Discipleship Making Movements
Disciples making disciples. On Facebook? If you think Facebook is just for cat videos and selfies, think again. Missionaries in OMF and around the world are sharing the gospel through the means of Facebook Ads, direct messaging, Interactive Voice Response and other digital tools. In a digital world, Christian missionaries are finding creative means to make connections and build relationships in order to share the gospel.
3 Minute Read
By Galina Hitching
How many times have you Googled a question you wouldn’t ask someone you know? People are looking for answers. Likely, they aren’t looking to you or the church for those answers. They’re probably looking to the internet or somewhere similar. While digital evangelism is not a new concept, it is still widely underappreciated and underemployed in efforts to reach those very people who are looking for answers on Google.
Organizations like Billy Graham Evangelistic Association have been using digital evangelism for years, and innovative missionaries have been exploring the role of digital evangelism in the place of traditional evangelism. So, why hasn’t it gained momentum in mainstream missiology? According to internal research, digital evangelism appears successful and even more cost effective. Whatever the reason, more people are seeing what can be accomplished and a growing number of people are using digital evangelism even though many within missions may be unaware of it.
If you’re more interested in data and methodology, start over here. If you want the overview of what digital evangelism is and why we need it, keep reading.
What Is Digital Evangelism Anyway?
Simply put, digital evangelism is the use of the internet and other digital tools to share the gospel with others. What this looks like can vary widely in practice. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association engages with individuals by answering questions, providing online counseling and email discipleship.
You may be engaging in digital evangelism yourself without realizing it. For churches and individuals it might mean online small groups, blogs and YouTube videos sharing the truth of the gospel.
In missions, it can be all or some of these things and is shaped by the country and audience the missionary hopes to engage with.
What Digital Evangelism Isn’t
- Impersonal mass communication
- Casting a net for quick converts
- Replacement for discipleship
- Replacement for relationship building
- Replacement for traditional missions
- One-size-fits-all audience approach
- A panacea for all that ails global missions
Reaching the Unreached
Digital evangelism provides us with a unique opportunity to reach those who haven’t heard about Jesus. In Asia, only one in ten know a Christian. We in missions are constantly aware of how limited our efforts are. Digital evangelism has the potential to reach larger numbers of people with less manpower and the ability to access hard to reach locations.
“40% of Thai people have internet access, mainly through mobile phones. Another interesting fact is people spent, on average, four hours and six minutes per day accessing the internet from their mobile device. Out of this time, they spent three hours and forty-six minutes on social media and just twenty minutes on browsing websites.
Putting all the above together, it is clear there’s huge potential for internet ministry in Thailand. With over 66 million people who don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, there’s a huge target audience. Internet ministry further supports all the evangelism and church planting efforts carried out by OMF Thailand, other mission agencies, and the Thai church. The reach goes beyond the borders of the country, as this ministry can be a help to Thai churches and diaspora ministry globally.” – Reinout van Heiningen, OMF Missionary in Thailand
It feels safer to send a direct message than to walk into a church. Digital evangelism allows for anonymity and can provide an excellent entry point for individuals to ask questions, familiarize themselves with Christianity, and begin processing and thinking in the privacy of their own lives. Entering a church, joining a Bible study or even speaking to an individual involves a level of emotional commitment. Digital communication has the ability to break down some of these barriers to the gospel and facilitates future relationship building.
One OMF team has been testing Facebook Ads in multiple languages. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Mass media has been used over the last one hundred years to effectively share the gospel. Now we can do it cheaper with better focus and more interaction. It should be part of every team’s strategy to engage their people far and wide.” -Ray, OMF Missionary
It’s bringing hope
“We are not trying to make and promote videos for their own sake, but rather we want to generate quality discussions that will lead to face-to-face meetings and people believing in Jesus.” -Ray, OMF Missionary
The end goal of digital evangelism is not digital engagement. It’s about building relationships and bringing hope. In a world that has little hope to offer, we have a responsibility to share our hope with anyone God places in our path. In a digital world, what if that means sharing our hope with the 300 million internet users in East Asia?