From the beginning of the Adventist movement, the Church has been poised to utilize the very best methods of the time to further the work. Steamships, printing presses, radio, television, and more have all been used to carry God’s end-time message to His people. Technology today has exploded, and the potential for sharing God’s Word with others is literally at our fingertips. As COVID-19 brought in-person meetings to a grinding halt, we all caught a glimpse of the power of digital evangelism. However, the need for digital missionaries was felt long before the coronavirus pandemic.
The use of digital evangelism is a vast subject, as most of the workings of today’s world include digital components. It’s not just social media, but all forms of media distributed digitally, including YouTube videos, podcasts, blogs, and more. While many of us may not have the gifts to produce content for these mediums, everyone can help to promote good content by sharing what has already been created. Engaging with the material with positive comments and “Likes” can also ensure that this media appears at the top of search results.
Amy Pershin, a member of the Uchee Pines Church in Seale, Alabama, shares numerous stories of the results she has gained from engaging with others online during the last 10 years. Pershin presents Bible studies on Facebook Live, and at times includes her family to sing Bible promises as part of the presentation. As people engage with her online, primarily former friends from school or other acquaintances, she messages them personally, and creates a time to meet with them in person, like going out to lunch. Through prayer, many opportunities for spiritual conversations come up during these meetings. It’s easier for these conversations to take this route when the initial reconnection online was based on religious content.
Although the responsibility of digital evangelism primarily rests on individual church members, churches also have a role to play in making a positive digital impact. While offering audio recordings or live streams of sermons is good, churches can go beyond their regular worship services and produce content that is specific to online audiences. Instead of watching someone present a sermon to an in-person audience, online viewers are more inclined to engage with a presenter that speaks to the camera, and is closer to them rather than on a distant stage.
The presentation we offer attendees inside our churches can make a lasting impression, either for good or bad. As many people are visual learners in our current culture, church media production should be the best it can be. As a result of COVID-19, most churches have had to rely on their A/V setups entirely for online presentations, and many proved to be lacking. Many of our volunteer A/V technicians receive little to no support from the church, and often resort to funding the department needs themselves. Funding for the upkeep and advancement of church media production should be a regular budget item in every church, and they should seek to implement components of good quality, not merely the cheapest that is available. It is no less critical to the mission of the church than the standard building utilities, like water and air-conditioning. Projection systems and other digital displays need to be bright and clear, and microphones and speaker systems should sound crisp and intelligible. Assess your areas of weakness and develop a plan to improve them. Churches that prioritized these items over time were ready to adjust their services to online only when the COVID-19 need arose.
We have a great opportunity before us. Whether there is a pandemic or not, all things digital and internet-connected are here to stay. Each of us and our churches need an intentional strategy to use these resources for good. A free video series on working in these digital mediums is available at gscsda.org/digitalevangelism, as well as written transcripts for each episode and links to resources.
is the communication director at the Gulf States Conference in Montgomery, Alabama.
Gulf States | June 2020