Why Your Ministry Needs an Online Presence
On Monday we are hosting a live webinar on how to use the Internet for ministry; in today’s blog post we are explaining why your ministry need an online presence in the first place.
In order to explain why the Internet is so important for your ministry, we need to answer two simple questions.
- What is the goal of ministry?
- And how do we accomplish that goal?
What is ministry?
The fourth chapter of Ephesians helps us to understand the true nature of ministry. We’re going to be unpacking the portions marked in bold.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The Goal: Knowledge of the Son of God
Notice that this contains the verse we built our ministry around. Paul describes the role of the evangelist, as well as the role of all church leaders: “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” This is what we’re trying to do with Engage 360: help you have spiritual conversations in everyday life.
So church leaders help all Christians do ministry. But what is the goal of ministry?
The goal: “unity of the faith… knowledge of the Son of God… mature manhood… the measure of Christ … [to] grow up into Christ.” This is the ultimate goal of ministry. We want people to grow spiritually, to have right beliefs about God, and most importantly, to know God personally. At the end of the day, all ministry is about knowing God. So that answers our first question about what ministry is. It’s about knowing God. But how does this happen? How do people come to know God and grow in Him?
The Method: Speaking
How do people come to the knowledge of the Son of God? The text is clear: “speaking the truth in love.”
This passage speaks to the power of words. We need to take a moment to consider just how powerful this is. Through our words we impact one another. As James says, it can be either a fountain of blessing or a curse. Proverbs 15:4 says “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
Now, this isn’t because words themselves have some magical power. It’s because words direct the mind toward truth concerning the reality of who God is and what He’s done for us. Through our words we can guide one another into a truer knowledge of God.
This is significant. This means that all of our ministries are ministries of speaking, of communicating information through words.
And this means that every church and every Christian must become devoted to learning how to communicate well.
The Reformers’ Example Explains Why Your Church Needs an Online Presence
Our task is to communicate. And especially as Protestants, we have an impressive legacy of communication to live up to. Imagine the task of the Reformers. Do you think the world we currently live in is hard to break through with the true Gospel? Imagine what it was like for them. The official Catholic church establishment at the time dominated the intellectual climate. They dictated what could and couldn’t be believed.
And yet, somehow, a complete shift in thinking took place. How did the Reformers do it? How did they break through the sound barrier and create a sonic boom in the pages of history?
The Reformation Method: The Printing Press
They communicated the Gospel faithfully using every technology they had available to them, especially the printing press. It was the birth of a new technology that made the Reformation able to be such a quick revolution in thought.
According to the Washington Post:
Luther… [led] what had to have been the world’s first mass-media-driven revolution. Luther didn’t just reimagine the Christian faith, he figured out how to share his vision through the innovative use and manipulation of a [new] communications technology: the printing press.
Read that first sentence again! The Reformation was spurred on by mass media!
The article goes on to say that by using the printing press, Luther was “bypassing the traditional gatekeepers via this new social media.” While the Catholic church was still relying on sending out long, technical, confusing pronouncements concerning Luther’s theology, he was able to get 8 page pamphlets of his ideas out into the world in less than half the time.
So in a world in which it was hard to communicate the truth of the Gospel, because gatekeepers kept them silenced, the Reformers turned to new technology to communicate the Gospel and carry out their ministries.
They were innovators when it came to technology, not late adapters.
As we covered in the last section, ministry is all about using words to draw people closer to the knowledge of God. And the Reformers very wisely used whatever tools were available to get those words to the people.
Why Your Church Needs as Online Presence Today!
And that brings us to today. What kind of world do we live in? In many ways traditional media (television networks) and traditional education (through public schools and universities) are the modern-day gatekeepers. It’s no longer the Catholic church that wants to silence those who disagree, but Berkley and the news networks.
And, once again, a brand new technology has emerged: the Internet – it is essentially doing the same thing that the printing press did: it is allowing for total disruption. For better and for worse, it has removed nearly all gate keepers and opened up a free exchange of ideas.
Are We Missing the Opportunity?
Yet unlike the early reformers, many Christians have been very slow to see the Internet as a tool to be used for good. We’ve romanticized the books that the printing press has developed. We mourn the fact that young people don’t read thick books about God’s existence and attributes or about the Gospel and theology. We get upset that they’re spending all their time on YouTube.
Instead of complaining about the technology the modern world is using, we need to remain practical, and communicate with words wherever the world is listening.
This is the strategy of the Apostles.
In the book of Acts, we see the apostles:
- Going into synagogues and marketplaces (Acts 17: 17 “So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there”),
- And sometimes even in schools (Acts 19:9 “And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus”).
Why did they go to these places? It’s not because they are inherently good places to preach the Gospel. It’s because that’s where the attention of the world at that time was.
So how does this apply today? Where is the attention today?
I could list stats about how many minutes — no, hours — we all spend on our phones each day. But I don’t need to. Look around. It’s obvious! And what are people doing on their phones? They are on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and a handful of other places.
That’s where the attention is. That’s where people are ready and willing to hear new ideas, and “faith comes through hearing” (Romans 10:17). And if I had to guess, the early apostles would be eager to begin spreading the hope of the Gospel through those platforms.
This could mean developing a YouTube channel specifically designed to reach out to your specific city. It could be called “Love for Charlotte,” and you make videos about how the Gospel sheds light on local issues.
Or it could mean creating an online WhatsApp group for the youth group at your church to be able to communicate with one another.
It might be as simple as updating your church website so people can actually find it on Google!
And I should also mention that when Luther had his works published, he teamed up with the best designers he could find. He understood the importance of not only making the content of his words powerful, but making sure that the design was good!
Many church websites could benefit to have the attention to detail that Luther gave to his pamphlets!
And there are so many more possibilities. Dream big!
Summary: Why Your Ministry Needs an Online Presence
So the main points we have are these:
- Ministry is about reaching people with words to inform them with truth about God so they can know God themselves.
- The pattern of the Reformers is to use any tools available to them to reach people.
- The pattern of the apostles was to go where the attention was.
- Today, the main tool for communication is the Internet, and a lot of society’s attention is currently on the Internet.
That is why your ministry needs an online presence.
So maybe you’re now convinced that it’s at least worth looking into.
But how do you begin?
How do you build a website, and what should you post about, and what about podcasts and videos?
We’ll be talking about that on Monday (11/25) at 8 PM Eastern time.
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