Are you wondering what it means to be a digital disciple?
Perhaps you’re a creative and you’ve already gotten started or maybe you feel compelled to let your day-to-day life of following Christ overflow into your digital life.
Wherever you are on the journey, this article will:
- share some of the guiding spiritual principles of digital discipleship
- challenge you to reconsider the way you view your role in the digital space and
- empower you with impactful steps you can take on your digital discipleship journey.
Let’s get started.
What is discipleship?
Even though I grew up in the church all my life, I never really thought much about the idea of discipleship.
I read about the disciples. I heard stories where they were the main characters, but I never put myself in their shoes and imagined myself as a disciple. The idea of a disciple seemed reserved for fishermen in the Bible not a modern young woman who grew up in a Westernised country.
It wasn’t until I began working for a church organisation whose focus was discipleship that I began to challenge myself to think about what it all means.
Many diagrams, sermons, illustrations and videos later, I’ve come to understand that discipleship is following Jesus. It’s the WWJD bracelet come to life.
Discipleship is letting the Holy Spirit live in you and cause you to tell others about Jesus through your words and actions.
What is digital discipleship?
Digital discipleship invites Jesus into every part of our lives, from our social media accounts to our text messages to our online groups and our memes. (Ouch! Don’t touch my memes!)
Have you ever let Jesus into certain parts of your life, but hidden other parts from Him? Sometimes, we tell Jesus He can be a part of our lives to a certain point.
We all do it.
We let Jesus in when we have devotions or go to church or chat with certain friends, but push Him to the curb when we watch TV, go online or hang with work friends.
Digital discipleship is letting Jesus see all of us and having the confidence that we are still known and loved.
How do we start our digital discipleship journey?
So, with all of this in mind, how do we start our digital discipleship journey? Let’s begin by asking two simple questions.
- How can we identify a disciple?
- What do disciples do?
How can we identify a disciple?
As Jesus’ disciples, or followers, spent time with Him, he explained the principles of His kingdom to them, and He explained to them how people would know they were his disciples. In John 13:35 he says, “By this people will know you are my disciples if you love one another.”
So, this leads us to the question, How can we show love on the internet?
Actually, let me re-phrase that. Not just show love, actually love. How can we be love? How can we embody love on the internet?
Now, internet culture is so fun and at the same time, it can be so harsh and cruel. As I was typing that we should “embody love on the internet”, I struggled to type the words.
I said quietly to myself – actually be love. Aren’t we taking this thing a bit far!
But things are topsy-turvy in God’s kingdom.
Jesus said people will know we are His disciples by the way we love one another.
Now that we have that bombshell, what does love in action look like in the digital space?
What does love look like online?
If we look in the Good Book at I Corinthians 13:4-8, we find a description of love. It says,
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
When we think about what love looks like online, this set of verses is our reference point. It challenges us to ask the questions:
- What does it look like to be patient online?
- How can I be kind online?
- What does it mean to avoid being envious online?
- How can I avoid boasting or being proud online?
- How can I rejoice in the truth and avoid evil?
- How can I protect, trust, hope and persevere with people online?
Even as I’m typing these things, I’m challenged to think about how it’s possible to live out these characteristics when they’re so counter-culture.
One of the clearest verses I use to help me understand what I should do in the online space is Matthew 5:14, which says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
It makes me ask the question, does light have to try hard to shine? Does it struggle to emit light? Do the stars struggle to shine or the sun have problem giving off light?
No! Shining light is what they do. It’s in their nature!
The same is true for us as disciples.
If we spend time with Jesus, our light source, and reflect Him, we will understand how to shine. We will understand how to love.
Living out the values expressed in I Corinthians 13 in the online space will become more apparent.
What do disciples do?
Matthew 28:19-20 furthers this idea by showing another picture of what love looks like. It says,
“Go and make disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all things and lo, I am with you always even until the end of the age.”
According to Jesus’ final conversations with His disciples, disciples are called to make other disciples, baptise them and teach them. This is what love looks like.
But even knowing this, it doesn’t give us a clear how-to. It doesn’t tell us how to act in each situation. It doesn’t tell us which reaction to give or which comments to reply to or what person to send a private message to.
Understanding these nuances come through being in relationship with God. They come from listening and acting.
However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to begin your digital discipleship journey. I’m sure after you’ve read through the ones we’ve listed, you’ll think of a few more yourself.
Questions to begin your Digital Discipleship Journey
What are my talents? As you’re considering what digital discipleship would look like for you, consider your talents.
Why do I exist? I know this is a deep question, but answering it can guide you towards what you should do in the digital space.
What is my environment? What are you surrounded by? Where do you hang out in the online space? What niche or speciality are you part of?
What impact do I want to have? Think about the next 90 days. What impact do you want to have in the next 90 days? This could give you an insight into the impact you’d like to have now and in the longer term.
What has God gifted me with? What comes to you easily? What areas of your life don’t require a lot of effort from you? This could give you a clue into your areas of giftedness.
How am I growing in God? Check in with yourself periodically and review how you’re growing in God. It’s amazing to watch His work on our lives and our characters as we reflect on what He’s brought us through in the past.
Where am I sharing my faith online? Ask yourself, where am I sharing my faith online? How am I sharing about Jesus and what He means to me?
How do I fit into the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem
Another way you can figure out what your role is in digital discipleship is by understanding how you fit into the digital discipleship ecosystem. To learn more about this concept, you can check out our article called, What is the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem.
We’ll share a quick overview here. As you read, ask yourself how you fit into the digital discipleship ecosystem.
Visionaries – Visionaries thrive in environments where they need to re-imagine something or build something from scratch. They see things that other people don’t see.
Content Creators – Creators are our creatives. They are in their sweet spot when they are writing, building, drawing, recording or taking photos. They are our storytellers and our people with big imaginations, and we value them.
Content Distributors – Content distributors’ generosity is always on display because they offer to share content from content creators on their personal spaces. Sharing content in this way gives the content legs and allows it be seen by many people.
The area of distribution is often the weakest area of the digital discipleship ecosystem. While many organisations are full of prolific creators with books that have been written and videos that have been created, many times, those items go unwatched, unread and unlistened to. Creating a distribution system offers to address this challenge.
Content Engagers – Engagers are great conversationalists both online and offline. They engage in discussions in different parts of the internet and talk about challenging topics in ways that allow people to still be friendly with them afterwards.
While we can all be engagers, some people are specially skilled in this way
Content Curators – Many larger entities fall into the category of being curators (though others can be curators as well). You can think of a curator like a museum or a library that brings together a series of resources, both theirs and the resources of others, to provide support to others.
Supporters– Supporters are encouragers and cheerleaders of the ministry. This support could be given financially or through verbal affirmation or materials that can help the church or ministry fulfil its mission.
Influencers – Influencers can be content creators, distributors or engagers, however, influencers recognise that the words they say online can have a large impact on a wider group of people than the average digital disciple. Therefore they understand they have more responsibility to be accountable for their words and actions online.
Good Neighbours – Good neighbours are like the good Samaritan because they see needs and are intentional in fulfilling those needs. They may be compelled to order a meal online and have it delivered, pray or find another way to minister. The needs they help with may be spotted online or in person and fulfilled in person or online.
To learn more about the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem, visit our article about this topif
Hopefully, from this article you have a better idea of how you can be a digital disciple. If you’re ready to start your digital discipleship journey, we have a resource that will give you 30 ideas on how you get started and what you can do next.
We’re looking forward to seeing the impact you can have in the digital space.
30 Inspirational Ideas to Energise Your Digital Discipleship Journey
In this e-book, you’ll discover new meaning for the time you spend online by learning how you can shine light into all the places you go online. Also, you’ll have the opportunity to understand how you fit into the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem while being introduced to 30 inspirational ideas to start your digital discipleship journey.