and evangelism are in many ways no longer bound by the constraints of physical borders. It’s not hard to harness the power of the internet and social media to reach hearts and minds across the digital landscape.
Through intercultural learning and hospitality, all of us can join in this work to follow the same call taken up by our ancestors in the faith – to reach people near and far with the Good News of Christ.
Explore cultures and learn to speak new languages
• Engage in online subcultures Actively participate in online communities related to faith, spirituality or relevant interests. Contribute to discussions, share content and comment on posts to establish your presence and credibility.
• Follow diverse voices Follow individuals from various cultural backgrounds on social media platforms to gain insights into their daily lives, challenges and perspectives. Engage with their content to build bridges of understanding.
• Stay current with internet trends Keep a finger on the pulse of popular culture by following a few meme pages, forums and online discussion platforms such as subreddits (thread categories) that are relevant to the people you are trying to reach. This will help you better understand the language, humour and trends they engage with.
• Master common digital slang Just as learning a new language involves understanding vocabulary and grammar, immerse yourself in digital slang and abbreviations commonly used in digital discussions. Familiarize yourself with acronyms like LOL, SMH and YOLO, and use them appropriately in your online interactions.
• Embrace memes and visual communication Memes are a language of their own on the internet. Learn how to create and share memes that relate to Christian themes or messages. Visual communication through memes and GIFs can help you connect with internet-savvy audiences.
• Create a welcoming online space Design your social media profiles and online presence to be warm and inviting. Use language in your bio and posts to make visitors feel invited to join the conversation. Seek feedback from a sister or brother in the faith to help you improve.
• Respond with kindness When engaging with comments and messages, respond with kindness and patience. Offer words of encouragement, prayer or support. Far too many Christians do not demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in their online interactions. Challenge yourself to be conscious that you always represent Christ.
Open up about your own faith journey, and experiences with God’s love and grace.
• Host virtual gatherings Organize virtual events such as an Alpha course, virtual Bible studies or prayer meetings to create a sense of community and hospitality.
• Share personal stories Open up about your own faith journey, and experiences with God’s love and grace. Sharing personal stories of transformation can be a powerful way to connect with others on a deeper level and show hospitality in a digital context.
In our age of connectivity when the mission field now extends into the digital realm, we find both traditional and digital missionaries driven by the same unwavering commitment to share the Good News that transforms lives through the hope of Christ wherever we may go. It takes prayer, commitment to a people group and is a great act of love.
Joanna la Fleur is a podcaster, TV host and communications consultant in Toronto. Find more of these columns at FaithToday.ca/ThrivingInDigital. PHOTO: DYLAN FERREIRA