Jesus’ last command to His followers begins with the charge to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Exactly how Christians should set out to do that has been the topic of conversations, sermons and even debates since shortly after Jesus spoke the words that make up the Great Commission.
Nowadays, I think one thing is certain: for Christians, “go” includes the Internet. Too many people now inhabit social media spaces, and too much human interaction takes place there for us to ignore it.
Simply put, the digital world is a mission field with infinite possibilities and opportunities to spread the Good News of the Gospel.
Nevertheless, engaging this online culture presents a new set of challenges, especially for a people who are commanded to be “in” but not “of” the world.
How do you do it?
Practically speaking, there are many ways to go about it. But from my perspective, I’d say we should start with a study of our own hearts. God is always concerned about the condition of our hearts. He’s concerned about what motivates you and me. He’s concerned about what gets you out of bed in the morning. He’s just as much, if not more, concerned about why you care about something as He is with what you care about.
So, before we wade into the digital space, it’s good to examine our motives. Are we looking to make a name for ourselves or point others to the Name above all names?
I think one reason why God cares so much about our heart is because how we engage testifies to our faith – and if we’re not motivated by love, it will be sadly obvious when we interact with our fellow man. It will undermine our witness.
Translating these principles into digital interactions might mean you respond to a heartfelt plea for help on an online chat room with grace, love and a biblical perspective. Or that you pray for the Facebook friend that seems depressed and offer a kind word or offer to help. It can be as simple as refraining from comment if the chain of comments has grown vitriolic. Saying a prayer asking for wisdom before you do comment and discuss is always a wise option.
At Focus on the Family, we’ve recently launched what we’re calling our Digital Engagement Center. It’s a state-of-the-art facility here on campus that utilizes cutting edge technology to allow our family help specialists to reach out to online users in a pro-active fashion. In the past, we had to wait for people to contact us looking for help, which they did and still do by the hundreds of thousands per month. But now we’re able to wade into online forums and offer perspective and encouragement concerning marriage, parenting and various human pain points such as destructive addictions.
Instead of being reactive we’re proactive – and lives are being helped in the process.
If you ask me, it’s exciting to seize new opportunities to fulfill the Great Commission. Surely Jesus knew the Internet was coming even 2,000 years ago and that His words would be acted upon differently depending upon the condition and circumstances of the world in which the hearers lived.
Times change and so must our methods of communication, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is timeless and eternal. Let us take advantage of these unprecedented opportunities to spread this “good news” of “great joy” (Luke 2:10).
Jim Daly is the president of Focus on the Family. In his most recent book, “ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God’s Heart,” he explores how Christians should engage the culture. Jim blogs regularly at www.jimdalyblog.com.
Learn about Focus on the Family’s recent investment in proactively engaging the digital space through its new Digital Engagement Center here.