The digital revolution has changed everything we know about mission strategy. If you’re not familiar with missions movements, we’ve arrived at an interesting place that calls for strategic efforts. Here’s a quick overview…
Since the Victorian age, missionaries from Western countries (particularly the United Kingdom and the United States) have shouldered the largest burden when it comes to missions. Men and woman like Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and Lottie Moon not only pioneered the work of the gospel, but actually impacted the greater culture in the countries they served.
The idea of sending missionaries from the West to reach those in other countries made a powerful impact, but at a great cost. The sheer expense of training a Western missionary, teaching them the language, funding the trip, paying their living expenses, and more can be great.
That and other challenges eventually led to what I consider “Phase II” of missions, which was raising up local Christians to work in their own countries. After all these indigenous missionaries were already in-country, and they knew the community, the language, and the customs.
And now, an even greater revolution is taking place in missions.
It’s no surprise that the digital revolution, accelerated by the challenges presented by COVID-19, has created immense opportunities on the global mission field. In 2021, the number of smartphone users in the world reached 6.378 billion, which translates to 80.63% of the world’s population. The opportunity to share the gospel via live-streaming, online video, social media, web content and more is absolutely enormous.
But with that increased opportunity comes the necessity to train a new generation to reach the world through ever evolving and ever-increasing digital platforms. I’ve often said that seminaries and Bible schools generally do a great job of teaching pastors and church leaders about preaching, teaching the Bible, and how to lead a church, but they fall woefully short when it comes to sharing the gospel via media and digital communication.
We launched The Influence Lab for that purpose. Through partnerships with Christian media organizations around the world, as well as international broadcast media platforms, we are attempting to create a global network for training the next generation of Christian media professionals – pastors, ministry leaders and their media and communications teams – to share the most important story of all, the good news of Jesus Christ.
The need is greater than you might imagine. At any moment, I have multiple requests on my desk from churches and ministry organizations around the world asking us to come teach on media and communication. Our recent trip to Italy was a prime example.
Sabaoth Church in Milan leads a network of 75 churches across Italy and Eastern Europe. Kathleen and I spoke at their annual conference which included a special media and communication session. We also conducted training for their School of Missions called “Hanger 28” (like a plane hangar, it builds leaders who can fly). I was particularly impressed with this vibrant church that is focused on reaching the media-driven generation.
Certainly many churches, ministries, and their leaders have a social media presence, but are we really thinking deeply about how we can engage this new “digital mission field” with our message? Other than trying to amp up our “likes,” how many organizations have a strategic plan for global evangelism through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or through emerging digital tools?
While we should continue to mobilize and equip traditional and indigenous missionaries, I also believe it’s time to shift from primarily thinking about missions in terms of geographical boundaries and start thinking in terms of digital boundaries. From my perspective, that’s a massive audience just waiting to hear our message.
P.S. I invite you to partner with the work of The Influence Lab and consider a special year-end gift. Your support helps us train churches in countries like Italy and Russia and South Africa with pastors who yearn for the “know-how” to navigate the digital age and to do it effectively.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The need to share our message never changes, but how we share it does. This is the moment to embrace the digital world. Give now.
Want to know more? Read also: The Influence Lab Earns Guidestar’s 2021 Silver Seal of Transparency