Two significant things happened in 1983. The first was my parents’ marriage. This event is fairly significant to me because without it, I wouldn’t be here.
Our digital messages can go where we cannot.
The second is that, after many years of development, the first commercially available “mobile” phone was released. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000x cost $US3995 (about $9500 in today’s terms), took 10 hours to charge and offered only 30 minutes of talk time.
Hardly worth the effort. And yet it was the beginning of a technological revolution.
No other gadget has colonised the world quite as successfully as the mobile phone.
There are now more mobile phones in both Australia and New Zealand than there are people.1 And according to APNIC, the percentage of mobile phones in Pacific households rose from 49 per cent in 2007 to 93 per cent in 2014.
Phones are not just phones anymore. They are calendars, calculators and calorie counters. They are your street directory, your game console, your library. They are personal trainers, personal assistants and personal camera crews, documenting your every bite, pout and Paris trip.
When you add up all the hours, millennials spend one day per week on their phones.2 A whole day! Are you as shocked by that stat as I am? But I think it’s important that we realise the opportunity this presents us with.
The early church spread through Paul and others undertaking missionary journeys into communities they wanted to reach with the gospel and living with the people there. They didn’t fly in and fly out. They inhabited those spaces until large enough groups were started. We must live in the digital space. We must be present in the place where many people spend one day a week living.
If Facebook was a country, it would have the highest population in the world. International borders are becoming less relevant (except in Britain) as digital messages can circle the world instantaneously. And Facebook is just one of a number of social platforms. Our digital messages can go where we cannot.
If we want to go where the people are, or “become all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:22), then we have to communicate using the mediums they are using. And today that is online.
I recently attended the Church’s first Digital Discipleship Conference. The theme and the challenge presented to attendees was this quote from Exodus 4:2: “What is in your hand?”
Moses had been making excuses when God asked him this simple question. In Moses’ hand was a stick. It was a tool of his trade, useful, reliable, a safety blanket, something he probably never left home without. Sound familiar?
The major takeaway point for me was that as a disciple of Christ, who wants to be used by God to find and make other disciples, I must use all of the tools at my disposal and go where the people are.
Our phones, our keyboards, our cameras, our gadgets can be tools to reach the world for Christ—if we dedicate them to God and His power.
The Media Evangelism offering on Sabbath, August 13 will go towards creating short, relevant, shareable, videos and resources that can inspire and influence our communities. But these things will have no impact if you and I don’t share them. That’s just the first step. These things are just tools. The individuals that we are ministering to on the other side of the screen are real people.
We can create all the videos and magazines and books and series we like. But we must be intentional about how we get these resources into the hands and homes that need them and then we must be willing to listen, to pause, to get our heads out of our phones and give our child, our neighbour, our colleague, our stranger, our full attention.
With Moses and his staff, God freed a nation. With you and your phone, God could reach the world.
Jarrod Stackelroth is editor of Adventist Record.