These days, from birth to death, one common thread in the human experience is the internet. And in the middle of that reality, Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship.
Just as the Bible is set in an agricultural society, with farms, plants, harvesting, sheep, herding and rain cycles, our lives are set against a digital landscape with internet speeds, wifi, passwords, videos, platforms and content.
The internet is so ubiquitous that we hardly think about it until it’s not there.
For this reason, as Christians in a digital age, it is important to answer the question, “What is digital discipleship?”.
Digital discipleship presents to God the challenges we face in our current surroundings and gives God permission to see, know and love us in the context in which we exist.
However, in order to truly understand digital discipleship, we must first explore what Jesus taught us about discipleship.
What is discipleship?
The idea of discipleship is embedded deeply into Jesus’ ministry, and He made two cornerstone statements about discipleship at the beginning and the end of His ministry.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry:
When Jesus began His ministry and called Simon Peter and Andrew, his first disciples, to a life of discipleship. He didn’t just teach them, He also called His disciples to follow His call as well.
Matthew 4:19-20, explains it like this: Jesus sees the two brothers fishing and says, “Come, follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” And the Bible says, “At once, they left their nets and followed Him.“
Discipleship is about obedience. It’s about listening to God’s voice and doing what He says. It is trusting and believing and sharing that same experience with others.
At the end of Jesus’ ministry:
By the end Jesus’ ministry, His followers had multiplied from two brothers to thousands and thousands of people, the closest of whom were His twelve disciples. At the end of his ministry, Jesus repeated His earlier call to discipleship.
He said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Discipleship is a call to relationship and a call to join in Jesus’ mission.
Why focus on digital discipleship?
Living a life of discipleship is part of our DNA as Christians.
Here at IGNITE | Digital Discipleship Ministry, we focus on digital discipleship because the online space is such a huge part of our lives. And as important as the internet has become to us, it’s easy to forget to surrender it to God.
We believe that something so impactful to our lives, the functioning of our organisations and the development of our children deserves critical thought.
The beginnings of digital discipleship
When we first began to think about digital discipleship, we imagined creating a space for the creatives and the techies in the church. We knew their skills were often overlooked in the traditional ministries of the church.
Over time, the concept of digital discipleship has evolved
The evolution of digital discipleship
We continue to create a space for the creatives and techies amongst us. Also, we understand that the need for digital discipleship principles looks different for different life stages and for different entities.
Similarly, we understand that each person’s contribution to digital discipleship is different, depending on their role within the digital discipleship ecosystem.
Throughout the rest of this article, we will explore:
- The different places digital discipleship principles can be applied, as well as
- The different roles people can have within the digital discipleship ecosystem.
Let’s start by exploring the various areas that can incorporate digital discipleship principles.
Digital discipleship as a parent
Digital discipleship impacts the way we parent. There are so many decisions to make as a parent when it comes to technology. Many of those decisions often carry loads of guilt with them.
Because technology is here to stay and will continue to be a part of our children’s lives (more than it was ever part of our own lives), we must ask ourselves the question: could it be that how we talk with our children about technology could have an impact on not only their development but also their spiritual lives?
Learn more about digital discipleship for parents
You can check out our articles and resources on the parenting section of our website:
Digital discipleship for ministries
Another area that digital discipleship extends into is ministries. Ministries are organisations, platforms and creations that people develop because they feel compelled to serve the world in a specific way. Ministries can include include podcasters, Youtubers, musicians, artists, preachers and even athletes.
Ministries can use digital discipleship principles to extend their reach, engage with their audiences and find ways to stay sustainable and relevant.
Learn more about digital discipleship for ministries
You can learn more about our articles and resources on the ministry section of our website:
Digital discipleship as a business owner
Businesses are often able to contribute in very meaningful ways to digital discipleship. As a creative or techie you may do contract work or project management for your clients. In doing this, you may be looking for ways to make meaningful contributions with your skills in order to do the greatest work of all: tell people the compelling story of Jesus.
Learn more about digital discipleship for business owners
You can learn more about our articles and resources on the business section of our website:
Digital discipleship in a corporate setting
The corporate level of digital discipleship refers to the administrative body of church organisations. An organisation can opt to set-up a digital discipleship ministry or incorporate digital discipleship principles into its other ministries.
At this level, administrators are able to plan strategically, provide vision and leadership, offer training and leadership development and consider the positioning of the organisation.
Learn more about discipleship in a corporate setting
You can learn more about our articles and resources on the corporate section of our website:
Digital discipleship as a church
Digital discipleship is a powerful tool for churches. One of the reasons is because it spans across various areas of the church, including: personal ministries, communications, IT, children and youth ministries.
Churches have some of the greatest potential to make an impact in the online space.
Learn more about digital discipleship for the church
You can learn more about our articles and resources on the church section of our website:
Digital discipleship as an individual
As you interact online, whether on your personal social media account, in a group, through email or while playing video games, you have the opportunity to shine light.
This may mean creating content, getting involved in an existing ministry, supporting the work of others, helping content to get seen by the people who need it or even having conversations with people online and finding ways to encourage them.
Learn more about personal digital discipleship
You can learn more about our articles and resources on this topic on the personal section of our website:
Roles within the digital discipleship ecosystem
Within digital discipleship, there are many people who contribute to the ecosystem and they all play different roles.
You can think of visionaries as those who come up with new ideas and see things other people don’t see. They often start new ministries and envision solutions to problems that perplex other people. They are foundational to the operating of the digital discipleship ecosystem because they kick things off and get them started.
Any good digital discipleship system needs creatives. Digital discipleship needs people who bring the ideas of visionaries to life. Creators have the ability to communicate complex ideas in simple ways through their writing, photography, art, music or videography. In fact, their creativity surpasses this list because we’re never quite sure what they will create next!
Distributors are those who give content legs and make sure the content is seen by as many people as possible. Think of when a video goes viral or when an article gets syndicated across multiple news platforms. This happens because of content distribution.
It may seem that ‘going viral’ happens by some stroke of luck, but nothing could be further from the truth. Having a plan to get your content seen is a special skill that some among us possess and it’s an admirable and valuable skill.
Engagers are great at having conversations around videos that are trending, current political topics, pop news, social justice issues and spiritual topics. They typically know how to exhibit kindness and empathy while still speaking the truth. They will often find themselves coming up against opposition and even find themselves dealing with contentious people. Through it all, engagers understand that they are called to shine light into the world around them, even in the digital space.
Curators are like skilled librarians or masterful museum curators. They understand the needs of the people they’re trying to reach and they create collections to serve them. Must curators operate at a church, ministry or corporate level.
A supporter, is someone who provides moral, financial or physical support. They are the ones who encourage the work of ministries and churches to help them fulfil their mission.
Influencers are people who recognise that the words they say online can have a large impact on a wider group of people than the average person. Therefore they understand they have more responsibility to be accountable for their words and actions online.
You can think of good neighbours as those who act on their good thoughts to serve others, both online and in person.
You can read a bit more about this topic in our article about the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem.
As you can see, digital discipleship is a way of life – it is following the call to discipleship, even in the digital space. As you read through the article, where do you see yourself and your organisation fitting into digital discipleship? How do you see it helping you fulfil your mission?