Evangelism in a digital age - 3
I recently listened in to an online discussion on evangelism in a digital age hosted by Fresh Expressions. Each guest presented some of their reflections on The Mission of God In A Digital Age. These have been captured in a book - Missio Dei in a Digital Age.
The previous reflection is here.
Frida Mannerfelt, a priest in the Swedish Lutheran Church and a doctoral student at Stockholm School of Theology shared that in her youth run context in Sweden, to this younger group, the online services has been very important. They have a lot of people who have had a look in through the online services and online initiatives.
The use of new media is not a new thing in church. We have been taking on new media to evangelise all throughout church history for 2000 years. Lots of success there as well. Our feelings towards this and the arguments for doing this or not doing that, are not new either. The theology that grows out of the experience from the digital space, is not new. Rather, churches already have a lot of the tools, a lot of resources to evangelise in the digital context.
The concept of digital space as a secondary reality helps us conceive of how to evangelise in a good way. For many thousands of years, people have lived in an oral culture where you only know what you can recall, your memory is internal, and this affects how you can communicate those important concepts, rhymes, proverbs, and narratives. Also, communication is highly embodied. You use your body to convey meaning and when you communicate, it cannot be too complicated. Narratives or stories tend to be very black and white. You have heroes and you have villains. Because you always run the risk of forgetting things and this makes tradition very important and also sacred. So, good communication is interactive.
In a digital culture, on the other hand, you have an external memory because you can keep all the good information in computers, etc. You don't have to keep them in your brain all the time. Then the nuance, complexity and novelty become important. The digital age is a type of secondary orality. It's different from first orality, since it builds on literacy. We have the texts and podcasts and chats and videos and so on. We see increasingly, that it becomes more visual and oral. Which kind of points to things that is important to do. We can use this concept to point to things that might be important if you want to communicate the gospel in a good way e.g. forums, stories, music.
Rachel Jordan-Wolf, Associate Director of Hope Together shared some statistics:
There was a YouGov poll in November, 2020 which talks about 16 to 24 year olds and their belief in God. 23% of the 16 to 24 year olds in this country, believe in God and 13% believe in a higher power. In fact, there's more of them believing that in the next age bracket up. It looks like Gen Z is more aware of God from that poll than millennials.
CODEC did six waves of research looking at people who have been online and offline church during the pandemic. Currently we have a lot more 65 year old church attendees and a lot less 18 year olds. What CODEC research shows that online we have a lot more of the younger generations, particularly the middle generations. Our millennials and in particular, gen Z, are much more open and are responding and looking at faith. More of them are believing in God and looking at those things.
The pandemic has dragged the Church into the digital age. We've done things in a few months that might have taken us a few years. You have so much more accessibility. You can find something on Facebook, you can find something on YouTube. You think of the number of churches that their services are now on YouTube.
18 to 30 year olds are actually really interested in faith. But the medium, the language is all online. We've got a generation that's asking big questions and is interested in faith, and we've got a church that has been pushed to speak their language.
So we've got growth in the younger age bracket who found us because we've got online, and we've also got a group who, due to the fact that we've gone online, don't intend to come back.
Here is a couple of examples of something wonderful that is happening in our younger generations at this time in this country:
We had an amazing guy called Lindz West from LZ7, he came on our Talking Hope show. And he was sharing about how incredible it was that he just had so many young people when he was live streaming, what he was doing actually out of his loft. He turned his loft into a live studio and was just streaming like DJ and streaming music and talking to them about the Christian faith, and having a massive response, particularly around the teenage years and up into the all around gen Z.
A lot of people have mentioned Alpha. When Alpha went online, it was actually really suitable. People have stayed through the course, because it's online. Actually, that's been easier to stick them all the way through. We did Alpha in lockdown and it was the best Alpha we'd had. We have grown younger - pretty much everyone that came were in their 20s and early 30s.
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