The digital age has brought about new ways of communicating which has embedded itself in every part of our lives. But are their limits of this modality of communication for Christians that we should limit it or are their untapped ways of evangelizing, discipling, and worshiping together? I have had some deep conversations and read great blog articles about digital evangelism and love the idea of effectively sharing the Gospel online. That being said I have not read much on the idea of digital discipleship and how to do this well. Some items may be implied (reading plans on YouVersion, G+ communities, and networking well online) but there is nothing out there on how to do digital discipleship well.
Here are some of my main concerns that I highlight in the video above. Please note that this is not to deter anyone from doing parts of discipleship, but to only my concerns today with the present technology to do complete discipleship. Also, we will be defining discipleship via Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry and this won’t be a forum for what discipleship is or is not. It also does not mean that people are not trying, in fact if you want to be apart of a great effort to do digital discipleship well online, go head over to the Google+ Computer Church Community. Finally, I’ll be taking quotes from a thread that started this whole discussion over at the Google+ Church Tech Community.
As much as we would love to say that we have best friends online, unless you have met with them offline and in “real world” situations, is it possible to develop full empathy for someone online? The span of this is closing with tools like Google+ Hangouts, mobile devices with social media, and other tools to lessen this, but it is my belief that this is not enough. Some of my greatest friends that I have only met online via church tech, blogging, and youth ministry forums are people I respect, I pray for, and learn from. Yet my reaction of grieving, sharing joy, and other aspects is simply not the same as hometown friends and church family.
David Miles has similar concerns when he states:
This aspect of discipleship CANNOT be done online since you cannot walk through life with them, leading them as they follow and see you modeling Jesus. Nor can you get to know their families, interact with their kids, etc.
The Internet has a very gross (and many times earned as well as over-exaggerated) personna of being a place where you can reinvent yourself or become someone you are not. As much as social media truly ties us together, there is very little for us to truly be authentic online because there is nothing to limit us. How do I know any of the other people in my Bible study online are not students in a religion class that are actually atheists or someone that lies about “doing things” but never has actually followed through.
Push back to this is a quote by Jeremy about people being inauthentic in person too, which is so true.
I have talked to people face to face and it felt more inauthentic than any disciple relationship I have currently found myself involved in. – Jeremy Tramell
The one thing that I asked that never was answered in the group is:
Accountability online is hard to truly achieve compared to face-to-face.
Discipleship is as much learning (being) as it is trying out evangelism or connecting with others (doing). How do you keep someone accountable across the Internet? Face-to-face, there is something different about “ditching out on discipleship” that holds accountability. Our technology is limited and so we must recognize digital discipleship is limited.
What are your thoughts on digital discipleship?