As Pastor Rick has been teaching through the accounts of the early Church from the book of Acts each Sunday, one thing has stood out to me, specifically from the Apostle Paul. He travelled quite a bit! When we trace the missionary journeys of Paul throughout the ancient world, we might take for granted the ability to easily travel from place to place. But for Paul, his success at reaching people with the Gospel was aided significantly by two things that were very novel at the time; the Roman road system and the increase in letter writing. These factors allowed the Gospel to spread in a way that previously was not possible.
Both roads and access to paper, increased literacy, and a general increase in letter writing were technological innovations that aided in the spread of the Gospel. At the heart of Paul’s mission was to “become all things to all people” in order to reach them (1 Corinthians 9:22). As we study his example, we notice that while his message itself never changed, his methods adapted to meet the needs of those he needed to reach.
To the Jewish people, he would start with the Torah, go to the Synagogue, and show them Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament. To the Greeks, he went to Mars Hill and used their religious nature and statue to an unknown god as a conversation starter to teach them about Jesus. He at times even quoted pagan poets to emphasize his point. For Paul, the message was so important, that any method that would reach people would be considered.
What does this have to do with online ministry? In online ministry, we have the exact same goal as Paul, as we undertake Jesus’ directive to make disciples of all nations. Online ministry is the view that we have been given an incredible gift in our modern technology, and that it should be used to impact the world with the Gospel of Jesus.
But what does that mean? What exactly is ‘online ministry’?
It is helpful to first define a few things that online ministry is not. First, online ministry is not just a livestream of our Sunday morning service. In fact, our livestream is not the goal of our ministry, and is in fact the bare minimum of what we hope to accomplish.
Online ministry is not a replacement for church either; the goal is to not provide people with an alternative to in-person meeting, but instead to help supplement and build people throughout the week, beyond Sunday morning. Now you might be thinking, ‘what if I just watch online? Am I doing it wrong?’. Remember, the livestream is not intended to be a replacement for in-person meeting; I did not specify where that in-person meeting needed to take place. Look at the early Church!
Just recently we learned about Lydia starting a church in her home and how that started a movement in her city. If you are someone who is unable to be here in person, for whatever reason that may be, you are still part of Discovery, and you have an incredibly unique opportunity. For those of you in this category, I would encourage you to invite your friends, neighbors or co-workers into your home to watch and engage with you. Invite them to stay for lunch. What an amazing way to be a light in your area and encourage and share the good news of Jesus with those around you!
So what does online ministry entail then? If it is not just a replacement for Sunday morning, what is the purpose? To answer that, we can start with the three ‘pillars’ of Discovery: Worship God, Love His Word, and Build People. Our online ministry seeks to fulfill these goals utilizing the technology available to us. The internet has provided us with the biggest leap in communication since potentially the inventing of the printing press (which incidentally, the first thing printed on the mechanical printing press was a Bible) Technology always provides the Church opportunity, and we would be wise to utilize it to the best of our abilities.
How does our online ministry help us to Worship God? First, we are able to connect with the entire church body beyond Sunday. In addition, we can reach people who are completely un-churched as well. With that, we can bring back to mind a specific worship song to help encourage you during the week. We can point to a Bible passage that has been especially meaningful. And the great thing with digital communication is that it isn’t just one direction; you are able to communicate to us your needs as well, and we can pray for you, or help with other needs that arise, all pointing us back to who God is and how we can worship Him in our everyday actions.
When we talk about Loving His Word, we always point back to His Word with sermon clips, posted Bible verses, or encouragement from the Bible, which again, can go back and forth. We can use RightNow Media to make sure everyone at Discovery has the ability to plug into Bible study during the week at a time that works for them, and we can make sure that when people are going through difficult times, we have provided resources to help them through it; which ties fully into the idea of Building People. As an example, we had a clip from a sermon that spoke to how nothing is more important than knowing Jesus, right now. That clip was viewed over 6,000 times, primarily by people in our immediate vicinity.
If you had the opportunity to share the gospel with 6,000 people, would you take it?
That is the power of online ministry. It is the ability to move beyond Church being defined as something that happens only on Sundays. For so long I have been taught that Church is more than a Sunday service. Church is more than showing up for a few hours once per week and then living your life as if God did not matter. The Church exists to build disciples, to show people who Jesus is, and encourage them to grow more like Him every day. With online ability, we can do this to an extent like never before.
If that is online ministry, what’s next? What can you do to become involved? The easiest way to start is to engage.
If you have not followed us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, even Tik-Tok) that is a good place to start! And if you do not have social media, this is a good time to look into it. If our goal is to reach our society for Jesus, we need to go where our society is. We may have some level of discomfort, or squeamishness, about moving out of our comfort zone into an online space, but we need to ask ourselves, is it worth a bit of discomfort for this opportunity?
Our natural reaction may be to scoff; trust me, the first time I heard about Tik Tok, I wanted nothing to do with it. Seeing the potential, however, makes me put aside personal preference for the sake of the Gospel. If the technological side is daunting, you can still get involved. Another fun way to engage with us online is to subscribe to our podcast. Every week we release two episodes; one of the sermon from that week, and one that is topical and is intended to help you build and grow your faith. If you haven’t checked it out already, head to our website (dfchurch.com) to learn all about it. Beyond following and engaging with us online, we are always looking for people to write blog posts. For people to help design graphics. People who can host the livestream in their home and invite others to join them. To use whatever gifts God has given you to be a light to those around you. If you want to take a step and get involved, I would love to help you work through any obstacle that might stand in the way of you being able to reach people for Him.