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online green 246Digital mission - 1

From a talk at Stronger Network

Liz Morgan is a Church Digital Champion - the Project lead for Digital Labs, the Church of England digital communications training for churches. She spoke in February 2022 about digital mission. Here are some extracts from her talk:

For the past three years I have been supporting churches to make the most of online tools and digital communications to keep in touch with church communities but also to use it as a tool to reach out further than the four walls or the kind of networks that you have in your church already. Seeing how we can use digital tools for evangelism and discipleship.

I wonder what you've been watching on TV at the moment? There's a docu-series on Netflix called Hype House. It's all about a group of influencers who have come together to live in an incredible mansion in LA and create content all together in this one house. It is a behind-the-scenes view into the lives of these influencers. Individually they've got audiences of millions and, combined together in this mansion, they have increased their reach  and influence. 

It's been an interesting experience for all of them. There's been some highs and lows. They are certainly shaping culture amongst a generation. One of them admitted to spending between £60,000 to £70,000 per month on creating content and you can only imagine the revenue that he gets from all of the people that watch it, whether on YouTube, TikTok etc.

It's a fascinating insight into a whole subset of culture that I'm curious to to know more about but it is actually a really difficult watch when you think about their narcissistic behaviours, the way that it's all about chasing the likes, chasing the views. About what they can do bigger and better next time.

Digital mission feels to me like the absolute opposite of what is represented on Hype House and that culture - when mainstream success is measured in terms of how much money can you make, how much influence can we have, are we famous on Facebook or TikTok or wherever. 

How can we as Christians, as church communities, mark success? How can we be digital missionaries? The danger is that we could also get sucked into this narcissistic cycle. We could be chasing mass approval. We could be looking for the next endorphin hit.

Before we go there, a question you might have is, "Should we be avoiding it altogether?". Perhaps you've experienced the difficult side of social media, for example, the way that people talk to each other - it can be a really unkind, unethical place. What I do know is that Jesus never avoided the difficult places. He was found in the tax collector's home or touching those that were considered unclean or speaking truth in dark places. Mark 2 15-17 reminds us that Jesus says, "I've not come to call the righteous, I've come for sinners.". Of course we should look after our mental health and set boundaries, etc. but we are called to be a light within all of those places.

So what are the markers of success for us?  Scripture tells us time and time again about the way that Jesus interacted with communities, with crowds and with people. I think this gives us so much insight into how we can use digital. Let's take the story of Zacchaeus. Like many encounters, is a great example of how Jesus stops in a crowd and reaches out and talks to one person. Applying this to our online presence shows we need to use our platforms to reach our community and connect with people on a one-to-one basis. It is not about chasing a crowd.

It could be that one person who is unable to attend the church building and has been watching your live stream. It could be that one person who's been investigating faith and doesn't know where to start. It could be that young person with a child at home seeking support and community. How can your social media presence encourage, care for and meet with that one person today?

Let me share with you a story of one person. Daniel, during the pandemic, discovered and went on a journey of faith. It all began from a comment from a stranger in a Facebook group and it led him on a journey of discovery. I don't know what that comment was but the impetus was a chance encounter with a stranger in a Facebook group. He connected with a local church through watching online services and became part of that community online. He said that was good because he wasn't thrust into the middle of all of these people in church which could have been overwhelming. Instead he learned at his own pace. He got to know people in a different way. Over time he met people gradually as restrictions changed. He says I never felt so welcomed and so loved at any other time in my life. An amazing story of how one person in a Facebook group set someone off on this journey of faith and then also a church recognized and saw that one person and enabled them to join in in the way that they felt they could, taking steps along that journey. It is not about the masses - it is about the one person.

So who can you connect with today? Who is that one person watching your online services? Reading your social media posts?

Part 2 is here...

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From a talk at Stronger Network, 10/05/2022

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