Digital movement gains momentum

Attendees at Digital Discipleship 2017 are already involved in digital ministry. Photo: Jungyook Park

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More than 180 Adventists from around Australia and a handful from New Zealand recently attended the 2017 Digital Discipleship Conference, run by the Adventist Church in Greater Sydney.

DDC2017 was held for the second year at the University of New South Wales’ Randwick campus over the weekend of July 14-16.

The conference was opened by four panelists from At The Table, Adventist Media’s latest TV production aimed at young mums. This was an opportunity for the panelists to demonstrate what an actual episode of the program looks like, from discussing hard-hitting topics such as racism, to watching short clips on cooking, camping and making homemade moisturiser. Their segment was followed by a short presentation from senior producer Adam Kavanagh, who explained the purpose of the program and how Christians can use it as a tool to witness to non-Christian friends.

The At the Table panelists open proceedings at DD17. Photo: Jungyook Park

With that, the conference was launched, with organiser Rachel Aitken giving a keynote on how the idea was born. Mrs Aitken missed the inaugural conference last year for the birth of her firstborn son, but nothing would stop her from attending this year.

Like last year, attendees took part in a design thinking exercise to examine hypothetical problems facing the church that could be solved digitally.

International guests running workshops included Pastor Sam Neves, associate communication director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church worldwide, Leslie Samuel, from How to become a blogger.com, and viral video blogger, Justin Khoe, as well as talent, such as author and editor Nathan Brown and artist/designer Shelley Poole.

Mr Samuel, an Adventist teacher, presented workshops on blogging, forming mastermind groups and maximising social media potential for a ministry. He began by blogging about biology and gained a large online following before switching to teaching others about how to be effective online.

Oregon-based Justin Khoe spoke about his YouTube ministry ‘That Christian Vlogger’, which features weekly messages in the form of devotionals or Bible studies. Starting off with an audience of 30 in 2016, the popular channel now has almost 30,000 subscribers.

Justin Khoe is asked a question at his “Why your church needs a YouTube Channel” workshop. Photo: Jungyook Park

His most popular videos include titles such as “Should Christians kiss before marriage?”, “A Guy’s Perspective on Christian Modesty” and “Why Many Christian Girls Remain Single.”

During his two workshops, Mr Khoe encouraged attendees to take advantage of YouTube’s popularity and use it as a tool to reach people for Jesus. His videos have led to online Bible studies in countries all over the world, from Romania to Belize.

“The average person spends at least an hour a day on YouTube,” said Mr Khoe. “YouTube is a search engine—they’re going there to ask questions and we have answers.”

On Friday night there was a screening of the short film, “The towns we lived in” and an interview with its director and Wahroonga church member Robbie Fatt.

This year, the Gabe Reynaud Award was a new feature of the event, with digital disciple and children’s pastor Daron Pratt, as well as musician and creative Melissa Otto jointly receiving the award.

Daron Pratt makes a speech after accepting the Gabe Reynaud award. Photo: Jungyook Park

Another highlight of Saturday night was 10-year old Ronan Winfield’s stop motion animation videos. The home-schooled director has used his films in Sabbath School and uploaded them online, spending many hours creating and shooting his videos. DD2017 affirmed his creative calling and he was awarded a Lego Jesus figure, to use in his videos.

The weekend ended with a session where attendees met with those from their conference to discuss ongoing discipleship opportunities. Plans were established via online chat groups or agreements to convene again in person, with the 40-strong contingent from Victoria, for example, deciding to meet up again in the first week of August.

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