If you’re trying to communicate with people, then you need to understand the culture that you’re communicating into…. This has improved greatly since I started working with the church on this in 2009, moving very much from ‘why do we need to do that’ to ‘I get that it’s important, how do we do that’, but just a little reminder of the current climate/the why…
This is stats from the Office for National Statistics from last year… and we can see the large numbers of people using it – almost universal up to 54 years of age (so earliest retirement age)… have used recently.
Not a fan of the notion of the ‘digital native’ – someone who’s ‘born with knowledge of digital’, although there are clearly generational factors (same as if you throw a child on ski slope at a young age, they’re often more confident) – prefer Dave White’s notion of visitor/resident – not age aligned but to do with familiarity/feeling at home within digital cultures (and note that digital/social media covers a range of sites, they are not all the same… so e.g. I’m more comfortable on Twitter/FB, than I am on Snapchat, but I also used not to be on Instagram and now am… as a comms tool I need people to comms with.. )
Again, here, we see the changing landscape for digital, from recent stats from Ofcom…. See the growing uptake in the use of internet, but also watch as the smartphone grows and grows – til there’s a specific question in 2013 demonstrating a tipping point – so it’s not only about internet access, but it’s about mobile internet access, which means new possibilities ….
You’ll see different platforms attract different users … people keep talking about young people leaving Facebook, but there’s a sense that many are on there as an address book, but use other tools more widely. All my students love YouTube, as reflected in this diagram…
We also have to remember, as we can see from this diagram, that not everything is happening in PUBLIC – look at the numbers on WhatsApp – of all ages – and see that all of that activity is happening privately… although YouTube is v much a public medium… with Spotify easy to listen to music, and PokemonGo requiring people to get out and about and walk to ‘catch them all’…
The more we understand about how people engage with information in the contemporary age, the more that we can speak into our contemporary culture …
Ask people to raise their hands to each of these 5 platforms… see what is used frequently…
One of the things that I will often speak into is the notion of real/virtual (that those online relationships are not real) … talking about online/offline takes us a step nearer, but for many it is entirely blurred! When you ask ‘how much time do you spend online’ – well, I can be having a conversation, and looking things up, we can be sharing pictures with each other, I can be in a sermon – listening and tweeting at the same time…
WHO KNOWS WHAT IS GOING ON IN THIS PICTURE ….
A picture is worth a thousand words, but what happens when all the words are wrong? The teacher later confirmed that the students were researching a school assignment in conjunction with the tour. “It turns out that the Rijksmuseum has an app that, among other things, contains guided tours and further information about the works on display,”Jose Picardo writes on Medium. “As part of their visit to the museum, the children, who minutes earlier had admired the art and listened attentively to explanations by expert adults, had been instructed to complete an assignment by their school teachers, using, among other things, the museum’s excellent smartphone app.”
Here they are, transfixed by the art. Picardo writes, “I wonder, what is more likely to bring about the death of civilisation, children using smartphones to learn about art or the willful ignorance of adults who are too quick to make assumptions?”
So an example of positive use!
Much of the current media narrative focuses upon fears of addiction, etc. and many of these fears replicate fears that we’ve had with every new form of technology
*This article is a pleasing challenge to the negative narrative…
See also: https://wakelet.com/wake/57b64b41-0329-4a8e-a8d2-bdef29068bf1
… within the Church in particular, where there’s an emphasis upon the idea that Jesus came to earth in human form, and therefore this is the ‘best’ form of interaction, but as this quote from Prof Sonia Livingstone “Even though...” illustrates, we need to look at digital on its own terms, rather than always in comparison.
We need to avoid what’s known as ‘technological determinism’ – that technology is changing everything, and we have no choice but to give into it, and think more about the ‘social shaping’ of technology – in which technology offers us new opportunities, but we have choices in how we engage with those choices – e.g. Like a brick – chuck it through the window, or build a wall with it.
So, taking that on board, let’s think about digital discipleship, or discipleship in a digital age... Because really, if we’re following from what I’ve just been talking about ... We’re talking about discipleship, how it has been shaped and shapes the digital environment ... As a historian – how things do not spring ‘new’ from nowhere, but build upon what has happened before....
*This was part of a project I worked on at Durham University 2010-2015, although I’m now more within a business school, so influences thinking in different ways...
Within ‘The Big Bible Project’, we were looking at what it meant to be ‘learn to live in your digital skin’, being a disciple in the world (but not of the world).
Over 3,000 blog posts were written in what we described as drawing on ‘voices from the pew, the pulpit and the academy’, as we grappled with what it means to be a Christian in a digital age.
The ‘digital world’ has often been described as an alien world, a virtual world, to be approached tentatively. The church, however, has sought to use the digital for mission (acquisition/conversion) and discipleship (retention/advocacy), with differing levels of success.
Organisations and individuals use it to share their lives, tell their stories, open up discussions, and to engage with a sceptical world – a world that is hungry for relationships – and meaning. In a digital age, it is important for the church to consider how it is relevant (without losing its values), how it is connected with it’s community (local/global), and how it empowers its people to share their lives authentically (online) – in many ways as ‘influencer marketers’ within their group of friends….
Reminding ourselves of the Spring Harvest theme – the everyday life of a disciple is an adventure – many daily decisions, constant choices … so how do we live that life to the full! (John 10:10, which is one of my favourite verses)…
Cris Rogers sent me this shortly before this website went live (earlier this week – 2nd April 2018) as I’ve been writing a piece on spiritual formation, discipleship, and the awareness of being ‘watched’ on social media… what I love about this diagram is the need to balance our internal spiritual development through bible reading, prayer, etc. and how that then translates into activity including social justice, etc. … and in the last 9 years of looking at faith online – the majority of these activities can include a digital element…
Here we see worship (online streamed service), Bible reading, prayer reminder app, online petition in service of the poor, and an opportunity to be generous in meeting the needs of one’s local community (this is my local foodbank recent needs… making it clear where donations can be left and what is most needed – can be swiftly updated)….
Thinking corporately – church is the place where we expect to be schooled in our discipleship…. Taught by ‘experts’ and by ‘each other’ … and with the digital this can now be much more of a 24/7 thing…. And if we want people to find us- through corporate church spaces + also churches encouraging their members to share their digital lives online…
*Note, first church website I built, back in around 2001, we discussed the importance of the website being consistent with what would happen when someone walked through the door of the local church (the focus of the efforts). We emphasised that it needed to feature real people, the community (not so much the building unless of historical interest).
This is something that Rev Pam Smith, vicar of iChurch (a fully online church) has sought to write about in her book… you’ll see her that it is about people undertaking a journey of discipleship together, and how the online space facilitates that, rather than, as was initially thought (and still persists to some extent), the things are cheaper, faster, easier, less intensive online, and that large numbers are all that count…
For those of you who are concerned about this replacing visiting church PHYSICALLY – research by Tim Hutchings has largely shown that people use online church on top of physical church, or is a way back in for those who wouldn’t consider a physical church (e.g. illness, theological difference), etc.
… online church is seeking to continue what disciples have always been told to do – live the good and difficult parts of life together…. (Acts 2: 42–47)… this can be difficult to see with the way that social media can shape some conversations – e.g. filter bubbles, swiftness of response, etc…
Why am keen on the social shaping aspect – technology doesn’t push us all where we don’t want to go, but can push us further along a path we’re already on – ‘human nature amplified’…
... It’s why I’m keen to see Christians undertaking their everyday lives online, and considering the Christian/biblical values that feed into how we behave online ... E.g. What does it look like to ‘be patient’ online – does it mean taking longer to form a response, press a send button, etc.
If time, get people to think about this...
Christian discipleship texts have always encouraged those of faith to be ‘the face of God’ to the rest of the world, a life visibly transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ, a ‘witness’ to the world (Logan, 2014, Peterson, 2000). In the contemporary digital age, Christians are encouraged to think about how they are ‘the face of God’ in all spheres, including online (Byers, 2014)….
Gould (2013, 11) would agree that “Social media has opened up yet another portal for seeing and being seen, for knowing and being known, for being in and belonging to community,” offering opportunities for enhancing what already exists, rather than replacing it with something completely new. Byers, at the time theological consultant for The BIGBible Project (2013: 196), notes that if we ourselves are the [quote]
At the core of this is the importance of a consistent message, embodying an unchanging God, as Byers (232) finishes “nothing would be more irrelevant to the world than a relevant church that is competent with digital media but inept with the media of God.” Vogt (2011: 15) agrees that each new technology offers new opportunities for mission (deeply tied to discipleship), but the basic message of Christianity remains the same.
A quote that appears frequently on Facebook, attributed variously to C.S. Lewis, and Eugene Peterson, states that ‘No life of faith can be lived privately. There must be overflow into the lives of others’. Similarly, the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC) has called for ‘whole-life discipleship’ since the early nineteen-nineties, in which disciples (followers of Jesus), seek to take their faith into their everyday lives. Social media is merely the newest ‘secular’ (non-religious) space. The nature of social media means that all declared Christians then have a level of visibility as the ‘face of God’ whether explicitly talking about their faith, or simply engaging with any other aspect of their online lives.
Bryony was one of my dissertation students at Durham and created this book from her dissertation – we’ve had excellent conversations about what it means to be a disciple in a digital age, etc... her questionnaire response highlighted than nearly 50% of direct evangelistic responses came via private messaging…. More comfortable in your own home, can walk away, etc. Allows space for vulnerability ...
The ‘disinhibition’ that’s blamed for much of cyberbullying – also helps with asking/offering conversations about faith...
So, briefly, drawing on the book of James that is the basis for Spring Harvest – let’s pull out a handful of verses and how those might apply…
Slow to press the button, to react, like we said with Galatians, take a little longer to think about it, try and understand what has actually been said in social media conversation, rather than assuming the worst.
*Remember story about job interview which should have been a disaster for a disabled interviewee – could easily have taken offence, but decided to use the interview as a teaching lesson, got job because of way handled it – how can we challenge what has become normal behaviour?
Social justice and clicktivism – need to think about what we’re doing… there’s an opportunity to share what/why we do things (in a way that feels natural to our personalities – rather than an unnatural ‘God slot’) publicly ..
*Jokes about people sharing their running/gym sessions, etc. but show the way faith attaches every aspect of lives *Note is a debate here about e.g. those videos where people show themselves giving food to the homeless, etc. is that some kind of ‘poverty porn’ or..?
Think about what you say etc – care with gossip – and remembering that online is not a wild west free from legal ramifications?
Who is my neighbour in a digital age? *Gave conference paper last year about the notion of ‘place’ and how church is bound up with local but has that limited our thinking about who is our neighbour – our global neighbour?
And I wanted to finish on a personal example … this verse stood out to me … as I just finished chemotherapy treatment last Friday for breast cancer … it’s been a very difficult time … and ties in with my belief that we should be as authentic as possible (without necessarily bleeding all over the keyboard)…
I broke the news of my cancer on my Facebook page, then blogged about it … and then have been using a mix of platforms (the ones I use already) to share the journey…
*Note: re image led nature of online now… we saw earlier YouTube very much used esp by younger generation… a picture speaks 1000 words, etc… so have used to share ‘the journey’, including the difficult bits – which get very encouraging prayers in return!
Have had a friend who is a dedicated atheist say that my open-ness about the journey, the way my faith is evident etc has made him think – ‘if it was possible for there to be a God, then your one looks worth it’ was the gist..
… and see the encouragement that came from a friend who’s a cartoonist – drew this up in around 20 mins! Looking forward to framing that on my wall!
Want to finish with a short prayer…
So want to finish with a brief prayer…
May not be time for this, but will talk to people outside, or on social media
Discipleship in a Digital Age for Spring Harvest Harrogate 2018
Discipleship in a Digital Age
Dr Bex Lewis
Senior Lecturer in Digital
Director, Digital Fingerprint
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• The Digital Environment
– A few stats
– Challenging contemporary media narratives
• (Digital) Discipleship
• Learning from James for (Digital) Discipleship
– Biblically informed online behaviours
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THE DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT
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Digital on its own terms
Even though in practice, face-to-
face communication can, of course,
be angry, negligent, resistant,
deceitful and inflexible, somehow it
remains the ideal against which
mediated communication is judged
Livingstone, S. Children and the Internet: Great
Expectations and Challenging Realities, 2009, 26
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Tweet @drbexl 12http://www.discipleshiptools.org/pages.asp?pageid=65405
“A Disciple is one who, by following
Jesus, grows in their faith in Christ and
in so doing models and teaches
Christians the precepts of the Bible,
prayer, doctrine, relationship, Christian
living, service, and worship, to name
the main ones.
For many churchgoing is no longer the
‘cultural norm’. People don’t actively ignore
the church: they don’t even think about it.
Matthew 5:13-16 calls us to be salt and light
in the world, and for thousands in the ‘digital
age’, that world includes social networks such
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.
With literally billions in the digital spaces, the
online social spaces presented by churches
need to be appealing, welcoming, and not
look like they are just an afterthought: they
are now effectively the ‘front door’ to your
church for digital users, and you ignore those
spaces at your peril.
Lewis, B. Growing Churches in a Digital Age, 2013
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It may be possible to set up an online
mega-church of millions of people but it
is more likely that a long-term online
Christian community will be small and
quiet rather than large and exciting,
and may not be understood by the
wider Church…the commonest
question I am asked about online
church is ‘What do you do?’ and it is
hard to explain that we don’t ‘do’
church – we are church to each other,
despite the lack of sacraments or a
building, because we are committed to
each other’s journeys in the faith and
in Christ’s love.
Smith, P. Online Mission and Ministry, 2015,
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“The original disciples gave each other
that which each needed, were honest
and true, were respected by people, and
sought to live both the good and
difficult parts of life together. Will
others say that of us? My thought
whenever someone thinks different
from me is to think, how interesting, and
to want to have a conversation about
the journey they took to reach that
understanding! We need to celebrate
our similarities, rather than focusing on
Bex Lewis, ‘Church as Family’, 17/02/18,
Day by Day with God
[If we are…] means by which God communicates
and reveals himself through his Spirit, then our
blog posts, status updates, tweets, artistic
images, and online comments should be
products of a life transformed by Christ and
indwelled by his Spirit. As restored image
bearers, our online presence and activity should
image the Triune God.
Byers, A. Theomedia: The Media of God and the
Digital Age, 2013, 196
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“.. PEOPLE FIND IT EASY AND MORE
COMFORTABLE TO ASK QUESTIONS
ABOUT FAITH IN A PRIVATE SPACE
ONLINE… PEOPLE ON SOCIAL
MEDIA ARE DIRECTLY
CONTACTABLE IN A WAY THAT HAS
NOT PREVIOUSLY BEEN SO EASY;
PARADOXICALLY THERE IS A
DISTANCE OFFERED BY THE ONLINE
ENVIRONMENT AKIN TO THE
SCREEN IN THE CONFESSIONAL
Taylor, B. Sharing
Faith Using Social
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(DIGITAL) DISCIPLESHIP IN JAMES
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My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to
speak and slow to become angry, because
human anger does not produce the
righteousness that God desires.
James 1:19-20 (NIV)
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What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone
claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such
faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is
without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to
them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but
does nothing about their physical needs, what good
is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not
accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:14-17 (NIV)
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Brothers and sisters, do not slander one
another. Anyone who speaks against a brother
or sister or judges them speaks against the
law and judges it. When you judge the law, you
are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on
it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the
one who is able to save and destroy. But you—
who are you to judge your neighbour?
James 4: 11-12 (NIV)
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Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any
kind come your way, consider it an opportunity
for great joy. For you know that when your faith
is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
James 1:2-3 (NLT)
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