The digital era we live in give an unparalleled opportunity to share the Gospel broad and wide. For example, one evangelistic video I collaborated on in 2018 reached over five times more people in six months than all of my offline evangelistic efforts in the twenty-four years since I turned to Christ.
So what makes the digital era so special? Here are three characteristics that make the digital era stand out from other epochs of human history so far.
Everything is instant
The digital era is marked by the instantaneous. If I write a blog post, it is published as soon as I click the button. If I take a photo, it is available to view in the cloud right away. If we want to watch a film, we can start streaming it within seconds. When we send someone a message we can see in real-time when it is delivered to their device and when it is read by the recipient.
Connections are global
The digital era allows people to connect with others no matter where they are in the world. While I am in the UK, someone in Brazil could be reading my newly published blog post. My cousin in Australia might be viewing my recently uploaded photos. The company in California streaming the film we’re watching will have feedback on our watch habits in real-time. We could send a message to someone we’ve never met living in town we’ve never heard of in a country we may never visit in less time than it takes to go say ‘hello’ to our next-door neighbour.
Engagement is king
The digital era is driven by popularity, engagement and influence rather than respect, relationship and authority. If shared by enough people, my clumsy blog post may carry more influence than a full thesis by a qualified professional. The photo taken on my smartphone may gain more recognition than an picture shot on a top-end camera by a career photographer. The ratings we give the film we watch may have more sway than a published review. The private messages we send can have up to ten times more impact than a carefully planned advertising campaign.
What this means for evangelism
Bringing these three characteristics together and applying them to evangelism, it is easy to see the great advantage of sharing the Gospel in the digital era: instant global engagement.
The digital era provides a degree of immediacy, reach and influence in evangelism that most of us have never had before. We are commissioned to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), and this task is made all that more achievable in our present digital world.
Think of it like this: if Jesus spoke the words of Acts 1:8 today, then the Apostles probably would have been able to get the Word of God to the ends of the earth by about 9pm that evening!
The blog posts and statuses we write, the photos and media we share, the messages and links we send – even the films and TV shows we watch and rate – can all be used in some way to efficiently and effectively further the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. We simply need to be ready and willing to serve Jesus and make him known, even online in the digital realm.
So ask yourself this: what one way could you and/or your ministry use your presence in the digital world to say or share something significant about Jesus?
Evangelism in the digital world can be very effective and occasionally may even be deeply meaningful, relational and impactful. However, for the most part, it is often limited by the very things that make the digital world so unique.
Digital evangelism may be instant, yet it is also typically short-lived. People quickly click on to the next link, the next video, the next distraction.
Digital evangelism may be global, but it often lacks substance. Purely online relationships rarely have the depth, connection and accountability of real-world relationships.
And digital evangelism may see high engagement, but it can be superficial. 14.7k views of an evangelistic video does not equal 14.7k life-changing Gospel encounters.
Behind the profile pictures and digital avatars are offline people with real-world needs and a non-digital eternal future ahead of them, one way or another. Evangelism in the digital world can only go so far. Evangelism in the real world must always be our number one priority.
The digital era we live in certainly does give an unparalleled opportunity to share the Gospel broad and wide. Let’s make the most of every opportunity, including digital ones... but let’s never neglect the long-term, significant and deeply personal opportunities God gives us with those he has placed in our everyday offline lives.