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Digital discipleship

Digital discipleship.

Maybe that is a new term. So let me explain it briefly by way of a few observations. According to a recent study by eMarketer, the average US adult spends close to 8 hours looking at a screen of some sort each day, including 2 hours of watching streaming videos (TV shows, YouTube, movies, etc.) and 1 hour on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, etc.). Of course, many of us spend a good deal of our time working looking at a screen as well. On average, over 3 hours of that 8-hour total is with a smartphone.

To put that in perspective, on an average day the average American adult spends more time looking at screens than sleeping. That is a first in world history! I don’t know where you fit into that statistic—less or more screen time—but increasingly few people in our culture don’t fit into this statistic.

This is not meant to be alarmist—though aspects of it are certainly alarming—but realistic. We are an increasingly digital people.

Along with the increase in digital input, the amount of time we spend fellowshipping with other believers—indeed, other people in general—tends to keep decreasing.

For those who care about faithfulness to Jesus, we have to ask ourselves how all that screen time is forming our souls. Because it is.

The world of Google, Facebook, Amazon, cable news, streaming music, and any other digital platforms does not exist to just offer us some useful tools, but to convince us of certain things. Browsing through websites is an experience of discipleship. We are being taught in a million different little ways to desire certain things, to believe certain “truths” about life, and to understand ourselves and others in certain ways. No technology—from the humble garden rake to the most advanced computer system—leaves its user the same as when they came to it. We use tools because they help us, but we also need to be mindful that they change us.

Enter digital discipleship. This blog is an effort at digital discipleship. Through it, I am hoping to inject some more intentional Gospel hope, spiritual challenge, and Christian influence into your digital consuming habits. Many of us see each other only once a week, on Sunday morning. And worshipping together on Sunday morning is awesome. This blog is a way to further play the role of teacher in the church as we live life together.

What this blog is

In short, I will use this blog to further teach and process the world as I try to figure out what following Jesus faithfully looks like in a world of smartphones, genetic engineering, and the age-old specters which continue to haunt us in the form of poverty, hopelessness, pride, etc., many of which take on new faces in the new type of world we live in.

Sometimes I will write further thoughts on the text for a sermon, sometimes random thoughts on a given passage of Scripture, sometimes more extended reflections on pressing issues which face us as God’s people in the here and now. Some thoughts simply cover things which we don’t really have a good forum to discuss in other contexts yet are relevant in thinking about living as followers of Jesus. All of it is meant to be an invitation to see how the gospel of Jesus Christ should shape our lives, our thinking, and our action, day by day.

What this blog is not

As digital as we are becoming, we are actually analog beings. Better yet, we are flesh-and-blood beings that God created long before any human being had the slightest inkling of what electricity was. As flesh-and-blood beings, a huge part of what we need is simply to be together.

Technology enables many amazing things. Praise the Lord that the ability to stream church services allowed, and continues to allow, us to practice prudent safety in the midst of the covid pandemic. Who knows when such a response will be needed again? And, Lord willing, it will no longer be necessary in the near future.

What spending that time apart has shown us is that being apart is not the same thing as being together, even if we can still have a sermon, sing songs, and all the other things. God made us as people to live in community. God made us to love each other as we rub shoulders with each other in life. Digital community, while a real part of our lives and growing in its influence, is not enough. Digital community does not equal the church.

This blog is not meant to discourage us from being together. Digital discipleship is simply another avenue to talk Jesus to each other and the world around us.

In closing

I hope that this effort will prove helpful. I am convinced that in the world we live in, digital discipleship will become increasingly important. I am trying to figure out more how to do this well, whether through blogging or other means. And, I am trying to figure out how to best be a flesh-and-blood pastor ministering to flesh-and-blood people living here and now.

May God bless us as we move forward in following him in this brave new world with the same old brokenness and same old need for the saving grace of Jesus Christ.