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TECHNOLOGY: Helping the church understand the digital revolution

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Being born in 1980, I’ve had the pleasant experience of being one of the oldest members of the rising generation. I am a true digital native, but had just enough years of life without the Internet to remember what life was like before it.

Of course, I also was teaching my elementary school teachers how to put the discs in CD-ROM trays, back when they first came out. I’ve hoped that my life and skills would be able to be used to help spread the Gospel through technology and help disciple the church in the new digital generation.

A while back I received a package in the mail — a signed copy of “Viral” by author Leonard Sweet. In “Viral,” Leonard Sweet manages to accurately describe, analyze and embrace the shift in our culture. Where as I simply know it as reality, Sweet manages to articulate the cultural and spiritual changes happening in America due to the digital revolution. Using the acronym of TGIF (standing for Twitter, Google, iPhone and Facebook), Sweet manages to summarize so many things I’ve wanted to say to the church, but never quite knew how. All this in right around 200 pages.

In 2010, B&H Publishing Group released “NetCasters,” by Craig von Buseck. Von Buseck is ministries director of CBN.com, home of the Christian Broadcasting Network. In his book, von Buseck shares stories of people who are effectively and passionately using the Internet to spread the Gospel. From podcasting to creating movements like the Internet Evangelism Day, there are stories ripe for sharing about how people are using digital tools every day to share the Good News.

At a tech conference a few years back, I met Gabe Taviano. Gabe was experimenting with a group centered at DigitalDisciples.net — a way for people to organize for study and discipleship both online and in real life through digital means. And for this group it wasn’t only about education and bible study — it was about true relationship and accountability. It was about embracing the connections that suddenly were possible due to the advent of digital tools.

In Sweet’s “Viral,” it becomes increasingly evident that the tools we use — the medium we use — shapes us just as much as the media does. Sweet talks about how culturally we have moved from thinking as a larger family unit in society to thinking as a smaller, individual unit. But that now, with our ever-connected lives, a new societal unit is forming: our network.

How intense is it that by being disconnected from those around us we are even more connected to those further from us?

Books like “Viral” and “NetCasters” are vital resources for the church. It’s not that we “need” to embrace technology for the spreading of the Gospel — it’s that my generation simply doesn’t understand a message that doesn’t involve interaction through technology. For us, it’s no longer a sit and listen, tune in and watch. We are in relationship with everything; we create, interact, and destroy things on a daily basis. And we are desperate to find Good News in all that we do.

The books are available to explain. The tools are there to be used. The message is ready to be shared.
Aaron Linne is executive producer of digital marketing for the B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. He writes a monthly technology column for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Aaron Linne